Monday, 29 October 2007

This piece was broadcast on BBC7

Know Your Place - The Sandias
A piece broadcast on 'Know Your Place' on BBC Radio 7

Years ago, I lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the real South West where cowboys still walked the streets and drove out onto the mesa in dirty pickup trucks with gun racks. The chilli was hot and the buildings made of adobe; it was hot in the summer and it snowed in the winter.

From my window I could see the Sandia mountain range, the tailbone of the Rocky Mountains, the spine of the American Mid-West. In pueblo Indian mythology the mountains were sacred. Dots of ponderosa pine clung to the top ridge like pips in a watermelon. Above the west face swung the tramway, taking seasonal carloads of skiers and walkers up from the foothills to the peak. At 10,000 feet, the altitude stole your breath but the view was worth it; the city stretched out over the Rio Grande and to the desert beyond. The slopes below were protected and home to geckos, rattlesnakes, roadrunners and bears.

I used to drive to work along Tramway, the road that traced the foothills past the tramway station and on through Sandia Indian Pueblo. Some mornings I would glimpse a coyote bounding away or dodge tumbleweed as big as a car blasted along in the spring wind. Driving home again at the end of a long day, the Sandias came into their own. As the sun set, the dark slopes changed slowly from grey and black, through blood red to scarlet and glowing pink.

I think of these times when I cut Sandia watermelon triangles to share with my daughter who was born there that winter. And I think of my daughter when I sit in my hire car on Tramway and watch the colours change one more time.

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