It’s exceptionally easy to understand where New Mexico gets its name. Known as the land of enchantment, I can honestly say it’s the prettiest state I’ve ever seen. Driving west on Route 40 from Amarillo (Texas), New Mexico welcomes you with open arms. Yellows, greens, browns, ambers, oranges and reds pop along the open plains speckled with jumping junipers. The land meets the bluest of blue skies at the horizon as the cotton ball-like clouds float above just out of fingertip reach. As the sunlight dances on earth’s terra firma, nothing but beautiful strips of nature are beside us while an entire state embraces guests.
After a quick lunch stop and wander through university and local areas of Albuquerque we made our way to the outskirts of Santa Fe. After having mentioned to friends (real and virtual) that we were stopping in New Mexico on this journey, we got more suggestions than we could count. Go see this museum, check out this sunset spot and make sure you go to Taos are just a few that come to mind. Having limited time and wanting to be able to spend as much time with scenery, landscape and life in the open air as possible, we took the Taos suggestion and were not the least bit disappointed.
There are two roads into Taos, a small city just over an hour north of Santa Fe. Depending on fog, weather, altitude and how many twists and turns you want in your journey decides which road you take. Wanting the best of both roads and conscious of the dense fog of the morning, we took the low road in and the high road home. Holy beautiful! Even the snow-covered trees were gorgeous (and anyone who knows me can count the amount of times I’ve ever said that snow is beautiful-and this might actually be the first). The untouched scenic vistas reminded us both of New Zealand and parts of Tasmania. Like New Zealand, Taos has green spaces as far as the eye can see and like Tasmania, this place has some of the best air I’ve ever breathed (and that’s saying something coming from this asthmatic).
The Rio Grande Gorge is just past the central villages of Taos. Driving over the bridge across the gorge, I took a deep breath and wanted to close my eyes (not the greatest idea since I was driving). Told in so very many stories, the Rio Grande plays a major role in US history and crossing it was a significant experience. Besides the crossing sits a small market run by local artists. Having seen the sun symbol at the border crossing and in the center of all New Mexico license plates, I was intrigued with one artist’s work. Displayed on a small plastic table he had his silk-screened work framed in local wood. As soon as we wandered by he hopped out of his car to chat with us and share his knowledge of the land. When asked about the symbol that is so much associated with New Mexico, he told us the story of the Zia sun symbol. This stencil like drawing represents the four seasons and the four stages of life and is today the symbol of New Mexico.
Breathtaking, awe-inspiring, motivational and all other adjectives don’t do this landscape justice. Mountain-like pinnacles grace the sides of the gorge as the river pulses through bringing life, food, energy and an inner peace as it flows. For some reason, although I know history focuses more on the divide the river brings, for the travelers who flocked in the sunny chill to see this mystical sight the word unity springs far more to mind than any other. Back out of Taos, we took the high road. Aptly named for its high elevation and windy zig-zags, drivers are treated to beautiful vistas. For us, it was clear mountain peaks and snow-capped trees in a national forest. Aside from trying to keep your eyes on the road while enjoying the view, take heart in the vast signage on the sides of the road that warn of falling rocks, steep inclines and of course…elk.
After our whirlwind driving adventure we headed to the heart of Santa Fe to drink in the artistic designs of so many incredibly talented artists. Gallery after gallery work is on display for window shoppers and buyers alike. Gobsmacked by one, we headed inside to find sculptures of heroes, unknowns, religious figures, and heaps of cowboys done in mostly bronze. The artist, Gib Singleton, was a master of his work shown in major museums including the Vatican in Rome, the MOMA in New York and Yad Vashem in Israel. Sadly, we didn’t have the extra thousands of dollars in our pockets necessary to take one home, but his pieces won’t quickly be forgotten.
New Mexico has not only touched our hearts but without question, has tugged at our spirits. It’s strange for me to be so enamored with a land that holds no coastline or rumbling ocean, but New Mexico has done just that. Spirits soar here and nature and native cultures reign supreme. Traditions are important and the way of the land revered. One of my closest friends has talked about this land for decades. She and her partner, an artist in his own right, love Native American artwork and cherish traditions and the land. If I could transplant her here for just five minutes, I’m not sure she’d ever leave and I know for certain she would be happy, fulfilled and enriched by this state even more than we have been in such a short time.