Full circle

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

Valentine’s Day in Coldwater

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

So much for the January thaw.

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

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

Dear Rugrat …

… I have given up all of my really good vices for you. In recognition of this, I think it would be a nice gesture on your part if you could stop forcibly rejecting every single thing I attempt to eat that isn’t Slim-Fast or popsicles. I realize you don’t have a tongue yet, but here is the unfortunate reality: Slim-Fast tastes like dog food. If you could develop a fondness for green chile, that’d be great. Mommy might even look the other way when you’re slipping your vegetables to Harvey in a few years if you could work with her on this. Kthx.

Post-holiday update

I’ve been so busy decompressing from the holiday craziness that I forgot to post anything about the holidays themselves.

We rode a bit of an emotional roller coaster around here, and I don’t think my hormones are to blame for most of it. This wasn’t my first round of holidays without Dad, but last year, I was so busy settling his estate, tying up loose ends, and selling everything I owned in preparation for the move to New Mexico that I didn’t really have time to think about how much I missed him

This year, I had plenty of opportunity and plenty of reason for reflection and quiet contemplation.

It was wonderful to spend Christmas Eve curled up in Grant’s arms, listening to Harvey snore softly under the Christmas tree and discussing what sorts of traditions we’d like to establish when the baby is old enough to participate. It was wonderful to spend Christmas Day exchanging gifts with Sandy and feasting on the homemade duck ravioli she’d worked on for two days. And it was wonderful to watch Joey and Lil Miss shoot off fireworks in the front yard to welcome the new year the following weekend.

It wasn’t so wonderful to burst into tears in the middle of the lobby when Dad’s version of “Happy Xmas” came on the radio while I was running a credit card for a couple from Michigan who just wanted a quiet place to sleep, and it was even less wonderful to find Joey sobbing inconsolably in the kitchen on Christmas morning because there were no gingersnaps waiting for him in the cookie jar. Miss Shirley, it seems, used to make gingersnaps every year on Christmas Eve, after Joey went to bed, and they would be waiting for him in the cookie jar when he awoke. Although she’s been away from the Tumbleweed for the better end of a year, it didn’t really click for Joey that she was gone forever until he wandered into the kitchen, opened the cookie jar, and found nothing but the chocolate-chip cookies he and Lil Miss had made a few days earlier.

We are a mess.

— Sierra