Wednesday, August 14, 2013

dark canyon

ok so I went to new mexico again, this time with the boys, for three days, with the first and third being mostly driving there and back over vast, spacious arid plain. you head out through texas, go through brownfield, and down near plains you go through this town called tokio, a ruin really, and near there a crossroad with signs for seagraves and whiteface. these as far as i can tell would be windswept, small texas towns, don't even have a highway through them, though they might have a silo or two. past lovington new mexico you hit the oil fields; if you look away you miss the pecos river, which crawls through there near artesia, then on the other side of artesia the land gets really wide and vast, very dry, with only a town called hope between artesia and the mountains. there are vast vistas of endless hilly beautiful plains turning into foothills.

i used to consider hope (new mexico) to be the most desolate, isolated, sun-bleached wreck of a ghost town, ever since i passed through there needing to stop for something to eat or drink and it didn't have a single thing, not a gas station or anything. i have since found a gas station and now i occasionally see cars parked there as if someone is stopping to talk to someone, somewhere about something. the people there know where to stop, how to get what they want, and see more even than i do now. sometimes a storefront looks unoccupied but it's not. sometimes a place looks like it could be a real store but it's not. you have to know the place.

part of the trip, i'm passing through these amazing mountain passes with the boys, only one of whom looks out the window and cares about what he sees. he's seeing amazing mountains. the road snakes through these passes and the views are incredible except that you have to keep driving or you'll go straight off the cliff. some of the high mountains are rainy, or cloudy, and when i get way up there the "check engine" light comes on and i get really nervous. the boys claim to dislike the high altitude but the older one dislikes it mostly because he can't play his minecraft computer game. the younger one is watching with all eyes. we go down through the pass to alamogordo and through another pass to get to las cruces; we see grandma, grandpa and aunt margot, and we come back through white sands (see pictures below)...what a trip, i'm exhausted.

it's the third time i've been out there, and we've been looking for land to put a cabin on. this time, we go eleven miles back behind the highest mountains, to a place called dark canyon road, and there is the most beautiful house site i've ever seen. we can't actually afford it, because our house here has been mauled by a storm, but as i stand there, i realize, it's up against wild mountains, it has a beautiful valley in front of it, the pines smell good with the rain, i figure this is like heaven. it's the most beautiful place i've ever been in.

ownership of such places can be complicated, or require more money than a person has, but looking at it is an excuse to be there, and sometimes that has to be good enough. the boys are tagging along and the real estate agent wants to show one more parcel way back on this road. but it's a rutted road, hard on the car, rocky, unstable, and we're going way back into the canyon, or rather, two miles feels more like five. a couple of homesteaders have made cabins way back in there. we can't quite find that second parcel. it starts raining and i get even more nervous.

in the entire wide state of new mexico, there aren't many places that are really rainy, wet, green, lush kinds of paradises. we found one though. if we wangle a way into owning it, we'll let you know. in the meantime, we may have to go back up there just to camp.

white sands is a stunning place and this time, the sand is a little harder, sledding might have worked though we'd given up the sleds and didn't even bring them in. also it was late afternoon; we'd already eaten; the boys, having been in the car and at the grandparents a lot, still had some energy to burn. they tore up the hills and back down, and chipped away at some sand outcropping that was like a statue. the place never really gets old. its intense white sands reflect every bit of sunlight, and the wild grasses there seem to do well even though they have to be spaced out from each other for some reason. in one clump of grasses i found a lizard, bleach white the color of the sand, absolutely white, the most awesome and intense lizard i'd ever seen. i actually saw neon ones in the shawnee, i had no idea what advantage it was for them to be neon, to glow an unearthly glow, but this one was the color of the sands itself, and he thought he was hidden down there by virtue of not moving. of course i let him be; it's his place, and he's out mainly because it's evening and you have to take those temperate hours when you have them. when we get back the visitors center is closed; we get a little off the normal clock, when we're on vacation. i'm eager to get back up in the mountains. i actually count the hours i can breathe the high, cloudy, wet piney-woods smell and to me, being down in the hot arid desert is just like lubbock only squared or more extreme. hot, dry, very sunny, that's what i was getting away from. but i like that little lizard fella. he gives me inspiration.

everyone talks about the monsoon bringing more rain this year than usual. in texas they don't use the word "monsoon" so much but they also don't have so much of a single season, summer, where it rains at all. it does seem to rain more in summer than, say, spring, which is unusual for me. as we were leaving the mountains, coming back down toward hope, it rained again, and this was on the dry side of the mountains. they do have it, they rejoice at every inch. they clean out the dry areas so they aren't living in a tinderbox. all the able-bodied men join the fire crews, i suppose. maybe this would include me, if i were to move up there while i'm still able-bodied.

thought of some stories and projects while i was up there, but of course, in full-time childcare mode, there was no time. nighttime, i was cramped in the main bed with both boys; i wanted to open the window and breathe the mountain air, but it was actually too cold; we'd have all fallen. as it was, we woke up, ate junk food, and shot down the mountain and they said they actually liked the trip. they're always up for the grandparents, and the big white sandy mountain, as they call it.

so comes to an end, the summer; soon we're all back to school. it's hot here, though it rained, and people are back in town and our main street, flint, is filling up as it's a feeder for the university. the social whirl revolves around football; the stadium is fixed up, billboards with "coach kingsbury" can be seen around town, television that you see in the bars and restaurants is basically all football. this poor guy, he makes millions, he's at the top of his world, he's still single and can marry anyone he wants, but if he loses as much as half, he's finished. and he better save his money so as to get a car dealership. and, if he loses in lubbock, that car dealership should be in dallas maybe, under some other name. but nobody's talking about that. losing - who would even suggest it? though it's statistically necessary for about half of all teams, at this point, one week before the beginning of the season, nobody even considers it.

i hate to throw a mop on their smores, but i've kind of turned against it; i was telling this one lady, it's like cigarettes, they get you hooked into it before you realize it kills you. it's a scourge on a population of young boys, much like video games. I've got to find something better for my kids to do. i'm not sure the mountain gambit will work; even on the rocky dark canyon road, the one son complained, basically, because it was harder for him to play the game on his phone.

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