After only a 15 hour flight, I arrive in a different world.
In England, the landscape is green, studded with oak, beech, conifers, and in the country, where I live, populated with horses, sheep, and cattle on undulating hills. I study cloud formations and colors, there: clouds are not only gray, but lavender, yellow, pink, purple, green. They billow into towering white pillars or roiling dark cauldrons, stretch into wispy streaks like jet trails, rise high and far away,or lower so you feel surrounded by them. The permutations are infinite. It rains a lot.
In my village, homes are half-timbered, white or tan with woodwork painted black or dark green. Roofs are slate, peaked, red or weathered brown, all sprouting green moss. , in spring and summer, colorful flower baskets hang from eaves, and front gardens are filled with holly hocks, poppies, roses, anemones, daisies. The roads are ridiculously narrow in places, with scarcely enough room for two cars to pass. They were made for carts, horses, and – shank’s ponies.
Here in New Mexico, cloudless blue skies stretch from horizon to horizon, endlessly deep. The eastern mountains roughen the edges, but in between lie vast stretches of sand and scrub, patches of green fields; irrigation ditches criss-cross the land. Here, too, there are horses, but also mules and donkeys and prairie dogs. The mostly flat-roofed, adobe homes blend into the landscape, tiny bumps of humanity on land meant for coyotes and rattlesnakes. The roads are wide, with sandy verges leaving plenty of room to pull over.
The southwest of the United States is a geography you resonate to, or you don’t. The culture is a yeasty mix of Hispanics, Navajo and Pueblo Indians, and pale-faces. It seems, in a way, a foreign country, yet it is a crucible of cultures, ideas, skin colors, all brought together by the American dream. It is a microcosm of the potential for human connection or separation in this country. All the elements are here. It is the Wild West with Starbucks and MacDonalds, gourmet quality restaurants, high end shopping malls, junk shops, used cars and shacks selling over- stocked merchandise.
Part of me is still very much a southwesterner, despite many years abroad. I love it here.