The state slogan of New Mexico is the “Land of Enchantment”. All I can say is, they ain’t lyin’.
Every New Mexican (or New Mexican convert) I have talked to since I rolled into downtown Santa Fe yesterday evening doesn’t talk about what New Mexico looks like but always talks about what New Mexico feels like. I understood why almost immediately. It is a feeling that this state carries with it. There is a wildness, a freedom, and a gracious lawlessness.
Since I’ve arrived it has been interesting to learn that: New Mexico is one of the highest “minority-majority” states in the US with the highest percentage of residents of Hispanic origin (46% in 2010; is the 5th poorest state in America (with 18% of its population living in poverty as of 2009), and is the 5th largest state but the 36th most populated. In talking with Cebastien today on the way to church in Santa Fe (1h45m away– we’re in Vallecitos which is up in the mountains at about 7,500ft I believe) she told me that one of the greatest challenges in NM is the poverty. And you can see it, especially in our little town.
Vallecitos, NM is a universe in and of itself. There are no street lights–people shoot them out. You cannot find Vallecitos on wikipedia.com nor can you gather much information about Vallecitos from a google search–Cebastien and Robin’s address itself is debatable depending on which map you look at. Vallecitos used to be a saw mill boom town in the late 1800’s but now I have heard it described as a ghost town. The roads are dirt, and the only sounds are the occasional yapping of dogs, crickets, the breeze, and the plants growing. This morning we waited for a herd of geese and a chihuahua to cross before we could drive down the road. I haven’t seen or heard another soul in Vallecitos (besides Cebastien and Robin) since I arrived last night. And I kind of love it.
I take Cebastien’s word for it when she says that we have neighbors though I have not seen them. All of them, as she describes them, are all “sweethearts.” This I also believe; there’s not a person alive she could not draw the sweetness out of. There is also a strength in community here that’s new to me. I said that New Mexico, and especially Vallecitos, has a “gracious lawlessness” to it because the state does not seem as involved or present as it might in, say, my home state of California. Have a problem in California? Call the police. Have a problem in Vallecitos? Don’t call the police; they won’t come. Cebastien told me that when she moved here, her neighbor told her to call her instead of the police if she ever had a problem– she had an armory in her garage and would take care of the problem. But that to be careful because she is hard of hearing, so knock loudly and call her name so she doesn’t shoot Cebastien by mistake. Like I said, pure sweetness.
But honestly, it is. In a town where the normal infrastructure is “different” than what one might be used it, it is nonetheless reliable. From the way Robin and Cebastien talk about their neighbors, they love them dearly and are dearly loved in return. I am particularly excited to begin work on the farm (Owl Peak Farm) in La Madera 15 min by car down the road. A large focus on the farm is community involvement in an effort to create jobs for community members and to become more self-sufficient through sustainable food production. And might I just add that I myself have felt embraced and welcomed ever since I arrived. Robin and Cebastien have made me feel so at home as has Cebastien’s mother and sister who live about 45 min away. For example after church today Cebastien and I took her niece Juniper (6) and one of her nephews Cirius (8) out to lunch after the three of them got out of Sunday School (Cebastien teaches). I felt immediately included, as if I had been part of it all since the beginning.
Currently, I am sitting at the little kitchen table in Robin and Cebastien’s 100 year old adobe house which they have fixed up beautifully. The house is empty and very quiet– again, all I can hear are crickets and one of the dogs, Spider, trotting around in the back yard (which opens into 12 acres, might I add.) Cebastien and her sister Dove took the kids (three total–Tyco’s the littlest at 2) to the river up the road to play and Robin just joined them after she returned home after setting up for school tomorrow–which is why she couldn’t come to church with us today (she’s a second grade teacher at the local school.)
I’m sleepy, happy, and my bare feet are numb from the icy stone floor. The landscape behind me looks like a Bierstadt tableau vivant, the sunflowers sway in the falling sun, and my stomach rumbles for the calabacitas and beans Cebastien is going to cook for dinner. Though I’ve been told I can start work on the farm in a few days if I want, I’m eager to start tomorrow. Hello to waking up at 5:30a and going to sleep at 9:30p.
Beautiful company, beautiful food, beautiful life in the mountains. I couldn’t be happier. One of my favorite things that Cebastien said to me today was that one reason she loved Vallecitos and it’s lack of conventional infrastructure was because it made her look to God more. With traditional assistance hard to come by, it’s certainly true that God becomes more real to you as the source of all you need. As I sit here in this amazing adventure life is throwing for me, I couldn’t agree more.