We've never been much for the myths of Thanksgiving and the mutual feasting by the Indians and Pilgrims giving thanks for making it through the early famine period of English settlement in Massachusetts.
Over the years of course the truth -- at least partially -- wills out. We find the myth is a sad and damnable lie, that the relations between the English settlers and most of the native peoples of the land was anything but happy and cooperative, and that massacres were perpetrated with some regularity and glee. The settler were not peaceful, they were religiously intolerant, and their response to resistance by the original peoples was increasingly brutal slaughter.
Since I'm of both English and Irish descent (the German component apparently doesn't register in my DNA) I've had some interest in the issue of English/Irish relations, including the many times the English and Irish went to battle with one another. In the 17th Century, there was a mass slaughter of Irish by the English under Cromwell, really quite terrible. This took place about 20 or 30 years after the Pilgrim settlements in New England, but Cromwell's practice in Ireland was not particularly different from the mass murder and destruction of Native peoples in Massachusetts and the rest of New England. Patterns were set, and they were maintained throughout the period of Anglo settlement of what became the USA. Mass murder, displacement, and seizure of lands and goods was policy. To an extent it still is.
But I wasn't particularly thinking about that over this year's Thanksgiving holiday. We live in Indian Country, and many of our friends and colleagues are Indians. Ms. Ché is an Indian after all and she's getting her creative writing degree at an Indian art school. We've wrassled with the history for a long time, and in the end we let the past be the past. Indians have their own reasons to mark the harvest season with thanks as they have done in their own way for many thousands of years, but the meaning of the American holiday is quite different for most Indians than many Anglos presume.
No, this year, I was thinking more of the fact that I've survived another year, and this year, at least since May, has been largely pain free. Believe me, I'm grateful for that. Ms. Ché is too. She's been through so much anguish over my condition. There were periods I could barely walk, other times I was in such intense pain and there was nothing she could do about it. This situation actually goes back quite a bit longer than the two or so years I've been diagnosed with RA. It's been tougher for her in some ways than for me.
At any rate, I had the last of four Rituxan infusion treatments this year on the 22 of November; went to the hospital in Albuquerque in the morning, got infused and was released in the early afternoon. I felt OK except I was tired, more tired than I'd been after previous infusions. At least there was no pain.
I had some things I wanted to do while I was in town, but found I was too tired to do it, so I went home. I discussed with Ms Ché that I wasn't really up for a home-prepared feast on Thanksgiving, and asked if she'd like to go out instead. She said, "Why don't we go out this evening? I know just the place." She mentioned a barbecue joint in the Sandia foothills we haven't been to in a couple of years. I said "sure!" and took a nap.
There was an odd chemical smell in the restaurant. I couldn't identify it, but it was noticeable -- except when we were eating, when I didn't notice it at all. When we got home, I felt fine and went to bed at my normal time.
I woke up about 2am. I was nauseous and very dizzy. The room was spinning around me, and I could barely stand up let alone locomote to the bathroom in case I had to expel my stomach contents. By holding on to walls and furniture, I managed to make it, and in the end, nothing came up from my craw.
I sat in the living room for the next couple of hours, head spinning, gorge rising and falling. Went back to bed, slept till about 1pm, and when I got up, I was still dizzy and nauseous, but not as bad.
I told Ms Ché what was going on. She said it might be due to that chemical smell whatever it was, though she said she felt no ill affects. Later, when I could I looked up side effects of Rituxan, and sure enough, dizziness and nausea were among them.
I had not experienced those symptoms after previous infusions. In this case, they seemed to be fading slowly, so I told Ms Ché I would let doctors know I had apparent side effects if they didn't fade by the weekend. I'm scheduled to see the eye doctor and rheumatologist on December 1 anyway.
So Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, was spent in a kind of WTF haze. We did enjoy some home made mac and cheese for Thanksgiving dinner, and we both reflected on what we're grateful for. The list is long and growing.
Of course we're grateful for each other. Every day together is amazing.
This morning, there's a movie on the TeeBee, "Silverado." It was filmed in the Santa Fe/Cochiti/Galisteo area. Galisteo is a few miles north of our place, and the primary location for "Silverado" was on what was then called the Cook Ranch. A western town set was built for the movie, and though it burned down in 1999 when some fireworks used in another movie started a range fire, the movie-town was rebuilt and is still frequently used for filming.
"Silverado" though was the first Big Picture filmed there --other filming location included the Eaves Movie Ranch south of Santa Fe on Highway 14, and at Tent Rocks on the Cochiti Pueblo even farther south of Santa Fe off I-25.
Most of the outdoor scenes feature the views of the mountains and rolling plains toward the west (Jemez Mountains), northeast (Sangre de Cristo Mountains) and south (Ortiz and Sandia Mountains). Practically every outdoor scene features an image we have in our mind's eye, as we pass through the Galisteo Basin, seeing the same views, every time we go to Santa Fe.
This is our home country, and we are extremely grateful to live here. For both of us, it evokes memories -- good memories -- of our more-or-less rural California childhoods. Ranches and farms were all around. Ranch and farm people were and are our family friends. Salt of the earth.
We spent many a year traveling all over the country for work and for pleasure, and we had an extraordinary time of it, but one place and one place only captivated us -- New Mexico. I think we first passed through -- it wasn't even really a visit -- on the way to someplace else (probably St. Louis) in 1983, and we said then, "Someday this will be our home."
And so it is. We can't think of anyplace we'd rather be.
It's full of Indians, and Hispanos and Anglos, sunsets that only happen in other people's imaginations, sunrises that penetrate the soul, challenges and tribulations that you never imagined you'd encounter, let alone get through, and endless spirit-lifting visions, people and experiences. There's no other place like it.
And if you want to see some of what we see practically every day, watch "Silverado" and pay particular attention to the outdoor scenes. Sometimes those sights are dotted with pronghorn antelope, and when they are, we take it as a sign. The antelope, which few people ever see in the West, are more common than deer or coyotes for us. They are our friends, and they, among others, our our spirit animals.
Make no mistake. "Silverado" is a rough story with a lot of violent and unhappy people living violent and unhappy lives -- if they survive. New Mexico is not for everyone, not at all.
The Cook Ranch, Galisteo Basin locations for "Silverado" filming, is no longer the Cook Ranch; it's now called Cerro Pelon ("Bald Hill") after a hill known locally as "The Wave" that's on the 22,000 acre Cerro Pelon Ranch now owned by fashion designer Tom Ford. He's got it listed for sale, if you're interested. Asking price $75 million, including the movie set. the Wave, a contemporary mansion, various outbuildings, a couple of pueblo ruins, and who knows what else. Cowboys negotiable.
While all this strikes us as kind of silly, it too is part of our home place.
We're grateful to have a tiny portion of it as our own.
There's much else we are thankful for. Much, much else.
This year's Thanksgiving was a little odd and challenging. But we know where we are. Every day.