Full circle

February 15, 2011

My butt is cold.

That’s probably not the classiest way to start a blog entry, but it’s what I’m thinking as I sit on this ancient metal lawn chair in front of the motel I bought exactly a year ago, watching the tumbleweeds struggle to free themselves from the barbed-wire fence across the highway and waiting in the brittle night air to see whether the coyotes will serenade me again like they did last night.

Like the tumbleweeds and their namesake motel, I am a latecomer to this ancient land.

Uprooted and directionless, I blew in from the east and found myself caught on the fence of a life unlike anything I’d ever known.

A year later, I remain unsure of why I thought this was a good idea, but I am certain it was the best idea I’ve ever had.

At 11:38 a.m., Feb. 15, 2010, I became the proud owner of the historic Tumbleweed Motel, which now consists of five lovingly restored rooms, an office, a functional wringer washer, a pair of clothesline poles that I still haven’t gotten around to sanding and spraying with Rust-Oleum, a developmentally disabled handyman who calls me “Sissy” and walks two miles to the truck stop next to the interstate off-ramp every morning to buy canned tuna for the feral cats that skulk around the edges of the property, an espresso machine, a collie mix rescued from a barbed-wire fence, four cats rescued from a culvert during a rainstorm, a dark-eyed man with a wry sense of humor who became my boyfriend in April and my husband in October, a feisty teenage desk clerk whose rightful title probably ought to be “assistant manager,” and a three-month-old fetus who waits silently for the right moment to make a grand entrance into a world full of everyday adventure and fiery sunsets that never fail to take my breath away.

I tumbled into town with a splitting headache and a heart full of grief, orphaned, jobless, uncertain of my future, with nothing to lean on but a small insurance settlement and the publishing rights to my father’s music.

A year later, sitting here on my own property next to Route 66, with my freezing butt and my freezing fingers and a faster Internet connection than I had a year ago, waiting for a visit from unseen coyotes, I feel my shallow chaparral roots beginning to deepen, having probed this dry land and found enough love and beauty to heal a broken heart and support a life whose quietude somehow manages to dazzle me more than the glitter and flash of the city I left behind.

My butt is cold. My life is beautiful. And with that note to open their song, the coyotes are just beginning a lullaby wild and familiar.

– Sierra

This was Valentine’s Day in Coldwater:

A love note written in dry-erase marker on the bathroom mirror and a delicate half-and-half heart with baseball stitches etched into the sides, floating atop a decaf macchiato, from Grant.
A lopsided construction-paper heart decorated with Necco sweets and a lot of glitter from Joey. Message: “Happy Valentine’s Day. I’m glad you’re my Sissy. Love, Joey.”
A sunrise hike up Sangre Mesa.
A spirited softball practice in which Lil Miss taught the rest of the team how to slide under a tag. I love that kid. She’s the scrappiest little thing I’ve ever seen — no bigger than a minute, but she puts on that catcher’s mask and scares the living crap out of everybody who even thinks about crossing the plate on her watch. Funny girl.
A couple from Tularosa celebrating the holiday by coming back to the room at the Tumbleweed where they spent their wedding night 50-odd years ago.
A pack of coyotes singing somewhere out on Hank Freed’s back 40.

Hope you had a good Valentine’s Day, wherever you are.

– Sierra

Almost spring!

February 13, 2011

Pitchers and catchers report to Mesa on Monday. Meanwhile, Ryno should be arriving in Clearwater any day now, if he hasn’t already. I’m not sure about the reporting date for the Ironpigs, but the Phillies pitchers and catchers report tomorrow, so the minor-league affiliates should be along directly.

I need to get off my butt and figure out the Isotopes’ schedule so we can plan some trips to Albuquerque this summer.

On a related note, Grant couldn’t find anybody to coach baseball this spring, so he’s doing it himself. Meanwhile, Lil Miss informed me that the softball coach is a 22-year-old first-year art teacher who played one season of coach-pitch softball when she was in second grade and only agreed to take over the team because she is inexplicably terrified of Grant and will basically do anything he asks, whether she has any business doing it or not. Coaching softball, Lil Miss assures me, falls into the category of Things She Doesn’t Have Any Business Doing, as she knows almost nothing about the game, so I tagged along with Lil Miss to practice this morning (the past two days, incidentally, have been much warmer than the last couple of weeks have been) and offered my services as third-base coach.

I am pleased to report that Coldwater High School’s head softball coach now knows how to keep score, fill out a lineup card, and give signs to the pitcher. She still plays ball like a girl, but given sufficient practice, I think Lil Miss and I can cure her of that.

Wisely, I think, I elected not to tell Grant about my latest volunteer project until after I’d cleared it with Dr. Scherer.

Grant, predictably, was apoplectic. He is under the impression that “pregnant” is a synonym for “invalid.” I explained to him that when I played summer ball in junior high, my coach — who had been the star pitcher on her college team — threw BP for us in the middle of June, while she was eight months pregnant. Her daughter was born perfectly healthy, after less than three hours of labor, and grew up to lead her high-school softball team to the state championship four years in a row, with the lowest ERA in school history.

Grant remains unconvinced.

I remain unconcerned.

The girls’ home opener is March 14, if anybody’s interested.

– Sierra

Still cold.

February 10, 2011

It’s still cold. I’m still tired of it. That is all.

– Sierra

Nowhere I’d rather be

February 4, 2011

It is literally a degree outside. Fortunately, I am curled up under a warm blanket inside, with Grant’s arm around me, the stereo playing an old Neil Diamond album very quietly in the background, and the smell of freshly baked gingersnaps hanging sweetly in the air.

There’s nowhere in the world I’d rather be.

Well, nowhere except the bleachers at Wrigley Field on a summer afternoon, of course.

The bleachers at Wrigley would be awfully unpleasant this evening, so I’ll settle for what I’ve got. It’s a pretty close second, anyway.

– Sierra

Great advice

February 2, 2011

It is six degrees below zero in Coldwater. That is the actual temperature.

The National Weather Service has issued some helpful advice for the general public: Try to stay warm, because exposed skin can get frostbite in less than an hour.

You think so?

Grant, who just came in from a 15-minute trip to the convenience store, assures me that the windchill is now “somewhere between holy shit and sonofabitch” and that it’s probably best for the gene pool if NWS stops offering survival tips to people who are too stupid to come in out of the cold.

He’s obviously enjoying this weather almost as much as I am.

– Sierra

State of emergency

February 1, 2011

Five. It is literally five degrees outside. The state came by and plowed 66 this morning, and Grant took the laundry up to the laundromat in the truck stop to wash and dry because it’s obviously too cold to line dry anything, and we’ve got a lobby full of people.

Joey cleared and salted the paths from the rooms to the lobby, and Lil Miss appointed herself activities coordinator for the children stuck here as a result of the weather. Just about every flight in the country has been grounded, and the roads are still too dicey for most people to attempt — especially with blowing snow and the threat of highway closures farther west — so we are obviously packed.

I could do without the cold and the hassles, but I’m enjoying the little kids’ artwork that now graces my lobby. Lil Miss has kept the kids busy all afternoon with fingerpainting, tissue-paper suncatchers, Shrinky Dinks, and I don’t know what all else. She assures me that the glitter and scraps of paper will be removed from the lobby before she leaves.

Meanwhile, Grant won’t let me outside, lest I slip and fall on the ice, so I’ve spent most of the day in the kitchen, making the usual short-order breakfast, then a kid-friendly lunch of mac and cheese, PBJs, and carrot and celery sticks. A very sweet, very funny gay couple from Missouri took over cleanup duties when I started to run out of steam after lunch. Mike was raised by his Italian grandmother on The Hill in St. Louis and owns his own catering business, so he and Bill promptly commandeered the kitchen and announced that I would be taking the rest of the day off while they whipped up dinner for everybody. I’m not sure what we’re having, but it smells heavenly.

This place never ceases to amaze me. No matter who’s here or what the situation is, we always seem to end up with the perfect combination of talents, personalities, and ideas to keep things running smoothly. I am beginning to suspect that the Tumbleweed is some sort of odd wormhole through which blessings enter the universe. It’s certainly worked that way for me.

– Sierra

It is currently 12 degrees outside, with a windchill of five below zero, four inches of snow on the ground, and more falling.

Our rooms are full of stranded travelers who lost their nerve when the snow started blowing across the interstate. I fed them chili mac and sent them off to bed with big mugs of hot chocolate topped with marshmallow creme. Lil Miss came by after school, but by the time Grant got out of the building, the temperature had dropped about 20 degrees and the roads were starting to get slick, so he sent her home and followed her in the Volvo just to make sure she got there OK. I worried about him until he got back, but I really shouldn’t have; as he pointed out, a decade in Flagstaff will teach you a thing or two about driving in the winter.

When he got back, Grant spent most of the evening playing Pac-Man with Joey while I made a batch of chocolate-chip biscotti. They’re planning to make ice cream out of snow tomorrow morning.

At this writing, Grant is asleep on my shoulder, Harvey is asleep on my foot, and the cats are asleep in a big, furry pile on my lap while the snow falls softly over Freed’s Garage.

Despite the general crappiness of the weather, life is very, very good right now.

– Sierra

Warm weekend

January 28, 2011

We are booked up for the entire weekend. Every biker in northern New Mexico seems to be taking advantage of this glorious weather. I don’t blame them. If I had a bike, you can bet I’d be on it. We’ll definitely be Mother Roading tomorrow when I finish the laundry….

– Sierra

Winter travelers

January 26, 2011

We had an unexpected deluge of guests this evening: A Japanese travel writer, a young mother from San Bernardino with a toddler in tow, and a 3-foot-tall Elvis impersonator from Milwaukee who saw my copy of Veeck — As In Wreck on the coffee table and immediately began trying to convince me that he is a direct descendant of Eddie Gaedel.

I love this place….

– Sierra

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