It was crows.

I spent last month in Santa Fe, a place I had never been but have since listened to a song about so many times.

Santa Fe is drier than Amsterdam, so much drier that every part of me always seemed to itch and it felt like someone had gone at my eyes with a vegetable peeler. Also, my hair looked amazing.

There are cities that grow on you, and cities you fall in love with right away, and then there are cities you fall so hard for that you end up singing a song about that city the entire time you’re there. Dreams come true, yes they do, they may laugh, I don’t care, save my place, I’ll be there, in S-aaaa-n-ta Fe.

This is a photo of a door in Santa Fe to break up the text.

In Santa Fe every day is sunny, and it would make a great setting for a low-budget video game because none of the trees are very leafy and there are no NPCs. When the sun goes down it gets pitch dark and freezing cold faster than you can type “Newsies Santa Fe Playlist” into Spotify. At night the sky is blacker and clearer than any camping trip I’ve been on, and the sky is so full of stars that sometimes I worried my vegetable-peeled eyes were causing my vision to glitter.

There wasn’t an apartment or anything above me where I was staying, but every night the roof started making a sound like a buffalo was slowly pushing a washing machine across it. My rental host said it’s normal, just the sound flat roofs make when the temperature changes.

“Mine does it too!” They told me in a message, exclamation point included.

I thought of that exclamation point as I walked around my Santa Fe video game, and as I looked at other flat-roofed houses, and when I very occasionally saw people coming in or out of them. “Mine does it too!” I imagined each of them saying, their exclamation points capturing the sheer wonder of it all.

Is the sound of a buffalo pushing a large appliance across your ceiling a sound you get used to, the way New Yorkers don’t hear car horns and Amsterdammers don’t hear frat parties? It is – after just a few nights, I stopped noticing.

That’s when the new sound came.

The new sound was reminiscent of a toddler jogging clumsily across the roof, followed by a few seconds of loud tapping and scratching, and then back to the footsteps. I bought a bathrobe at a thrift store (don’t judge) my first day in Santa Fe and, excited for a chance to use it, I put it on and went outside to get a closer look at these toddlers. But it turned out the roof was shaped sort of like a pie tin, with edges that made it impossible to see the source of the sound.

I guessed and hoped that it was raccoons, but I wasn’t sure if there were raccoons in SANTA FE! Are you there! Do you swear you won’t forget me? (Really everything about Santa Fe sounds like a song if you listen to that song often enough.)

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When I texted my friend Jessica, who lives in Santa Fe, she suggested that maybe the thing making the sound wasn’t a family of raccoons, but a giant insect native to New Mexico called “Children of the Earth.”

“Look them up!” She said.

My grandmother asks lots of detailed questions I never see coming, and last month when I told her that I had a friend in Santa Fe she asked “Is she a very close friend? How close are you?” At the time the question seemed odd, but now I know the answer: not quite close enough for Jess to know that photos of a toddler-sized insect crawling around my roof are the last thing I am going to look up.

I would sooner scratch my own eyeballs with a vegetable peeler.

Very nice to meet you, Lessica.

At Artis, the Amsterdam zoo, the animals aren’t allowed to have names because it humanizes them.

It’s a new rule, or new-ish. Caesar the lion was 23 (very old for a lion, said the zookeeper) when he died last year, so now the zoo has one less animal with a name.

Ever since I learned about Caesar I’ve started thinking more about the things I love with names I don’t know. Like the smallest but brightest star in Minnesota, the yellow flowers that bloom in the mountains in Oregon, and literally every street in Amsterdam besides the one we live on. (I know the canals.) Not knowing their names doesn’t mean I love them any less.  It feels right when I say it about stars and important — more humane even — when I say it about lions. But it’s a bad excuse for not remembering someone’s name after you meet them at a party.

In the western United States a lot of mountains and lakes have women’s names. In Yosemite, Elizabeth Lake, Mary Lake, Dorothy Lake, Avonelle Lake, and Polly Dome are all named after the wives and daughters of the explorers and park rangers who climbed them first. How can you really know you are first to climb a mountain? If someone’s already climbed it, it might be just another name you don’t know.

And if you name a daughter and give her the name Dorothy, and then climb a mountain and name it Dorothy, are you naming the mountain after your daughter or do you just like the name Dorothy so much you used it twice?

Maybe the best way to love things that aren’t supposed to have names – wild things like mountains, and daughters, and 23-year-old-lions, and Dutch streets, and nice people at parties – is to give them a new name every time.

Mark Meyer
photo of nameless mountains by Mark Meyer

The information about mountains in Yosemite is from this essay by Lucy Bryan Green.

Tomato Tomato

I’m in the park writing this on my phone and a woman is standing here next to me. She’s looking at me and eating a tomato.

Right off the bat she seems like the weird one, but I usually am. It’s likely that the bench I’m sitting on is reserved for dogs, or my coat looks like a coat babies wear in the Netherlands, or today is the the king’s half-birthday and I’m the only person not wearing commemorative orange socks. Who knows.

She just took a huge bite, so juicy that someone could have recorded it and used it as sound effects in a horror movie where the zombie takes a bite out of a woman’s neck. “That sound gave me chills” a girl will say to her friends as she walks out of the theater, and one of her friends will tell her it was just the sound of someone biting into an apple. But it was a tomato. I saw it right here in the park with my own eyes.

She’s still taking bites and still staring at me but why? I’m dressed pretty normally. I’m staring at a phone, like all normal adults do. I took a shower last night.

Boaz and I started taking showers every night a year ago. When you shower at night you don’t bring the sweat and dirt of the day to sleep with you. Our bed is a temple, he told our friend when we were explaining the night shower routine. He said it with such seriousness that she thought it was a Jewish thing. “Oh right,” she said. “Or some people call it synagogue.” And we had to explain that it’s not a temple, not really. But maybe she was onto something.

If all it takes to make something holy is to do it differently, and with intent, then maybe showering can be. Maybe sitting on a bench can be holy too, if you really stop and notice the people around you, and where they’re looking and what they’re eating. Maybe a snack can be holy too, if it’s a very specific snack. Like maybe a tomato.

(This photo is by Wright Kitchen you can click here to see a print.)

I never took that egg class in high school.

Boaz is still out of town so it’s just me here, taking care of his 43 houseplants.

Only 43? I can almost hear Boaz saying as I type this. There should be 46, which ones do you think you’re missing? Did you get the fern on the left side of the dresser? Not the dresser with the potted moss on it — the dresser that has the four succulents.

There are probably a few dozen more plants hidden under the bed, or in the cupboard behind the granola, or some other last place I’d expect. I’m only watering the ones I can find, and there are 43 of those.

We have so many plants. Or Boaz does. A week ago I called them our plants. A week ago I talked about the home garden with the smugness of a man who says “We’re pregnant” when his wife is. “We love plants.” I’d say, oblivious to the unspeakable burden that is actually caring for 43 different plants on a daily basis.


Well not every day.

The outside plants, yes, every day. Of course. But inside, the tropical plants get watered 2-3 times a week depending on the size of their pot. And the succulents, those only need to be watered every 7-10 days, depending on soil wetness, root density, proximity to a window, and whether or not Mercury is in retrograde. I look up photos of the rainforest and the desert and study them on my phone as I walk around our apartment jungle trying to figure out what’s what. I’ve solved all of them except one. “Tell me what you are” I whisper angrily to that one in the corner that really could be either a fern or a succulent. I really want these plants to live.


When he’s here, Boaz waters the outside plants in the morning. So for the first few days I did that too. Watering plants in the morning is nice, it feels like something Oprah probably does. You can pick tomatoes and eat tomatoes for breakfast.

But then one day I forgot about them until I was brushing my teeth that night, so I watered the plants at 1am. Oprah, it’s so much better.

Now I only water the plants at night. Now my favorite part of the day is going out on our balcony and quietly watering four tomato plants and three strawberry plants and a zucchini in almost pitch darkness.

While I’m watering them (Boaz says you have to water tomatoes slowly, is he messing with me?) I watch tv in our neighbours’ windows. No one has curtains in our neighborhood.

It’s so quiet that you can hear the plants drinking the water like someone sucking the last bit of milk through a straw.

Since everything fun has some sort of side effect, I’m sure this is bad somehow. Maybe it gives the plants stomachaches, maybe it keeps them up all night. Maybe it puts our Boaz’s produce on some sort of lunar cycle, maybe they’ll all start menstruating and we’ll have tomatoes filled with blood. When you’re out there in the moonlight with the watering can it sort of feels possible.

At night all the strawberries have shiny leaves, almost reflective, and they look sweaty in the best way. And all the spiders are asleep, or that’s what I tell myself.

I’m excited for Boaz to get back, and it’s not just because last week I had to cut into a carton of ice cream with a paring knife because I couldn’t open it myself. And it’s not just because all the Shabbat songs sound weird when you sing them alone. And it’s not just because he can get all our plants back to a regular sleep schedule.

I’m excited for Boaz to get back so he can tell me once and for all WHAT THAT ONE PLANT IS. Is it a fern. Is it a cactus. Are there tropical plants that grow in the desert? I need answers.