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Reflections in the Silver Cup


1. Less stuff. I know I did much better than John Steinbeck when he loaded his camper in Travels with Charley, but I can do with even less than I thought.


2. More organization. On this trip the storage area next to my bed became a pile of cloth bags filled with various and sundry items. Bins will make the bag I need easier to find and the whole space feel more orderly.


3. Denatured alcohol. My little Solo Stove uses twigs or denatured alcohol as fuel. Twigs don't stay lit as easily as I'd hoped and need to be added fairly constantly during boiling/cooking. They also coat the stove and pans in soot. So alcohol most times.


4. Eat even more simply. Less food for the cooler, less cooking.


5. Chairs are important. The chair I bought at REI did not provide enough support for my back, and I ordered a better one but didn't have it for this trip. Picnic benches aren't enough for getting work done or just relaxing.


6. A fixed place to wander from. When I was in my early twenties, I immersed myself in Thomas Wolfe's novels–Look Homeward Angel; You Can't Go Home Again; Of Time and the River; A Stone, a Leaf, a Door; The Web and the Rock. The voluptuous language flooded my senses, and his dark romanticism was utterly relatable to a twenty-something. But it was his perception of movement, fixedness and wandering that drew me in so I still remember the words 50 years later. I didn't realize yet how restless I was; I didn't truly observe that in myself until I counted house moves on my 60th one. I didn't begin to comprehend it until I read Third Culture Kids. In one place Wolfe wrote, "...we are fixed and certain only when we are in movement." Even more compelling to my young self then, and to my much older self now, was the idea (and I could not locate the exact quote) that the true wanderer can only wander from a fixed place. I didn't know what a wanderer I would become, and if I've had a fixed point from which to wander, it has undoubtedly been an inner point until now.


I've mentioned that I've felt something akin to shame about my mobile life, and that shame has come from external sources–people jesting about my changeablilty, although some admire the adventures. But on the return road from this trip, I began to feel an actual need to settle, and it came from within–wanting, even longing, to have that Wolfian fixed place from which to wander. Wanting to be on the road one week of the month and home the rest of it, rather than the other way around. For the most part.


Although, as many of you know, I've never liked Albuquerque, there are parts of it that I love. I've spent more adult years here than anywhere else, so I have friends here and a beloved community. I have to ask, please don't judge me, maybe don't even make a joke about it, as this is a tender spot for me: I am looking for a small home to rent here. Adventures are still in the works but most likely I will not be living on the road.




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The brick that kept me searching

As my brother Rick and I sat by my campfire at Quaking Aspen, I mentioned that I planned to explore and take photos at the old Ft. Wingate school the next day. He told me there was a small cemetery to the east of the school and thought I might like to try to find it. He said it was a graveyard used to bury some of Pancho Villa's captured soldiers that had died in the 1918 influenza epidemic. So when I finished my photo shoot, I walked out on an overgrown, two-track dirt road that led east, outside the chain link fence but inside the gate across the asphalt road leading into the school.


I lost the road a couple of times and was about to give up my search as the morning grew hotter, but then I saw the altered brick (left) lying next to the road. I thought maybe it had been a makeshift grave marker. "I'll go a little farther, then," I said to myself. A few steps later I suddenly made out gray headstones and two rusty gates, wide enought to admit a hearse or wagon bearing coffins, in the distance.


I estimated there were around 70 standing gravestones and weathered wooden crosses within the sagging fence. Mysteriously, there were graves on the western and eastern ends of the cemetery, but the center appeared to be empty. There were ten stones on the western end. Four of them had obviously Navajo names with the date 1929, four years after the army post became a school, no birth dates. I wondered if these were students. It was all too common that Native students died in residential schools of heartbrokenness, exposure when trying to escape or disease brought on by both. The other six stones were marked "Unknown," but the stones were marble, so clearly someone had cared to bury the bodies well.


The graves on the eastern end of the cemetery were indeed those of Mexican soldiers, including a general. But an article by Harold L. James, published by the New Mexico State Highway Commission, indicates that they were not Pancho Villa's soldiers but Federalist loyalists seeking asylum from Villa's forces with their families. The US decided to remove them from anyplace near the Mexican border, in case there were Villa's men hidden among them. They were detained (2,000-4,000 of them from varying reports) in a tent city south of the army post. The soldiers had plain cement headstones, but the general merited a rather ornate plinth that rose above all the other stones in the cemetery. They were held from 1914-1915, so they did not die in the 1918 epidemic. I didn't learn any causes of their deaths.


Further research explained the mystery of the empty center of the graveyard: most US soldiers' remains were removed to the Santa Fe National Cemetery. There were two white marble gravestones of US soldiers from the WWII era, one clearly Navajo, who died in 1944 and the other who died in 1948. One wooden cross was kept freshly painted white with black lettering: a Navajo man, born in 1909 and died in 1983. His was the most recent grave in the yard, someone who had died old, so not a student at the time of death. I wondered who had decided to bury him here and why.


The cemetery was very overgrown, the latest grave the only one to be somewhat cared for. I felt a soberness, a sadness at the unknown stories. The likely students and the asylum seekers no doubt went to their graves with sorrow in their hearts.


To see photos from the graveyard, go to the Facebook search space and enter "Anna Redsand cemetery."

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