This is the time of year I think about Albuquerque. More than 20 years have passed since the first time I attended the Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta.

On a vacation with my future husband, I noticed a sign as we checked into the Albuquerque Hotel and pleaded with him to go with me. Not one to love getting up at 4 in the morning, he reluctantly agreed. Off we went on a bus to an event I’ve put on my list of wonderful things I’ve done in my life. Seeing hundreds of hot air balloons rising into the sunrise was magnificent!

Now living in Tucson, each October I remember that blissful excursion. That thought in turn leads me on a nostalgic path to places I’ve lived. New York City, where I grew up, is the home of the Rockettes, Broadway theater, enlightening museums, the architecturally magnificent Guggenheim, Katz’s Delicatessen and truly extravagant Christmas decorations, including the huge tree at Rockefeller Center, ice skaters and crowds.

Other cities I lived in had good and bad aspects.

What I’ve learned is that it doesn’t matter where I dwell but with whom I’m dwelling. When I was young, I needed stimulation to feel alive. Seeing the Eiffel Tower was thrilling. The restaurant in the D’Orsay Museum (Musée d’Orsay) competed with the great art hanging on the walls. Visiting Picasso’s museum in Barcelona was memorable. Who could ever forget the vistas of San Sebastian? Or the discos in Genoa?

People ask if I’m lonely because I don’t have a mate. “No. How could anyone be lonely with Charlie and Toots around?” I respond, grateful for my two dogs.

My loneliest times have occurred when I was with someone I no longer connected with. Feelings of frustration and despair caused great sadness.

One of my worst vacations was in a much sought-after spot: Hawaii. The sunsets were dazzling, golf courses plentiful and lush water everywhere. The man I was with was pleasant, but I couldn’t wait to get away from him. The experience was dismal and I never said “Aloha” again!

Travel no longer appeals to me. My happiness comes from an inner peace. Things that I never thought would satisfy me provide incredible pleasure. Seeing my writing students publish their work fills me with joy. Watching Charlie and Toots cavort makes me giggle. Receiving an unexpected bouquet of flowers warms my heart. Watching birds has become a wonderful pastime. When I saw a cardinal for the first time, I thought I’d surely died and gone to heaven.

Reading a good book, seeing an interesting film, having an intense conversation with a friend — these are the things that I find most satisfying.

My life with Charlie and Toots may be devoid of hot air balloons, lots of great theater, fabulous museums, beautiful lakes and the ocean, but when I wake up in the morning with Toots licking my face and Charlie patting me with a paw urging me to get up, it feels like Shangri-La!

Alexis Powers is the author of several books and lives on the northwest side. Email her at or view her website at