Moonrise over the Sandias

By Scott Westerman

5PM, December 11, 2008 – Eastbound on 550, 39 miles West of Albuquerque. The thin ribbon winds its way Southeast from Farmington. Its a day when I’ve spent more time on the road than in the meetings that took me to that far corner of New Mexico.

We avoid driving at night here. The skies are a breathtaking distraction of diamonds scattered across black velvet. Help is far, far away if you breakdown and the cell service is spotty at best. So I back-timed my departure to get me to I-25 and it’s ring of mercury vapor lighting while the twilight shadow were still falling.

It’s easy to lose yourself among the endless mesas and jutting sedimentary promontories. As familiar as they have become, they still hypnotize, especially when liberally mixed with my meditative Ipod music mix. A solitary existence without the urgent vibrations of Blackberry email, instant messaging and phone calls.

New Mexico sunsets are legendary. With visibilities extending 70 miles or more on the 300 chamber-of-commerce days we experience each year, the fiery hues that paint heavens never fail to put our tiny inconveniences into perspective.

This is what I see in my rear view mirror. The urge to pull over and ponder the majesty of the universe is overpowering. And yet, my life is still centered on earthly pursuits. A half dozen calendar items remain in this workday. I focus my attention on the road ahead.

Before me lie the Sandia Mountains. This is the moment when they earn the name. The Spanish saw the range as a watermelon, roughly cleaved and left to lie on it’s side, red and mouthwatering, even now attracting more humans to live in a place where we can always feel it’s reassuring presence.

The days begin and end behind the Sandias and once a month, there is an event that surpasses a New Mexico sunset. The full moon. Even now the prismatic optics of the atmosphere make our lone natural satellite seem to dwarf all things nearby.

I turn Seals and Crofts East of Ginger Trees to full volume. “What harm can befall you… doors of understanding’s house..” I hear only about a quarter of the words as the music and light flow around and through me. I point the camera in my cell phone toward the windshield and snap a wholly inadequate picture.

The GPS whispers that Rio Rancho lies ahead. I disengage the cruise control and try to return my scan to highway. In the distance: Interstate 25 and civilization. From here, the headlights seem like and endless procession of fireflies.

The sun has departed and the moon climbs toward Venus and Jupiter. The two other leading players in the ephemeris of the evening await their traveling companion.

Nights and White Satin swirls throughout the car as the colors begin to fade.

“Red is grey and yellow white. But we decide which is right.. And which is an illusion.’