I ask every person I meet who moved here the same question: “Why did you decide to move to New Mexico?” I have been told, to my chagrin, that I even ask it with the same specific head tilt that others tilt with- the others who who grew up here but long for somewhere else, all of us longing quizzically at approximately 45 degrees.
I will be the first to tell you that I did not wish to live here; I have made no bones about it since I could articulate my feelings on the subject. Born here as my mother was, raised here as she and HER mother were, I was not going to get stuck here. I was going to be from here, but not BE here.
I escaped for a few glorious years to the Northwest, where trees have leaves and food grows in the earth and water falls from the sky. There I found my earthy side and found my limits for rain and had my babies and discovered just what it was like to actually be able to SMELL spring. But, as often happens, family was here and I found myself at a point where being where I wished to be was far too far from where I needed to be. So we came home.
A divorce, a new career, and 7 years later, I am still here- and with 11 years left before I can even think to leave again, I find myself asking every new transplant to this state WHY they have chosen what we only-half-in-jest call the “Land of Entrapment.”
So it was with a deep surprise (and a few head shaking chuckles) that I found myself this weekend full of soft sighs and a big heart for my State. Like a girl who finally realizes she’s in love with the boy next door, I found myself falling in love with my birthplace.
Maybe it was the book I started reading on my trip- Rebecca Solnit’s “A Field Guide for Getting Lost” – with its beautiful explorations of all the ways one can be lost – and found- and often in the very same place. Maybe it was the way Ms. Solnit’s words made me feel open to getting lost myself- which I did a number of times, both literally and figuratively. Maybe it was her descriptions of her travels in the desert that reminded me what I have always really meant when I said that “you have to appreciate all the shades that brown can be” when I would describe New Mexico to my Oregon friends. Maybe it was the beautiful music – ‘s haunting album Karmapa Khyeno, and the song “A Traveler’s Longing,” which has become the soft hum I lull myself to peace with. Maybe it was my destination- Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs– where, after two years of putting it off, of telling myself I couldn’t gift myself the experience alone, I finally found the quiet sanctuary I was craving, right beneath my nose, a space to float and soak and think and rehydrate my soul.
Maybe it was all of these things- or none of them- maybe it was just the softening of my heart to finally allow that I could wish to be elsewhere and still love this place while I am in it. Left speechless, I let my camera sketch out the beginning of a love letter to this place I have known for over 35 years, but maybe only now have started to see.
(Bigger versions of these pictures can be found on Flickr)