Bernie and I are in Sante Fe, New Mexico. He  just brought me a cup of coffee from the little dining room they have down by the lobby. We will be going down to breakfast soon and then get on our way toward my daughter’s. Motels providing breakfast is a given now. It wasn’t always that way. Years ago we were pleased when they got those water heaters in the rooms with a packet of instant coffee. This is an example of how competition can work.

Unless we are traveling to  visit family, Bernie and I have elected to travel with a tour group, Roadscholar. It used to be  called Elderhostel. Yesterday is an example of why we need a tour guide. While we saw some beautiful scenery, we also drove through some high plains that had very little chararcter. Dusty brown, few trees, just these little bushes that I think people call “brush”. The sun beat down hard on the houses sitting out there in the middle of nowhere. We saw no people nor farm machinery in use, though there were a few black angus that didn’t even turn their heads in our direction.

Had we been  on a Roadscholar tour, our guide would have been chattering about those bushes and the critters they house or about the healing herbs growing in the ditches. They would have told us what the people living in the houses do for a living and maybe we would stop to lunch in one of those houses and be served a salad with those herbs. We would find out what folks are doing out here and why they choose to live where they do.

Bernie and I stopped in San Luis, Colorado, the oldest town in the state, which has the oldest Catholic church in the state and is known for the Shrine of the Stations of the Cross, a long path that winds up the side of a mesa. The stations were created by sculpture artist, Huberto Maestas.

A man at the town’s visitor center said we best not walk it since we are from an area that is basically sea-level. “It takes three days to acclimate to the altitude,” he said. He directed us to a road that could take us to the last station and The Chapel of All Saints at the end.

Bernie’s enthusiasm we pretty thin but I insisted we go up there. The car was complaining about the heat or altitude or dryness…we didn’t know what. It just didn’t start as it should and the direction gage was on the blink. So when we finally got to the top of the mesa, Bernie stayed in the car with the engine running. I ran to  the last station, a marvelous bronze statue of Jesus lifting off from the cross, his arms stretched upward in triumph.  I took a few pictures looking directly into the sun…you can imagine  how that did not work! Then I ran up to the little church, stepped inside and clicked a picture. It took only one to capture the whole inside because it was so small. When I left, I met a woman who had driven up to water the two paultry planters of flowers. She explained that they had no water up there this year so she had to drive up every day. Amazing devotion this woman had.

In hindsight I realized I could have had a conversation with the guy at the visitor’s center or the woman at the chapel and learned a few things about life in the high plains. I also could have prayed…which is the reason I insisted we drive up to the chapel in the first place.

Later in the day we found ourselves in Taos, New Mexico, for lunch and later in Santa Fe for supper. We failed miserably at choosing eating places. Had we been on a Roadsholar tour, we would have met the owners of the restaurants or had a talk given by the little man who poured our water and brought us our basket of chips. We might have learned that the little guy was a descendant of the original mayor of Sante Fe.

Our one success was buying a handmade ornament in Taos. The Hopi artist, who had made the ornament, was in the shop and she signed the little drum that has a painting of Mary and Joseph knocking on a door, looking for a place to have a baby.

This is a beautiful place, really. But for me, beauty deepens when someone helps me to open my eyes to see things that I can’t see on my own.  At Chris’s family church event on Sunday, the scripture reading was a story in Matthew in which Jesus healed a couple of blind men sitting on the side of the road. They asked his help because they just wanted to be able to see. For me, being able to see when I go to new places, hear the  stories of the people who first came there and understand why they stayed enriches the experience. It all looks so much more beautiful when I can experience their love for a place and the life that is theirs. Seeing into their hearts, I guess, is what I seek.

I guess I begin this day with a prayer that I will see more deeply, even without the help of a tour guide.