High Desert Piggybackin’
As I mentioned in my previous post, in 1996, I made a serious quality of life choice: I moved across the country to rural, northern New Mexico, where I didn’t know a single soul. I was living in Pittsburgh, PA and had just divorced [18 years], had a lethal break-up and felt as if I needed to simplify and reorganize my life course. I chose to live amid the stark tranquility of western America’s vast High Desert, the very same desert that, as a child, had appealed to me in my Golden Books and coincidentally, the same desert used as a location for the filming of Denis Hopper’s epic film Easy Rider. I could actually walk to the Hippy Commune site known as New Buffalo [Dennis stills maintains a house and studio in Taos] from my front door! I found a home at 7,000 feet above sea level with coyotes, jackrabbits and horny toads right in my yard. I was only a few miles from the Carson National Forest on the Western Range of the Sangre de Christo Mountains, halfway between US Hill and Outlaw Hill off NM Rt. 518. A heartbeat away from a wilderness so vast as to be almost incredible. The population of the state of New Mexico is LESS than that of the county where I’m originally from...and New Mexico is the 5th largest state. I was so rural, that my house didn’t have a numerical address [I had to use a PO Box]. Since Fedex doesn’t do PO Boxes, I had my packages delivered to Herb’s Lounge and Mini-Mart out on the highway! Herb’s family had lived in the region for nearly 400 years and believe it or not, they still spoke Spanish! It was a rough spot. The locals who drank there hated white people. They are still mad about losing the war with Mexico. Once, they broke the arms of 2 sheriff’s deputies in the parking lot. Well, it IS the Wild West for sure!
But, New Mexico, as anyone who’s been there will tell you, is a magic place. Here is Mabel Dodge Lujan writing in 1917 about her first night in new Mexico; “I had a sense of renewal and a new awareness...I lost all track of time and place. I was an unidentified atom pressing forward in space, a wide perfumed space that was dotted with white stars, liquid and bright as dew. I felt humble from a kind of unfamiliar richness and savor the universe possessed and as my body grew numb, my heart grew clear.” Believe me, that isn’t bullshit! Taos is the southern most point of the San Louis Valley. The San Louis Valley is also known as “the mysterious valley” because there are more para-normal incidents reported there than anywhere else in the world! UFO’s, Unidentified Animal Mutilations, Black Helicopters, Aliens [remember Roswell is in New Mexico-and so are Los Alamos, Alamogordo and White Sands]! Factoids: Buddy Holly and the Crickets, originally from Lubbock, TX, recorded their biggest hits in a room across the border in Clovis, New Mexico! Oh, yeah, and Scaryjoey was invented at ICON 2 which was held in Santa Fe [Bradlt Bralds gave the welcome speech. I was the sergeant at arms]. It was the dawning of a new age.
From my desk I could hear roosters, donkeys, chapel bells and sometimes Native American drummers along with the aceqias of the Rio Chiquito in summer [incidentally, there were a lot of gunshots as well]. I could see the Milky Way as I listened to the plaintive call of Coyotes on vivid, moonlit nights. Halle Bopp was my friend. It was as nearly perfect a place to output as you could ever hope to find. Besides a raft of editorial and corporate work, I did 3 children’s books [One of them was actually about New Mexico and it’s history and folklore] and filled a 7X10 foot storage space with paintings during my stay in the mountains.
Here are a few photos [converted from non-digital sources].