“Go where you are celebrated”
I had mixed feelings about going to the Caverns. I knew I needed to, but the last trip ended as I was on my way to them. Ended by my Mother having a heart attack. My body could feel this trauma as I considered what would bring me here.
Texas. Had Texas and I got along better, maybe I wouldn’t have ended up in Carlsbad, or Roswell for that matter. But the universe works in mysterious ways.
That day after the Border Patrol stop, I hightailed it out of Texas. Rushing off to the caverns. I made it just in time to sit down, turn off my phone, and witness the speech made by the ranger. (I missed the chance to explore the trails, but lets be honest. I’ll probably end back up in the Land of Enchantment, with a chance to explore the trails, and you may find yourself with a fifth NM blog post to read).
Some batty facts:…In WWII, bats were used as a bomb tactic, though it ultimately failed. ..Vampire bats are only found in certain parts of the world…The bats in this cave feast on bugs and can harm certain birds who feed on the same bugs…these bats are the size of a hand…Since before settlement, bats have gathered by the hundreds of thousands in this one cave, and fly out around the same time every night–at sundown. Rangers/scientists have counted upwards of a ¼ million bats here at the Carlsbad Caverns….
As the sun set, we all hushed and sat still as stones. At first, we heard it. The whizzing of wings and sonar. Then, we saw it. Thousands of bats overhead, flying in a pattern. They were flying about, feasting on the bugs that aggravate us all. It was majestic. All of us in a trance, watching the bats for about an hour before it got too dark to see them. Slowly, we all went to our cars. It was there that I sat, in peace. The muscle memory of nearly losing my Mom had dissolved. It was time to find a familiar face to now relieve some of the trauma of Texas. A quick text message out. It seemed there were people for me in Roswell, excited for my return.
“Save a Horse, Ride a cowboy..” The music played as all the local boys went crazy and started strutting their stuff on the dance floor at Billy Ray’s, the local pub that’s been there for generations.
“I’ll have a mocktail.”
“Soda water with some juice.”
“…Ok.” He said, with mocking eyes and a closed-teeth smile. This was Billy Ray. A polite Southern bar owner, confused by my order. It’s not that I wouldn’t drink. I just wanted to pace myself and hydrate first while I assessed what this place was all about. You know, keep the wits until I can find my place.
I was in Roswell a night longer than I had anticipated, originally brought there in search of familiarity amidst the anxious workings of nearly escaping Texas arrest (see last post). I had looked around the bar, wondering if I would see anyone else familiar, knowing how lucky I am to have befriended Ally 2 summers prior, close enough to be out celebrating one of her personal victories and riding along in her car. “You doing ok?” We’d ask each other, as she chummed it up with all the locals she knew, and as I fumbled and found myself entertained by how different the men are here than what I’m used to. One guy’s opening line was about how he was arrested in Texas for a hate crime–for writing “fag” on a gay man’s car window. He thought I would be impressed. I found myself egging him on to mock him. I guess I was entertained, but someone who would show off with hate, well, he could never have me. I don’t remember his name, but I do remember that night.
It was September 10. Ally had received good news while we explored Bottomless Lakes earlier that day, and I wanted to celebrate with her. Her family had been so welcoming to me, I couldn’t help but feel like I was celebrating news for my very own blood cousin. So we set out. First for a concert which we had missed, and where we landed the invite to Billy Ray’s. Somehow, her and I had to convince one another we had to go–it was even more like we were related–we were trying to find a way out before we even arrived. But what we got out of it will stick with me for a lifetime.
At 11:59 that night, September 10th, Billy Ray stopped the line dancing to speak. In just one minute, it would be the 20th anniversary of 9-11. I’ve never known how to acknowledge this day, a day I remember so clearly (having been in 5th grade, my memory is clear on this tragedy. I even published a poem about it the same year, having been so moved). But there was Billy Ray, talking about being American. Being close to one another and standing together. Midnight. The whole bar, in unison, began to sing “And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free…”
This. This is why we came out. We didn’t know it. But talk about connection, acknowledgement, honor. I felt glued to the earth, my heart both crying and proud as I witnessed this. I would have never gotten this at home. I looked at Ally. Her and I both were wearing Sunflower printed fabric, both holding empty glasses. We had line-danced, laughed, mocked, and explored together. Now we were standing as Americans together. Family.
The next day we went to the local farmers market, drank some coffee, and said goodbye. Her Mom, Barb, my friend who I’ve been lucky enough to see here in the Central Coast, called me over for a final goodbye. She had made me sandwiches for the road, wanting to be sure I had good food to eat. Ally’s Dad/Barb’s husband was there. He told me I was the type of person he wanted around his kids. That he believed I could help expand their minds beyond their town. Earlier that day, I had felt sad that other friends didn’t have time for me. But this moment showed me that sometimes we go to places thinking we need something, but it turns out we are needed just as much. I had gone where I was celebrated, exactly as I am.
Somehow, I found community and familiarity in Roswell, leaving better than when I started.
Bottomless Lakes: Earlier in the day, we drove out to Bottomless lakes. This is a huge lake on the outskirts of the Roswell desert. While people can learn to scuba dive here, the current is legend. It goes so deep, and connects somewhere via the NM aqueducts. People who have gone missing here have washed up in canals of other cities, sometimes as far away as Albuquerque. Somehow Bottomless Lakes connects to other NM cities.
Dance Studio: Not to be overlooked is the dance studio Ally teaches at. She’s a hip hop instructor for elementary kids. They started showing off how they can do the splits, so I showed off my headstand. Guess who got a lesson on how to do the splits? That’s right, me.
The reason I bring the dance studio up is for an important life change that has taken place and has been a large culprit as to WHY these blogs are a month behind. The dance studio, Barb, and Ally would be the first of many experiences I shared with educators while on the road. The people I felt most bonded with are educators. While at the “Pinata” festival in town the night before, I had received a psychic reading stating that I was in transition, and that I would be doing work I really enjoyed in a couple months. I laughed. At this time, I was working at the Fish market in Santa Cruz and absolutely loved it. Not a thing wrong. Well, it turns out the universe works in mysterious ways. I am now a preK teacher. I really enjoy what I’m doing in ways I didn’t know imaginable. Who knew a trip to Roswell would launch a deep connection with the self?!
I drove through my old stomping grounds today, 2 days after Thanksgiving. Something about the warm California sun, the scent of farmland, and familiarity of it all took me back to my first time in NM. I was mesmerized. I had fallen in love with a place. Fallen into communities. Made connections that still matter to me. It was here that leaving that farmland finally made sense to me. It was here that I learned taking a leap of faith is more than ok because letting go of what is familiar to us, can mean finding so much more.
As always, thank you for taking the time to read the tales of my journey. There is much more to come.