My land of enchantment
Last weekend, I was talking with a woman who had just gone through a major illness. She could have died, but instead she came away from it feeling more alive. She had been awakened.
“I don’t want to lose that,” she told me, with a fixed gaze.
I knew just what she was talking about.
When I arrived in New Mexico almost three years ago, I felt that same. In a way, I had nothing but instead of being scared, I was free.
I had just come off of six fairly depressed, post-college months in Portland, Ore. Yearning for something new, I had randomly contacted every single newspaper in New Mexico ” a place I hadn’t been for years ” and possibly got a job as an advertising rep at a tiny newspaper in a tiny town, Silver City. It didn’t quite seem real.
A week before I was supposed to leave, I got a voice mail from my mother, sounding hoarse and out of breath. She and my father had been in an accident, a fire, and she was relatively OK with bad burns only on her legs, but he was unconscious, and she wouldn’t know anything more until the morning. Apparently, a gas can had exploded as he was holding it.
“But don’t worry, kid, this is all just stuff,” I remember her telling me.
That’s my mom, forever not wanting to make too much of a fuss.
It’s strange, but I didn’t freak out. Instead of curling up into a fetal position, I was filled with some sense of purpose. I have always cleared every major decision in my life with my father, because we are just that close. Now, I couldn’t. I felt complete responsibility over myself, and it took my breath away.
I pulled my old, silver trailer out of Oregon by myself, which I had never done, and took a few days to go the several hundred miles down to the San Francisco Bay Area. There, I visited my mom, who was in incredibly good spirits all things considering, and my father, who was still completely out of it, his face wrapped in gauze and his body hooked up to all those tubes. He was stable. He was going to make, but he wasn’t conscious, and I couldn’t tell him all I was feeling, as I always do. My world was totally up to me.
Eventually, my new job was calling me. With my mom’s blessing, I pulled my trailer out to Silver. On a Friday morning, I walked into the Daily Press and spoke with the publisher about my new job. Did I want to do photography instead of advertising, she asked me. I balked and smiled and asked if she was serious ” and accepted in an instant.
And that’s why I lived in Southwest New Mexico for a year and a half.
I tell you all this because this weekend I’m going back to that town for the first time since I left. Part of me is nervous to see all those faces again, to sort of revisit my former self, after more than a year. The passage of time always leaves me feeling uncertain about things, but still, I want to go. When I got to the desert, I was 22, and I had no idea what I wanted or where I was going. Eventually, I felt embraced by the community and became a minor a celebrity, the way you do in small towns. Even before that, though, I felt totally present, and I took everything as it came, and that was a first for me. This weekend, I want to celebrate Silver. I want to celebrate that time when my adult life really started. Even just thinking about it sends waves of excitement down my spine. It reminds me the world is full of possibility.
I don’t want to ever lose that.
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