It was there I became acquainted with Robert, 71/100 strangers. Robert is a pharmacist who works in the UNM Coumadin Clinic. Coumadin is an anticoagulant blood thinning medication used to prevent heart attacks, strokes, and blood clots in veins and arteries. It helps to keep existing blood clots from getting worse. Our mutual friend used to work alongside him at the clinic.
We met while admiring unusual native plants that were in bloom in the backyard of the home owner’s garden. The backyard landscape, to an untrained eye, would appear to have formed naturally. In fact, we were enjoying a carefully curated garden.
“It takes a lot of effort to create such a garden,” Robert told me. “It’s densely packed in here, with mature and complimentary plants. It’s not easy to make them fit together and look like this,” he said. Robert knows first-hand, because gardening is his serious hobby.
“Gardening is the freakish thing that I love; it’s like an overly big obsession,” he said. “I make sure something is always blooming and growing in my garden, across all the seasons.”
Robert said that his friends would describe him as upbeat and rarely glum with a sense of humor.
“If were to meet my 18 year-old self, I would tell me: ‘It’s all going to work out,’ ” He said. “ ‘Don’t let small things stress you out.’ Most pharmacists are analysts by nature, so if I had been laid back, I never would’ve had this second career; and I love what I do.
“I started out as a plant geneticist with my first master’s degree. I spent endless hours in a research laboratory and had to keep writing papers. I love plants, but the work made me lonely. Going back to school gave me a chance to figure out my real purpose. I like interactions with people. I’m only happy when I’m educating. We have lots of non-literate health consumers in New Mexico. At my job, I have lots of room to educate.”
There was an adobe bench at the garden edge where we met. I asked to photograph Robert there, and he agreed. We both admired the very special view of the Sandia Mountains from the garden, so it seemed a perfect backdrop. The open space behind Robert is an undeveloped area owned by Sandia Pueblo. People pass the space as they travel by the Sandia Casino to reach the Tramway, north of Albuquerque.
Robert was born and raised in Las Cruces, New Mexico. It’s still one of the areas where I haven’t made tracks so I asked for his recommendation of sights and activities to enjoy there.
“Las Cruces is a beautiful part of the state. Obviously, you can hike around the sheer rocks that jut upwards in the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. But there is so much more down there. If you haven’t been to Las Cruces, one must-see side trip is the historic village named Mesilla. The historical buildings were built using traditional adobe construction, and all year long cultural events are held in the Old Town plaza.”
I looked it up after our meeting and read that in 1854, the United States declared Mesilla part of the United States from Mexico. It has a long, rich history and the town website is very informative.
Other than gardening, Robert shared that he also likes to traveI. He spoke about a trip back east where he and his partner of 15 years had an alarming and sad experience in Providence, Rhode Island. While they were walking along a sidewalk, a person driving a car passed by slowly, rolled down a car window, and called out a disparaging slur to the couple. Robert has never experienced anything like that in New Mexico. His experience shapes his belief that people here are open-minded and tolerant of all kinds.
“Especially near Santa Fe, anywhere that people make and enjoy art, it’s possible to be yourself and live your own way,” he opined.
“I’m really excited for my next vacation. I’ve planned a trip to San Francisco. It’s my first time going there, and I bought concert tickets to see Madonna!”