Thirty-three Years in the Land of Enchantment

The Land of Enchantment
near Chaco Canyon

I live in a dry land that once was under water, a seabed now 5000 feet above sea level. Sunrise is held at bay by a granite ridge 5000 feet higher, which at sunset glows as pink as coral. Looking west, the eye is drawn to the sliver of green flanking the Rio Grande, life’s blood trickling through a parched land that rises to five volcanoes close at hand, which in turn are dwarfed by a volcano 80 miles away. All under a sky of limitless blue.

This vista fills me with joy.

Driving into town from any direction, you can take in the largest city in the state with a glance. Stand under the cottonwoods along the river and you forget where you are. Here the land has not been subdued by man. We are surrounded by reminders that we are all recent arrivals and none will outlast the land itself.

The land appears still until you view it at 10,000 years per second, when it shakes and buckles, rises and falls, like a coffee cup on the hood of a truck at rough idle. The land appears flat until you cross it to find the surface cracked and broken by ravines scoured by wind and rain. The land seems silent until the wind howls like an injured animal lashing out in pain.

The land seems dry until a year’s worth of rain falls in a few days. We live for these days and relive them in conversations. We smell the rain before we hear it, we feel the temperature change, listen for the first drops. We sit on our porches, big grins on our faces with the look of wonder like children at a fair.

The Navajo advise each other to walk in beauty, to appreciate our surroundings and be part of that beauty.

This month, I complete my 33rd year in New Mexico — more than half my life. This land leaves me speechless.

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