Sunday, March 19, 2006

Vaya con Dios, An Ode to New Mexico

We depart in less than a week and saying goodbye has been an emotional experience. Packing stress has set in. Laughs and tears intermingle as we reflect on our years here. In the midst of planning and packing and parties, we have also had to bid adios to the land which has become so familiar and comforting. After nearly two decades in New Mexico we are bidding farewell to this place that we have called home.

I have spent most of adult life here. While I grew up in Ohio, it was here that I matured. That was the land of my childhood; this has been the land of my womanhood. Here I learned to adapt, accept, embrace. Here I have experienced joys, trials, love. There is something indescribable about the atmosphere; the high desert, where you can easily see for sixty miles, can offer such clarity to life.

Albuquerque has changed in so many ways during our residence. It has exploded in population and sprawl and traffic and insipid chains and strip malls. It has become so much more homogenized than it had been, often driving out the elements that had made it so attractive and charming to us. I guess this is the trend of life in America and we were lucky that so much was unique for so long. It grieves us to see it change. We had seen it "before" and admired its multi-culturalism.

And yet, outside the city the landscapes are infinite...we have such a love for the landscapes. Turquoise blue skies, juniper-studded hills, pine-carpeted forests, red sandstone mesas. Time-weathered Indian lands with beautiful, resilient people and their beautiful artistic traditions still being passed down to the next generation to carry the torch of their cultural heritage. In New Mexico's vast and varied landscape, beauty is everywhere and becomes a part of daily life, a part of one's being.

The wide-open spaces still astound and awe me. Uncluttered, unpolluted expanses of land. Land and sky so intensely brilliant with sunlight and moonlight and high altitude air. In this land the desert burns shimmery-gold and the mountains turn glittery-pink. Half a lifetime ago we came here. We chose to live here, and it chose to endow us with its treasures.

New Mexico is often called the "Land of Enchantment". But I will also call it "Home."

copyright 2006 Valerie Schneider

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Time is running quickly through the hourglass. Our departure from New Mexico is drawing near and we are beginning the rounds of parties and dinners and meetings to say goodbye to our friends who have in so many ways become a part of our family here. So much of Albuquerque's population is transitory - they come with the Air Force, the national laboratory, the university, and then move on after a few years. But we have lived in this area for nineteen years...long enough to be considered "honorary natives" by a local radio personality. We have accumulated a houseful of stuff and a heartful of precious friends. Saying goodbye is indeed bittersweet and difficult.

We came here in 1987 with our little Ford Escort hatchback crammed with our clothes and a tiny U-Haul trailer tailing behind, its meager contents constituting the entirety of our earthly possessions. Without jobs, without friends or family, without even having visited before, we arrived with a few belongings, great hopes and a healthy dose of youthful ignorance.

Nineteen years later we leave with more "stuff", a circle of friends and a lot of memories. The Land of Enchantment has been truly an enchanting place to live. We have become a part of the culture and the very air and beauty of this place has become a part of us. We take the High Desert with us.

Saying goodbye to the landscape and to our dear friends is difficult. As it gets ever closer, I get ever more melancholy. Though filled with excitement for the future, the present is filled with wistfulness. I don't like farewells. Each party and gathering makes me realize how important all these people are to us, and us to them. It is both heartening and sad.

Parting really is such sweet sorrow.

copyright 2006 Valerie Schneider