Do you believe in karma?
Before I moved to Santa Fe in the early 1990s I scuffed at such notions.
I don’t anymore.
That’s what 11 years in Santa Fe can do to a person.
People who live in touristy locales will tell you, there’s a huge difference between visiting a place and calling it home.
For me that difference in Santa Fe forced me to dig deep on every level.
When I wasn’t running in reflective meditation in Santa Fe, captivated by its raw, unfiltered beauty, the harsh reality of surviving there brought me to my knees — literally and metaphorically.
As most people learn, times of distress often move us closest to God and spirit. That’s what happened to me.
Now, as a result, each time I go back to Santa Fe (it’s been eight years since I left) my soul returns the womb.
There are only a handful of places where I’ve experienced this divine sense of my coming home.
I felt this way when I traveled to my parents’ homeland in Eastern Europe in the 1980s.
I also felt it when I moved to northern California after college and would visit this one particular beach town near where I lived.
The third place was Santa Fe, but unlike the other two places, it didn’t occur right way. It took time, I believe, because of all the karma I fulfilled there.
I will never forget my first trip to New Mexico. On the plane ride home I sat next to a woman who had lived in Albuquerque for several years. She had moved there from Seattle and was now moving back. I told her I was getting ready to move to Santa Fe with my fiance in a few months. She warned me not to do it.
“It’s beautiful here, but you can’t eat
the sky. There are no jobs here. The pay is lousy and the crime and alcoholism and drug use is really bad,” she said. “I’d
think twice if I were you.”
She and her husband moved to New Mexico because they had vacationed there many times. They fell in love with its mild climate and bottomless sunshine. They couldn’t stand soggy Seattle anymore, she explained, and they arrived with dreams of blissful, arid living.
They sold their Seattle house, took their savings with them and moved to New Mexico without any jobs.
They got to Albuquerque, bought a house, but never found great employment. They burned through their savings, then had to work a couple of jobs each and were always under-employed. Their house got robbed multiple times and there were drug problems down the street from them.
It took them a couple of years for them to save up again so they could leave.
Her story rattled me to my core.
I liked living in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley, which is where I was before Santa Fe. I had family there and a great job with a Fortune 500 company. It was my fiance’s idea to leave, not mine. I’d never lived anywhere as small as Santa Fe. Blue skies and sweeping views aside, its size and remoteness felt claustrophobic to me.
My first year there sucked. I took a job that paid me about a third less than what I was making in California. (Except for a tech editing job I got later in Los Alamos, that was standard there.) The cost of living was still relatively expensive.
My fiance and I bickered constantly over the details of our wedding, which was planned to take place in my home town in the Midwest.
Think “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” That’s what my parents wanted to give us.
Now imagine the opposite of Ian, the sweet, amicable fiance in that movie — an “anti-Ian” whose purpose was to loudly thumb his nose at everyone when he didn’t get his way.
That was my ex.
I remember my father called me one day out of the blue, a few months after I moved to Santa Fe, and he offered to help me and a way out. I did not have to go through with the wedding, he said.
I was too proud (and young and stupid) to call it off.
That’s the only way I explain why I still went through with it, despite the warnings I saw — youth and stupidity, and karma, and the fact that my maturity hadn’t reached its consciousness yet.
When I got to Santa Fe I was 25 years old, with dreams of becoming a journalist and writer, still longing for the high energy of Silicon Valley or the Big Apple but now living in the “Little Chile.”
I also badly wanted children in the future. My ex did not.
So what do you do under such circumstances when you feel stripped of your worldly means, your true hopes and aspirations, and your essence?
You learn to pray — a lot.
You seek to find God but then God seeks you. When you feel lost, you pray with all your might for God to rescue you.
That’s why I believe I went to New Mexico — it was my path to God, and because I followed it to Him, I believe He gave me the gift of my voice as a writer there.
I’ve heard it said there are no foxhole atheists but you also won’t find many in Santa Fe, New Mexico, either.
With its spectacular, cinematic-quality landscapes, where the intense sunshine casts layers of shadows over the mesas, New Mexico is a great place to ponder divine intervention. It what you do when you are floundering like a distressed fish on the high dessert’s sands. (It’s not a wonder. I am an astrological water sign, after all.)
Over time the closer I got to God, the more I grew apart from my ex (we were married for five years). Eventually I found the courage to leave my bad marriage. It happened shortly after I ran my second marathon. I credit my training and success, in part, for finally giving me the strength to do it.
Throughout my years in Santa Fe I ran along more dusty roads than I could count, where I witnessed the hands of God at play in azure skies and double rainbows, and in golden chamisas and shrubby pinons dotting the hills everywhere I went.
I ran on desolate pueblos with a running partner who was Native American and saw how she straddled her two worlds with incredible grace and no malice toward me, yet another outsider to her invasion-weary culture.
I ran along the windy, hillside roads onto the cottonwood-covered mesa tops of Los Alamos with my running/scientist friends there. Afterward we would peer down from the top into breathtaking views of Frijoles Canyon and Bandelier.
I also prayed and prayed, and bumped into the many different spiritual paths of others seeking their way home, too, in Santa Fe.
I ran and ran, and I prayed and prayed.
I ran and prayed until finally God, in His infinite mercy, showed me my way and karma finally pointed to the exit sign out.
My soul work and time there, after 11 years, was finally completed.
My next post: Eat, Pray, Run, Part III: Running and Love.
Aging is inevitable, but growing old is a choice. Lace up your shoes, and let’s go!
Mileage Saturday: 12; Mileage Sunday: 8; Mileage since Boston: 734.35.