The Hundredth Meridian

The Seventh Day

The first thing you notice is the heat and the intensity of the light, glaring on the white-painted adobe walls of Mesilla where Indian rugs, sun-rotted and sun-faded, hang behind deeply recessed windows barred with iron. Stepping out from the coolness of San Albino on the plaza after Mass into the blinding Sunday noon had a final quality, like dying suddenly and seeing God face-to-face. The tourists outside the church watched from a safe distance as the congregation emerged, as if we were extras in an historical recreation or a multicultural pageant. Even with the tourists, the silence at noon was nearly as striking as the stillness, and the heat. Across the plaza the barman at the Double Eagle drew the first glass of beer beneath the polished wood and glass overhang of the massive backbar, brought all the way from Chicago where it was once a fixture in the Hotel Drake.

In Doña Ana the air had a perceptible bite from acres of ripening chili peppers. I found the horses shaded up in their stalls; they emerged reluctantly at my call, extending only their heads and necks beyond the adobe wall. Out on Redland Drive the neighbors' horses whinnied from the orchard at the end of the road; roosters crowed; somewhere a peacock screamed. In the backyard were catbirds, grackles, and a bobwhite quail. The catbirds softly cried, the grackles racketed, the quail bobwhited from the willow, fig, peach, and apricot trees. The house with...

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