The eastern sky this morning crossing Raton Pass into New Mexico from Colorado.
Barreling up Interstate 25, just north of Las Vegas, New Mexico, the visual field suddenly opens and I take a deep breath. The next hundred miles of smooth blacktop “under the one-eyed sky” undulates through rangeland at 6,500 feet of elevation to Raton on the border with Colorado.
This sublime land is what the writer Max Evans called the Hi Lo Country, the northeastern corner of New Mexico “with a slice of Colorado, Oklahoma, and West Texas.” Having lived outside the country for the better part of the last four years, this was a trip I had done only once a summer to renew some relationships strained by thousands of miles of separation. I was hurtling through a place but also a glut of memories and hopes for the near future.
I have a deep affection for New Mexico and Colorado, where I have some good friends, yet I have no desire to return to the States and no confidence I could find work here even if I wanted to move back. I have a job waiting for me in Afghanistan where I can save some money and I don’t want to return to it. I have a house in New Mexico but I am in love with a Central Asian woman working in Germany who doesn’t want to live in the States. While driving, it all seemed so complicated, the collision of pasts, presents, futures, the places and all the spaces in between.
Even the music on the radio shredded time: I tolerated the static as long as I could to listen to a favorite jazz show or a news interview from a pair of Albuquerque public radio stations. Then I had to scan through endless country pop and classic rock stations. Classic rock is the most unimaginative of all radio formats and the stations seem to share the same 50-song playlist of songs that have been played to death for at least 30 years. It wasn’t I crossed the Colorado border before I could pick up a weak signal from college radio station that for a while charmed me with a spate of songs and artists, presumably new, which I had never heard before.