I am in Albuquerque, New Mexico this weekend. Since 2009, I have spent a few days in December with a group of justice-minded writers and speakers from the Christian tradition that call themselves Red Letter Christians, after their propensity to apply the so called red letters – the words of Christ that were often printed in red – of the Bible.
Every year we have a focus, and this year’s focus is on contemplation. It is being led by Richard Rohr at a retreat center here, and so far, it’s been great. You can never know a town by a four day visit, but so far, here are a few reflections:
- It is much colder here than I thought it would be. Granted, I have rarely been west of the Mississippi for any length of time, and have spent no time in the southwest, but somehow, I pictured it being much warmer. The low last night was 25 degrees, and the highs are in the upper 40’s.
- One reason it is cooler than I thought is because it is a mile above sea level. This also means the air is very thin, and for us who live near sea level, physical things are harder. I walked about a mile last night and was exhausted.
- The humidity is super low – like, 8%. I normally live in about 60 to 80%, so my eyes and nose are constantly dried out, and my skin is cracking.
- There is a large Native American population here. It is different here than in the East, because they were never removed. As a result, you see a culture that was in one place for many hundreds of years before Europeans came.
- Richard Rohr is pretty incredible.
I was thinking about how Thursday morning I woke up at 300 feet above sea level, on the east coast of the United States. Then I got in an aluminum tube and hurtled through space and ate lunch at nearly six thousand feet above sea level, 1800 miles away.
Not only is that pretty cool, but I can’t help but think how incredibly unusual that is in terms of our physiology – how we are built. For most of human history, people stayed in a really tight radius their whole life, and should someone have made the journey I did, it would have taken months, not hours. Their bodies would have acclimated in a way mine did not.
This is a pretty incredible time to be alive.