The Land of Enchantment

“There’s no place like home.”  — Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz

Photo by Shavawn M. Berry

This week I flew to New Mexico for an English Composition Conference with one of my colleagues.  There was a whirlwind of activity, networking, learning, sharing, talking and eating over the three day trip.  We stayed at a resort about 26 miles from Albuquerque – The Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa – in a room that overlooked the pool and beyond that, the sacred land of the Santa Ana Pueblo, where the resort is located.  It is situated about a quarter of a mile from the Rio Grande, which is lined with a grove of cottonwood trees.  The Sandia mountains loomed in the distance, dusted with a smattering of light snow.  There are grasslands and horses as well as winding trails through the property.  It was truly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever stayed.  At night the temperature plummeted into the thirties and the wind blew the clouds away so the stars — millions of them — were visible from the balcony of our room.

For two intense days, I met English teachers and publishing reps from throughout the United States.  There were folks from California, Oklahoma, Iowa, New York, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Arizona, New Mexico, Michigan and South Carolina.  We heard a mesmerizing keynote speech from writer/cold water swimmer, Lynne Cox (Swimming to Antarctica, South With The Sun) and ate enough food to feed an army.  Nearly everything was gluten free (my request) and delicious.  I wish I’d taken photos of all the food, it was so beautifully presented and served.  We listened to presentations for several hours each day. I got many wonderful ideas for my teaching including effective assessment techniques, new ideas for assignments, and a wide array of options for new technologies that are useful in presenting writing projects and prompts.  I loved it. The teachers who were there were as passionate about teaching as I am, and it was inspiring to be around so many like-minded souls.  I will be thinking about what I learned as I begin to plan my courses for summer and fall.

After the conference finished, my colleague, S, and I sat out on the back patio of the resort and drank coffee and soaked up the silence and the view of the mountains.  You could hear bird song and wind, but very little human activity, and certainly no traffic or the omnipresent noise that you grow used to living in a large city like Phoenix. We sat there for over an hour watching the clouds and observing that particular brand of light that only exists in New Mexico. I was reminded (again) of why Georgia O’Keeffe fell in love with that light and spent her life painting the rocks and sky and flora and fauna of New Mexico.  It is the land of enchantment, just as the bright yellow and red license plates in the state say.  Eventually, we gathered ourselves up, collected our bags and packed the trunk of the rental car for the short drive back to Albuquerque and the flight home.  We drove through downtown Albuquerque in a charming adobe filled six block area near the art museum watching the Native American jewelry makers selling their wares on the streets.  As the sun set, we drove over into university heights and had home style New Mexican green chili chicken enchiladas with sopapillas and wine margaritas at El Patio on Harvard Avenue.

Photo by Shavawn M. Berry

We ate until both of us were sick, but it was so delicious we didn’t want to waste a bite!  As we headed to the airport, the air darkened and the street lights came on.  Although our energy was lagging (largely due to a food induced coma state), we spent time scouring the gift shops for refrigerator magnets of the Virgin of Guadalupe and pictures of Catholic saints in tin frames.  I smelled sandalwood soaps and pinon coffee.  By the time we reached the gate for our flight, both of us were punch drunk and silly.

The flight back is only about 50 minutes long, so all you have time to do is eat a bag of peanuts and drink some ice water before it is time to land.  We staggered into Sky Harbor airport last night around 11 PM, picked up the car from the economy lot, and drove home.  As much as I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of the trip, I’d been dreaming of seeing my critters and sleeping in my own bed all day.  When I got home, the dog yelped with pure delight and two of my three cats greeted me by rubbing their faces against my calves as they purred loudly.  The youngest cat stayed in the linen closet (where he’d been happily sawing logs) until everyone (S and my friend, J, who had stayed with the critters during my trip) left.  I climbed into bed and all my creatures joined me, snuggling up wherever there was room. My doglet sighed heavily as she tucked her snout into her stomach, curling up chestnut tight.  Her tail thumped next to me.  As I burrowed into the pillows and got comfortable, I rubbed the soft fur on her ears.

I thought, I love to travel, but it’s good to be home.

© 2012  Shavawn M. Berry  All rights reserved

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