When your world becomes a snow shovel and 35-pound bag of salt or sand, you know it is
a serious winter out there. I wrote about the record snow falls last month, so I will not regale you again about February’s northern Arizona storms (or the big one that kicked off this month on March 1.) I will say nothing of the white-out conditions, roof repairs and power outages. Suffice it to say again, we are ready for spring, people!
I was lucky enough to be away for one of the recent storm systems (just one: do not judge). While my house/dog sitter shoveled valiantly alongside my neighbors, I was hopping on a row boat to cross a narrow section of the Rio Grande for a friend’s 70th birthday party in Boquillas, Mexico. (Five dollars for a two-way ride, and don’t forget your passport for the return to the U.S.) The celebration was a three-day affair, and included Western dancing, cowboy boots and hats, and entertaining conversations. (No politics, given the crowd was a mix of lefties and conservatives.) The actual party in Mexico was just for one afternoon, and the two evenings were spent at the Starlight tavern in Terlingua, Texas. It was my first time hearing Junior Brown live, and wowsers, he did not disappoint. Playing his double-necked guitar, the “guit-steel”, with heart, he blew us all away with his sliding, picking and astounding voice. (An Arizona native, Brown was born in Cottonwood before his family moved to Indiana.)
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More music the next night brought us all to our feet for hours of swinging, singing and general carrying on. Thanks to the fun and generous Texan Liz Rogers for this wonderful gathering. I recommend a visit to this tiny American border town (population estimates range from 85 to 127), and to its minuscule cemetery, some of whose graves were small unmarked piles of rocks and nails. And make time to cross the river to Boquillas (population estimates vary from 100 to 300), where tourism supports the town that is less than a mile from the river. Once on the other side, visitors can walk or hire a burro or pickup truck for another five bucks. It is another country, yes, but also a whole other world.
This was my great COVID-breakout (as opposed to outbreak). With 100-plus people inside the Starlight, all unmasked as most folks are these days, I was aware the virus might finally come for me. Of course I am vaccinated and boosted, but still, so far, so good. Over the past three years, a handful of friends and I have been more cautious than many, and given that I only know a few “COVID virgins” remaining, I acknowledged that I was taking a risk. But when I received the invitation from a Texas traveling companion, I knew it was time to cross this symbolic river, and it felt life-changing, honestly. To be out in the world with all these people who believe the pandemic is behind us. I hope they are right. Only time will reveal the truth of that.
Still, I am not quite ready to go full tilt and start hanging out at the ‘Zoo Club, looking for a cowboy to twirl me around the room. Not quite ready for my singing group, but I am ready for book club, family visits and being out a bit more. And I will continue to slip on a mask in crowded grocery stores, music venues and the post office.
We are at a crossroads, I believe, and not just with our differing pandemic views. There is the bloody war in eastern Europe, our Congress in which a representative feels it is fine to shout “Liar!” at the president of the United States, more mass shootings every week, children behind in school after two years of virtual learning and many teens and adults depressed after all the isolation.
The world is a different place than it was in 2019, but it is our world in which we find ourselves. Let’s see how we can bring our own peace into the lives we touch.
And then get back to shoveling.