April 16, 2019
Fort Sumner, New Mexico
A Hard Frost
The dawn revealed a layer of hard frost on the ground, even though it is mid-April. In kind, there was a layer of fog over the river, the warmer waters rising into the chill of the dawn, near solid in the vapors. The fog always amazes me, as we are situated on the high desert plains of eastern New Mexico. This is as dry a place as any, except for the Pecos River, which strikes its way across the plain, and borders the town. Yes, a river, and then the ensuing irrigation ditches which stretch into the valley. The contrast of the cultivated fields to the raw red dirt of the plain is stark. It is possible to step directly from lush green alfalfa into the sage and cactus, the dividing line between mans and natures efforts.
From my perch on the hill I can see neither green fields nor water. The only thing visible is the tree lined shore of the river, and for the moment, the fog. The arid nature of my surroundings is striking. The thought of venturing very far into its vastness is daunting, as it would be nearly impossible to survive. Even spiritually, with the absence of the trees and mountains that surround me in Nogal, it is threatening. I do not think I could live here if it wasn’t for the green fields, and the water ways I pass by every day. In comparison, I have lived for many years without a river or stream nearby. Instead I drew sustenance from the rains and my garden, running water on the ground from the windmill. It was almost enough.
The conundrum now is that I have so little desire to stay here for the long term, but I will miss the river. Having grown up surrounded by streams and lakes, I have always yearned for the free flowing waters. That I settled in the desert contradicts that, but in equal measure I require open space. Although I love the forests and trees, I need the sweep of the plain to elevate my spirit, as well as open sky. When I was a child I would seek the mountaintops, for that very same reason. I require the stark silence which can only be had in the absence of the masses of humanity, which populate the more appealing places. I prefer to be alone, and only the wilderness and the plains can provide that for me. So it is that I have lived for so many years farther from the waterways than I would wish to be, but surrounded by the ethereal radiance of nature herself. I wait for the storms to bless the earth with moisture and then celebrate the glow of the flora as it emerges in its wake.
Today I rejoice the brief rains of yesterday, the crispness of the frost, and the fog off the river. It is almost enough. I miss the mountains, and imagine they are snowcapped this morning. The Carrizo and the Vera Cruz will emit their own clouds, as the sun strikes their frozen caps, and then warms them with the dawn. In other words, I am missing out, but the fog will have to suffice. I have become profess at substitutions, and have learned to be satisfied with the same. I am here by choice, not circumstance. To complain would mean contradicting myself, and I am not inclined to do so. The mountains, as with the other lakes and rivers I have traveled to, await my return. I am working in that direction. The hard frost reminded me this morning.