Monday, August 9, 2010

When Did I Become a New Mexican ??

 Sunset from my garden
Nine years ago this summer I moved to New Mexico.  I packed my jeep to the top and drove by myself from Chicago with 2 cats, one golden retriever and a tarantula.(sounds like the old song "Sweet Betsy from Pike)  My son was at camp, and would meet me in a few weeks at the Albuquerque Sunport.  The movers would arrive within a week.  I moved here because there was a private school for my son that taught dyslexic kids.  At 12 he was not reading...and I had had enough of Illinois Special Ed.  He had to learn to read and write, and time was running out.

My parents called me constantly while I was on the road.  They rung their hands and shook their heads about their daughter, "a woman all by herself" crossing the county, and moving to a state they knew little about.  We had driven through New Mexico on our "Route 66 Tour" when I was 8.  I guess I was asleep, as I didn't remember a thing. I had one acquaintance in Albuquerque.  When I drove through Oklahoma it was over 100 degrees.  When I arrived at my rental house is was 107 at high noon.  I thought to myself: "I've really done it this time!"
 We face the Sandia Mountains
Faith eventually over came my panic attacks and I settled in.  My son arrived sooner than later, and began his 18 month term at the year round school.  On a hot August morning I went to the local Albertsons.  When I got out of the car I smelled the most incredible smell.  A mixture of smoke, sweet, and spice.  Like a cartoon character  my nose followed the white trail of smoke to a man in the parking lot turning a black cage over a fire.  In this screened cage were green chilies roasting.  "This smells AMAZING!" I exclaimed to a man who was roasting himself on black pavement over a fire. "Mmmmhmmm" and a nod was all I got.  I went into Albertsons and could smell  the roasted green chilies on my shirt.  I ended up buying an entire burlap bag. Hovering around them as they roasted like a dog at feeding time.  I had no idea what I would do with these roasted beauties...and I didn't care.  The internet provided me with the answers and recipes.
 I can't eat a cheeseburger without a roasted green chili on it.

Recently we have had lots of visitors who are here for their first time.  One said: "I feel like I have landed on the moon!"  My response was: "this place grows on you."  I can say that goes double for me.  Albuquerque is sunny most of the year.  Rain coming only in summer, and occasional snow in December (although we did have a 24" once).  There is no sense of urgency here.  Some call it: "the land of manyana."  I call it the "land of whenever."  There are arroyos that are dry ditches most of the year. When it rains they flood, cross main roads, and close many.  Within hours the water is gone. There is nothing like the smell in the desert after a hard rain.  I swear you can hear the plants drinking!  A few days later cactus bloom, and wild flowers seem to pop out of nowhere. There are O'Keefe paintings everywhere I look.
I had to take this photo at 8 am...the snow melts in an instant, once the sun comes out.
Double rainbows are almost a daily occurrence  in summer.

I came from a city known for it's architecture, and lake front views.  Where gray overcast skies are a way of life, and beg for Prozac.  I now live in a place where there is almost no architecture, and little water. I don't seem to mind it anymore.  Because I am looking at the Sandia Mountains that change color and texture all day long.  I feel like they are looking back at me.  From my front porch I can see the Bosque along the Rio Grande river, and 50 miles past that.  From my deck I can see even further, and need binoculars to see the horizon.

Blue skies, humming birds, road runners, painted horses, and red chili ristras are an every day event.  Even though I still move at lightening's slower lightening speed.  Slow enough to watch the sunset show every evening. Slow enough to notice cloud formations.  Slow enough to stand out in the rain and smell that wonderful aroma.  Sandia means watermelon in Spanish...the mountain turns watermelon  pink just before the sun slips into the west for the night.  Our  house turns pink inside for about 5 minutes.  As I type this, the mountains are in back of my screen...almost a distraction.
 Red chili ristras

When did I start to love hot and dry?  When did I begin to crave the taste and smell of green chili?  When we travel I get a claustrophobic feeling when I can't see the horizon.  When did the landscape become more important than the buildings in it?  I look forward to Spanish Market,  Indian Market, and Balloon Fiesta like they are Christmas. When did I cross the line and become a New Mexican?
I can't say.  All I know is that I'm here now, and I'm not going back.  I don't mind that my blonde hair and blue eyes say to all:"she's not from here."  I'm here now.  That's all that really matters.
Balloon Fiesta
Spanish Market in Santa Fe
Poster from Indian Market. Artwork by Tony Abyeta
 Mateo Romero's Painting

Thanks for reading.  
Every day is a gift!!!!!!


PS. My son learned to read and write. :-)
PSS The name of the school in Albuquerque is DLD. They use other neuropathways to teach reading.


  1. This was a beautiful post, I enjoyed reading it! I'm well on my way to becoming a New Mexican myself, something I never thought I'd be. :)

  2. Wonderful post; wonderful journey!! Sounds like you're home to stay... :)

  3. This was such an interesting story! Thank you for sharing! :)

  4. I was born here. When I was a kid, I wanted to go to LA and be a famous actress or makeup artist. Sometime between being a kid and an adult, I knew I'd never leave. There's no place like Enchantment!

  5. What a lovely essay about all kinds of love ... and the human capacity to adapt and learn to belong! Inspiring and beautifully written Suz!

  6. What an inspiring post! You make me want to move there with your descriptions. :)