New Mexico is not what you expect. In fact, New Mexico is not a lot of things.
First of all, when most people think of New Mexico they think about Roswell and the supposed crash-landing of an alien craft in 1947. This is the first “not” in the list. The US Government has published an extensive report that spells out in detail that such an alien crash did “not” happen. So if you’re planning in visiting New Mexico to see the aliens in Roswell, it’s not going to happen.
While discussing “nots”, there are plenty more to add to the list. First of all, New Mexico is not “New” and it’s not “Mexico”. New Mexico is filled with towns that are also not what they’re called – first of all, there’s Red Hill, which is has no hill, red or otherwise. Then there’s Fence Lake, which has no fence and no lake. There’s Reserve, which is named after an Indian reservation, even though there is no reservation anywhere near it.
Of course there’s Truth or Consequences, which is a town named after a cancelled television quiz show. If you’re in TOC looking for a museum or other evidence of the show you won’t find it. It’s actually a cute little town with many spas and resorts because of the area’s natural hot springs. You’d think you’d name a town like that “Hot Springs” instead… Oh yeah, that WAS the town’s name originally. Then there’s Quemado, which means “burned” in Spanish, even though it is not burned or on fire at the moment, yet other New Mexico towns are indeed in danger from the Wallows fire creeping over from Arizona.
Then there are the towns that are not the towns you’re looking for, like Cuba, Frisco, Sacramento and Las Vegas. Somehow I don’t think that Las Vegas, New Mexico has any slot machines or musical reviews.
There’s an awful lot of “not” around here. Which leads to the question, what “is” New Mexico?
New Mexico is a vast state with very few people living in it. The only major city of any stripe is Albuquerque which houses most of the state’s population. For a while New Mexico prospered because of atomic fission – both as the home of Los Alamos, White Sands, and a brief boom in uranium mining – this was a brief blip. Right now there’s a hopeful trend for film making here. There’s also a burgeoning high-tech industry here as well as hopes of becoming a home for alternative energy in the US. There are few places in the world with this much sunshine and wind power.
However, New Mexico is today what New Mexico has been for hundreds of years — a final un-dying old-west frontier territory. Much of what we think of as old-west history happened here. Billy the Kid, the Lincoln County War, shoot-outs in saloons all happened here. You can’t turn around without seeing the remains of an old homestead cabin or a Calistoga wagon now motionless on the horizon.
Today what you see in New Mexico is endless vistas of we all think of as old-west buttes, mesas, cattle and wind-mill wells. You might expect to see cowboys on horseback rounding up those cattle, and amazingly you often do. While some cowboys have switched to ATVs, many still mount up just as they have for generations.
Hundreds and thousands of miles of old-west frontier land – rivers, lakes, ponderosa covered mountains – it stretches out before you endlessly. And at night, it’s wrapped in a tapestry of stars and black-sky the likes of which you probably have never enjoyed.
And the people, few as they are, are the quirkiest and kindest folk you’ll ever meet. You see, most people go live where they can find jobs. The people in New Mexico choose to be here, a place where jobs are few, and a place where nature still rules. You’ve got to really want this kind of life to live here, and that takes a special personality – a bit of the pioneer spirit must be alive in you.
And when people are few, and services city-folk take for granted are rare or non-existent, people learn to lean on each other. There is a powerful sense of community and cooperation here. I don’t think there’s anything our neighbors wouldn’t do for us – or we wouldn’t do for them.
New Mexico is “not” a place where man has conquered nature. In fact, just the opposite is true. There are roads here that, although called “dirt” roads, are actually made of clay. As the locals will tell you, when they get wet they turn to “snot”, which is slipperier than ice. There are days you just can’t drive – no matter what the urgency. There are days when real ice coats those same roads. And then there are the endless elk, mule deer, rabbits and antelope that vastly outnumber the people here – they tend to block those roads too.
Sometimes the winds are so strong most sensible people retreat indoors. Monsoon season brings daily rain and lighting that have a way of cancelling your afternoon plans. “Weather permitting” is an expression you hear a lot around here, and you learn to use it yourself.
So, man’s “urgent” plans become secondary here. Sorry, your urge to get your acrylic nails glued on takes a second seat to “reality”. Humility ensues. Then people learn their “urgent” plans aren’t really that urgent, or they run away to some city that supports their self-important desires.
Despite its infinite beauty and mostly delightful weather, it’s not paradise. Despite its friendly people, it’s not a social paradise. What is New Mexico? It’s the last tiny piece of the frontier – a land filled with nothing more than potential. It is, in other words, what you make of it.
A hand full of brave creative souls, tired of the “Hollywood System”, have ventured to the last frontier. Here, with little support but with lots of hard work have build studios, and they’ve begun making great films.
Hungry for true quiet, natural beauty and peace, a faction of writers, artists and craftsmen have ventured to the last frontier. Here the endless land and the expansive time finally has given them the space they need to write their novels, fill their canvases, and hand-craft their works of art.
And, seeing the vast sun and wind, a small army of sustainable energy innovators have flocked to this final frontier. These people see the obvious end of the petroleum/consumer based system, and they feel that this land holds the key to finally freeing people to make their own fuel, to grow their own food, and to live a life that is truly free. This is where Cielito Lindo Ranch comes in.
The final thing that New Mexico is “not” is “easy”. It is NOT easy living a frontier life. Every day involves facing new challenges, figuring out how to solve them, trial and error, but mostly hard physical work to implement those fixes and solutions. It is truly a frontier life. Not easy — but amazingly satisfying, healthy, and rewarding. As I like to say “It will either leave you feeling more alive than you’ve ever felt, or it will kill you”.
So, in the end New Mexico is that canvas. A canvas rich in history and littered in broken dreams. But for you it’s blank. And, if you’re brave enough, and willing to put in the work, you can splash that canvas with a rainbow of paint that will excite the eyes, inspire the soul, and make the world sit up and take notice.