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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

New Mexico Always

I grew up in Ohio. There are rolling hills and flat fields.  There are tall trees and bushes.  There are flat fields that go from empty, brown dirt to tall, green corn. There are flat pastures of grass enclosed by shaggy fences of grass and brush.  The land is crisscrossed by black asphalt bands of varying widths that carry traffic. 
Dotted among the green hills and fields there are town and cities of different sizes.  They go from little ‘hamlets’ of a few houses, a post office and a mom-n-pop grocery to full fledged cities with tall buildings and acres of paved streets and sidewalks and parking lots. 
My home town was a small city with a tall, imposing courthouse and a few buildings downtown that were perhaps three stories at the most.  When I was growing up the ‘town square’ was just a place where the two main roads, High Street and Broad, met by the courthouse.  There was nothing fancy about it, mostly just designated curbs and a little green place with a statue in front of the courthouse.  Its only claim to special embellishment was a little circus-wagon type vehicle parked in the southwest corner that sold newspapers and popcorn.  Now it has become a little more sophisticated with a pagoda for mini concerts on the northwest corner and a little park-like area on the southeast corner with benches and a couple tiny trees.  The courthouse and its sidewalks with the statue and the fountain haven’t changed a lot. 
Almost anywhere you stand in Tuscarawas County your vision is bounded by trees hills or buildings.  For the first 23 or 24 years of my life that didn’t bother me at all.  I liked the green.  I liked hiking in the woods and camping there.
Then the Lord called me to teach on a tiny mission in New Mexico.
My mother had gone with sister Grace Henry to work in the bible school at Rock Springs Mission, just outside of Gallup NM.  They both came back with tales of dry, barren, rocky, empty, mountainous desert.  Their reports of the houses was on the same order—bleak with rocky bare ‘yards’ no grass, no bushes, no flowers.
I asked the Lord why He would send me to a place I would hate.  But as always, He knew what He was doing!
I had never seen the desert.  I had never seen the wide, deep blue blue skies of New Mexico.  I had never seen the mountains, rocky and menacing jutting up from the flatness of the plains.  I had never seen the sagebrush and rabbit bush accentuated by juniper.  I had never experienced the fragrance pine and piñón smoke drifting through that of sage and juniper. I had faced into the cold bite of snow blowing across the land.  I had never stood and watched a pillar of rain with its crown of dark clouds moving across the land.  And I had never stood and reveled in the rain falling on me and the parched land.  I had never inhaled the heady perfume of wet sand and sage after the rain.
From the first time I drove across the wide land, no matter where I went my heart stayed in New Mexico.  Today when I go back to visit with Notah and his family I am going Home.
From any window in Notah’s house I can look out on the mountains.  The Manzanos loom closest, about a mile away. I see them first thing every morning.  In the distance I can see the Sandias.  On the other side, the Piños and the Ladrones rear their peaks.  And on a clear day far off to the northwest we can see Mount Taylor.
Rachael wants to move to New Mexico, but she wants to live in the mountains—up on the slopes of the Sandias where the pine is tall and the mountain lions and bears come to visit, and in winter you need a four-wheel drive vehicle or horses to get home in the evenings.   And I like that land.  It really is as awesome as the flat land between the mountains.  But waking up in the morning and seeing the Manzanos between me and the rising sun is something that still takes my breath away.
Those mountains are so close that the sun rises at our house twenty minutes later than it does other places.

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