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Land of Enchantment

A Charles Mann photo (used with his permission).

A Charles Mann photo (used with his permission). See more at

In the course of the first 365 days of this blog’s life I will come to love New Mexico again. Our relationship has had some rocky times but since my life will be lived out here in the Land of Enchantment it is to my psychological benefit to fall back in love.

The story goes like this. After a solo stint in Taiwan, my Air Force husband was reassigned to Holloman AFB, Alamogordo, New Mexico. I was unhappy about this—miserable, angry and repelled by the idea of living among sand and cacti and giant spiders and burning sun would describe my feelings accurately. I was a girl from the green and humid part of the world as in Minnesota, Florida, the Philippines and  North Carolina.

It couldn’t be avoided however so one late summer day in 1970 we drove out of Greenville, North Carolina where the boys and I had been living and pointed whatever old car we had west, stopping only to visit Don’s Kentucky family, and for one night in a motel. When, a few days later, we finally reached New Mexico’s Raton Pass sometime before dawn the headlights went out. Nothing to do but pull over and wait for daylight. Given the excitement of the night and my state of depression, as Don drove south I slept the sleep of the righteous/damned for much of the next day, waking only briefly to notice Albuquerque’s Big I as we drove on through.

Then. Sometime in the late afternoon, just as the sun was low enough to cast long shadows, I came wide awake—in the Valley of the Fires just outside of Carrizozo. That was the moment—love at first sight. A vista of sharp/wavy, broken/smooth, black/charcoal, dull/shiny lava rock lasts forever. A moonscape with just the occasional cactus, green bush or weed, and tiny delicate purple wildflowers relieving the otherwise uncompromising severity. Pale lavender blue outline of a distant mountain range seems near/far. Light so clear and sharp—the fabled painters’ light of the high desert country—throwing the landscape into a cache of singularly distinct memories.

That was my first sighting of one of only a few truly magic moments in my life. Yes, now that I think of it I must put New Mexico onto my short list of enchanted places and moments. Not all of New Mexico or all experiences in New Mexico. But some. More than one. Maybe quite a few.

We reached Alamogordo at dusk and checked into a motel as our house on base wasn’t ready yet. My first view of the inhospitable-looking Sacramento Mountains towering over that non-descript little town didn’t make my newfound love interest any less appealing. I was truly enthralled—enchanted with the land of enchantment I guess you could say. A condition that would change very little until just a few years ago.

For more of Charles Mann’s incredibly beautiful photos go to

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