Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Zozobra and Rainy Days

How is it already mid-September? One minute we're celebrating Labor Day and complaining about the heat, and then suddenly it is mid-September and there are massive floodwaters in Colorado and parts of New Mexico. And we realize that we have been neglecting the blog. Sorry, blog.

Zeezy watching the rain.
Eric & I will always be Coloradans at heart, and many of our family members still live there. To see pictures of roads completely destroyed, streets turned into rivers, families evacuated as their homes flooded - it was upsetting. My hometown, Longmont, got hit pretty hard. My dad still lives in the house I grew up in, and last Thursday he, along with the rest of the neighborhood, was evacuated and didn't get to return home until the next day. Here's a picture of some flooding about three houses down from his house:

More water on this street than in the Santa Fe River.
Luckily, my dad is fine, our house didn't flood, and everyone that Eric & I know is safe. Still, it is pretty emotionally unsettling to see your childhood neighborhood torn apart. Bike paths and bridges that were just built last year are completely destroyed. Eric & I can't sop talking about how much money this is going to cost Colorado, the cities, and the people that were affected.

We're going to Colorado this weekend, and I'm kind of nervous to see the aftermath of this disaster. On one hand, it felt weird and sad to see pictures of my home on the news when I wasn't there to experience it. On the other hand, it seemed really intense and I'm sure it will feel intense to be there this weekend.

That is the quick Colorado update. Here in New Mexico, there were some floods in parts of the state, but in Santa Fe we just had 4 straight days of rain. Eric & I didn't mind, because it gave us the opportunity to stay inside and brew beer, make pizza, and bake brownies. It made for a lovely transition to AUTUMN, my favorite season. The weather has been noticeably chillier, the sun is setting earlier every day, and it is totally acceptable for everything to be pumpkin-flavored. We are getting very excited about all the stews we are going to make in our crock pot.

Anyway. Since we are behind on the blogging, we also need to tell you all about the Zozobra.

Zozobra is a giant marionette that is burned every year in the beginning of September in front of thousands of cheering Santa Feans. Will Shuster, a local artist, created this tradition in the 1920s.
Will Shuster with Zozobra back in the day.
Zozobra means anxiety in Spanish, and Zozobra (also called Old Man Gloom) represents all the anxiety, worries, fears, and other bad things that Santa Feans carry with them. The idea is that when he is burned, everything bad is burned with him. Pretty good deal, right? Santa Feans are encouraged to submit their own worries and fears in various "Gloom Boxes" around the city in the weeks leading up to Zozobra.

About a week before Zozobra was burned, Eric & I went to a free gallery exhibit dedicated to Zozobra art. Not knowing what it would be like, I stupidly did not bring my camera, which I immediately regretted because there was SO MUCH Zozobra art. I don't know if I can convey in writing how into Zozobra people are here. There are Zozobra T-shirts, earrings, and posters. There are hundreds of pictures of Zozobra drawn by elementary schoolers in their art classes. There are paintings and sculptures of Zozobra; in fact, there is a solid gold sculpture of Zozobra that one can purchase for a ridiculous amount of money. There are fully-functional birdhouses that are decorated with Zozobra's face and topped with vanity plates that spell out "Zozobra." Most impressively, there is an awesome vintage car with Zozobra painted on the hood decorated with desert imagery. (Again, why did I not have my camera for this??)

At this event, Zozobra himself was displayed for all to see:
That is his head. His body is laying to the left of the picture. You can't tell exactly how huge he is, but take my word for it. When his head is attached he is just about 50 feet tall. FIFTY FEET! Definitely the tallest puppet I've ever seen. It was pretty crazy to see him up close, and Eric & I got to write our fears and worries on a piece of paper and put it in his body ourselves. (When I type that out it does not sound very cool, but trust me, it was pretty cool.) We also learned that Zozobra's hair is a different color each year, and the color of his hair stays secret until the day of the burning.

So, September 5th rolls around, and Eric & I walk down to Fort Marcy Park, where THOUSANDS of people are gathered (equal to almost half the population of Santa Fe, I kid you not), a rock band is playing, and Zozobra is displayed for everyone to see. We note that his hair is green this year. As it gets darker, the music stops, the lights go out, and Zozobra begins groaning and waving his arms around wildly. There is some ceremony involving people in white robes, torch-bearers, and a fire dancer. There are fireworks. It looks something like this:

Zozobras from previous years.
People in the crowd chant, "Burn him! Burn him!" And then, finally, he is set on fire.

Since he is basically made of newspaper, he burns very quickly, but it is still awesome to see him burn. Until his body falls apart, you can see the frame of his figure glowing from the fire. And then his whole body collapses into a smoking pile, there are more fireworks, and everyone is happy.

So now you know about the weirdest and coolest Santa Fe tradition. We were really glad we went, and now we don't have any worries or fears or doubts because they were all burned with Zozobra. (Ha!) Really though, we are happy and well, eating good food and making exciting plans for the near future.

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