On the Way to WorkRichard Soberpaintings

Hanging With Garrett

Garrett Wounded Head and I spent three days on a lift at the Villa Linda Mall, now referred to as Santa Fe Place, hanging Christmas lights and swags from beams. Garrett is from Pine Ridge, South Dakota. He lives in St. Elizabeth’s shelter down by the Railroad Yard. Outside the sky was dancing on the landscape, cooler air descending through the Southern Rockies, while we ate ham sandwiches provided by the mall operations staff. Our overseers were Manny and Tony, low men on the totem pole. Nevertheless, they are big men in their minds and don’t mind belittling their fellows if it means holding on to the little snatch of territory they’ve managed to delude themselves into thinking is theirs. Coronado wasn’t the only seeker to get lost in a wild goose chase across a land populated by dreams, desire, and disappointment. What keeps people in New Mexico is what has always kept people in New Mexico. A flash of warm light on the wall of a canyon, a cloud suspended over a forest, stillness, the intoxicating air. The struggle for cash on the arid and abrasive earth continues in the sanctuaries built against urban life’s imperious determination. There is a dear price for the view outside the window. Garrett’s niece opened a door in Salt Lake City and was shot. She was seven months’ pregnant. The medical team saved the baby. The farmers in Nebraska want the water under his land. His road lies between Albuquerque and Rapid City. Where the cottonwoods are bare along the lowering rivers, winter light casts its oblique shadows across plazas of desire. We watched the moon set behind the Jemez as the Sun rose over the Sangres. Cerrillos Road was almost quiet as we drove south toward the mall, past Jackalope, past Jiffy Lube, past Walmart, past Little Anita’s. Santa Fe reaches toward the desert. Like Coronado it starves itself in blind yearning, swallowed by the vastness around it. I love you I said to my wife after work was done. Everything will stumble into another life, the ravens passing above the trees, the bones of deer carried off by mountain lions, magpies imitating their brethren, meadow grasses moved by the mountain breezes, our voices singing amazement at a lush summer afternoon, the river vibrating over smoothed stones, spinning off the horizon, finally out of reach.

RS 2005