We are still in monsoon season in New Mexico, and this year has been a watery blessing. If you follow the national weather scene you know that the American Southwest has been dry, dry, dry. Most of us do not have lawns to water out here in New Mexico, but the big alfalfa fields in my neck of the woods have really suffered.
The last few weeks, however, have brought heavy winds and accompanying thunderstorms. Even my skin feels replenished and the cool morning temperatures allow me to sit out here on my portale and write a column.
I’ve become very “New Mexicanized” in my time out here. I am sitting on a portale (porch) looking at my coyote fence (doesn’t really keep coyotes out) and drinking New Mexico pinion coffee (coffee brewed with pinion nuts.)
Yesterday the bride and I celebrated our 30 year wedding anniversary by going to an Albuquerque restaurant called Farm and Table. The eatery features food grown by New Mexico artisanal farmers and the setting is southwestern strong with adobe walls, wrought iron furniture and our delicious home grown Gruet Champagne.
Just south of me is the object of much recent attention. Richard Branson’s Spaceport sits out in the desert, and the world came to see his spacecraft leap into space. Observing this, writer Molly Jong-Fast declared, “New Mexico is the best state!” Since I am presently writing for a Georgia newspaper, I gently pause an affirmation to this statement, but she wrote what she wrote.
At the spaceport, our terrific governor, Michele Lujan Grisham, was there looking sharp in her tres chic cowboy boots and southwestern jewelry. She was all smiles standing next to millionaire Branson.
Ms. Lujan Grisham took the Covid challenge head on, and as a result New Mexico is one of the leading states in the nation in terms of per-capita vaccination success. This is quite an accomplishment given the size of the state and its scattered population.
The nearby Navajo Nation, at first devastated by Covid deaths, has completely risen to the challenge, and they are justifiably proud of their successful vaccination campaign. The wife and I recently traveled through the Navajo Nation, and road signs touted the importance of vaccination and vax clinics dotted the enormous region. The Navajo, or Dine, are independent minded Native Americans. Good on them.
From Native American pottery to the brand spanking new NBC/Universal Studio complex, the arts hold a place of honor in this state. The great artisans have now returned to the portale on the Santa Fe Square (thanks again, Gov. Lujan-Grisham!) and downtown Albuquerque is festooned with those ubiquitous bright yellow placards directing actors and crew to film locations. The fantastic Balloon Fiesta is now on the calendar and we all look forward to seeing the morning sky filled with hundreds of hot air balloons.
National treasure and renowned artist Judy Chicago (“The Dinner Party”) lives about five miles from my house and she continues to create her art from her home in a restored Belen, New Mexico, hotel. She and the forward thinking mayor of Belen, the young and vibrant Jerah R. Cordova, have conspired and created an arts district right in the middle of this historic New Mexico town.
It’s not perfect out here in the Land of Enchantment. There’s poverty, drug and gang issues (just like Georgia!), and a real challenge in feeding and educating children due to the vagaries of society in the 21st century.
New Mexico is blessed with forward thinking and engaged leadership from the state house (which we call “The Roundhouse”) to the tiny city hall in Belen. Political grandstanding is at a minimum (except during election season, meh!). Another political point of pride is that a member of nearby Laguna Pueblo, Deb Haaland, was appointed by President Biden to be the first Native American Secretary of the Department of the Interior. How cool is that? From support of the arts, public health, our fragile planet, and concern for fellow human beings, New Mexico is a shining beacon.
I wish it for all.