Friday, October 11, 2013

Day 115 - Empire State of mind

Today is October 9th, the big day when I wanted to be by the phone. My little sister Gloria (aka "Dr. Mulan"*) is an OB-GYN resident. She has applied to fellowship programs in Maternal-Fetal Medicine (MFM). There are only ~70 spots in the U.S., and the process is highly competitive. Of the top OB-GYN candidates in the country, fewer than 50% of applicants match with a fellowship program. The match is legally binding. If my sister matches, she is obligated to attend the program for the next three years.

I wanted to be present for this day, and re-arranged our schedule to be in internet range when my sister heard today, October 9th. Drum roll please... my sister will be doing her MFM fellowship at Columbia University in NYC! I'm ecstatically proud of my sister. She'll be ~1h away from Philly, so I hope to see her and her husband John a lot more. Congratulations, Gloria!

Waiting to hear about her match was actually kind of nerve-wracking for me. To get my mind off things, we spent the day exploring Ghost Ranch. Just about everyone I've met who has passed through the ranch says it is a special place. It was a longtime dude ranch for the creme de la creme, including the Johnsons of J&J, conductor Leopold Stokowski, and perhaps most famously, Georgia O'Keeffe. Her modest adobe-walled studio is on the property. It was here in NM where O'Keeffe painted many of her famous Southwestern-themed works, with motifs of clouds, cow skulls, mountains, etc.

Ghost Ranch has also served as the set for numerous movies, including my favorite mid-life crisis Western, "City Slickers". It's easy to see how the sere landscape, red rocks and blue skies would capture a cinematographer's imagination. I was snapping photos all day.

The surrounding setting is so conducive to creative endeavors that it operates as a classroom for weeklong workshops for painting, writing, and spiritual exploration. It is a hotbed of culture, and I mean that in both of its primary meanings: the appreciation of the arts, and the creation of conditions which promote growth.

One of the things I miss most on long distance hikes is media: visual arts, movies, books, etc. The ranch has a superb, if compact, lending library. I've always been an avid reader, but thruhiking is an all day endeavor. I'm walking (or eating) while the sun is up, and asleep when the sun is down. Since I sent my Kindle home in Wyoming, I've had that deprived, stir-crazy withdrawal that my fellow readers will recognize. I needed a fix, so I spent the day curled up in a cushy chair, lost in "A Thousand Acres", a King Lear + Iowa novel by Jane Smiley. Drunk on culture, we did take a break in the afternoon to visit the paleontology museum, and see the excellent fossil collection. Ghost Ranch has both an active paleontologist and archaeologist in residence, since the surrounding area is so rich in fossils and other relics.

Mealtimes were highlights. The seating is cafeteria-style. Though I had flashbacks to high school ("OMG! Where do I sit?!?"), the experience was nearly the opposite: sit anywhere and strike up conversation with whoever is nearby. Nearly everyone here is taking some kind of class, so we're all pilgrims in our own ways. Gangles and I are physically journeying to Mexico, but finding so much more on the way. And everyone else is physically here at Ghost Ranch, but spiritually on their own journeys through pastels, watercolors, poetry, hikes, meditation, yoga, etc. Among all these pilgrims, we felt right at home.

Of all the special people we met, two stand out, Anne and Diane, a couple of scrapbooking magnates we met at dinner last night. I mention them for Chekhovian reasons. Today, they drove by us, rolled down the window and offered us a ride to Albuquerque tomorrow!

If it seems as though we don't hike anymore, that's because it is probably true. One of Gangles' bucket list items is to attend the Albuquerque hot air balloon fiesta. Since we're in NM at the time of the fiesta, the timing was too suggestive. We're going to take a few days off and explore Santa Fe and Albuquerque. Plus, Nicole, an old college friend, lives in Albuquerque. Plan is to spend the next few days sightseeing in NM, and get back on the trail sometime this weekend. Then it will be back to business, a heads down sprint to the border.

Note*: Though this may seem like a thoughtless nickname, my sister does actually look like Mulan. After the movie came out, multiple children would gawk at my sister in public and exclaim, "SHE LOOKS LIKE MULAN!" while their embarrassed parents tried to shush them. I never got that reaction from kids, who are always a little too honest.

Mileage: 0mi.


  1. Hello again! We got the peaches! Thank you, they were delicious! Wayne and I are good, we have been out hunting the last couple of weeks. We got A LOT of snow...some 30 inches on the mountain (I had thankfully come down before the storm). Working on getting the etsy started up again. I cannot believe you are already in New Mexico, so amazing!

    1. Amanda! Nice to hear from you. Glad you got the peaches. Thanks again for the hospitality. Hope the hunting went well. Lots of elk. Say 'hello' to Wayne for us? Take care.