Driving through Abiquiu in the early morning, still deep frozen from a fitful night of camping, whipping winds deep in our bones, we passed the public library, the boarded-up “Piñon,” up the dusted gravel road into a neighborhood. A cow in the backyard, an electric wheelchair parked in the tall grass behind the fence. And there, behind the chainlink, a slender plaster Jesus, bent at an acute angle under the weight of that big cross. The only decoration in the yard. White skin and long brown hair, long white robe like a misplaced spa resident, leaning forward. I couldn’t see his expression.
Aesthetic, or ideology? I keep wondering, passing wood porches advertising “Indian Art,” passing churches — “Know thy enemy, Learn about Satan” — passing neighborhood watch signs in Truth or Consequences. Are these the resting places of holy travelers, who gave everything they had for a doublewide and a fence? Twelve priests — do they all end up with the same rewards? Is equality only available in some eternal sense? I wonder how many places are truly holy anymore.
Praise the open road.
Praise the red corvette selling on the TV.
Praise the waters.
Praise running water.
Praise a beer in the tub.
Praise complimentary chips and salsa.
Praise a single-digit receipt.
Praise a scenic drive.
Praise thy neighbor. (“Where you girls from?”)
Praise all types of weather.
Praise every font.
We’re each twelve priests, pulling us different inflections and denominations until we can kill eleven and live a life of true singular conviction. How many priests are alive in you? Can we resurrect them once they’re gone? Like trust in strangers. How alive is that one? True neutral: white on black. Chalk on a blackboard. Wall text in a museum. Print it and mount it and it tastes like truth.
Priests are everywhere. In the billboards, the casinos, the Park Rangers, the baristas in smalltown coffee shops, the men looking for someone to impart their wisdom to, the alien museum. Everything is religious and nothing is.
The painted mountains are inspiring in their own right, and also owned by the church.
I think there were 12 primary witnesses to the Roswell Incident.
There seem to be healers everywhere. I can’t tell if it’s a new phenomenon or if all of this has always been here. The crystals, rocks, and Christian supplies.
The man in the T or C guidebook who has 2 separate ads for 2 separate types of healing, Tarot or Witchcraft. Priest One.
Priest Two is the older white man who fell in love with Santa Fe for its manana attitude and tells us about all the things we will miss in New Mexico from his adjacent table.
Priest Three is the waiter with the yellow blonde hair and bedazzled jeans who asks the elder couple repeatedly if they want dessert as if they were children.
Priest four is the single man who watches TV on a laptop too close to our campsite for comfort.
Priest five is the older white man who opened a ‘junk’ shop about a month ago and tells us they all came out here because it’s paradise even though they’re not all there.
Priest six shouldn’t be let into our Bungalow or fed but gives us sad old man eyes.
Priest seven is the man with pale orange hair that keeps shifting from food to foot so that I have to continually crane around him to read about the obscured evidence in the alien crash landing.
Priest eight is probably an alien.
Priest nine is the Park Ranger who is probably sick and tired of our shit even though we only talk to her for two minutes.
Priest ten is the front desk attendant with braces who seems too young and like she is making up rules as she goes.
Priest eleven is an aunt – either the one who pays for us to soak and look at the mountains, or the one who tells us about the couple with a ‘wicked sense of humor’.
Priest twelve is Abbie or Genie or something who sleds down a mountain of pure white sand while her parents videotape.