The seeds of Northern New Mexico had been planted in me when I was seven years old. 1952. The memories come unbidden and mixed: arched, rounded adobe fireplaces, piñon trees and purple canyons, desert sagebrush and old ways of life. The smells of horse sweat and crushed sage mingled with forest bird songs.
Above Taos, above the valley of San Cristobal, red and white mushrooms popped up in the wet, rocky earth next to smooth, sculpted, maroon manzanitas. Cleofes led the way along the narrow and steep mountain trail, his black horse big and powerful. I followed, small upon the brown horse, the stiff leather saddle supporting my seven-year old body, the stirrups holding my feet, the reins in my tiny hands. The views painted my imagination and lodged in my heart. I was entranced by the blue valley looking like a picture far below, disappearing for moments behind the piñons, then revealing the distant red orange sunset snow of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Mesquite trees grey and twisted, added texture.
Brown skinned Cleofes, wizened but still stocky and muscular, worked as a ranch hand for friends of my parents, at their mountain guest ranch where we had arrived a few days earlier. My family, packed into our old Chevy, had just traversed the Southwest, through Santa Fe and up to Taos and beyond, until we reached the rutted dirt road leading to the brown adobe ranch house high above the miniature blue and green valley.
Inside, the white walls felt smooth and cool when I touched them. Each bedroom had an adobe fireplace built into it. The dark, main room had its own big fireplace, with rounded corners. Grey woven Navajo rugs brightened with stick figure designs in maroon, green, yellow, blue and black, hung on the walls underneath the brown wooden “vigas” that supported the ceiling. In the niches and dark shelves next to the rugs, clay pots painted with black and white figures from the New Mexico Pueblo Indians, and carved stone animal fetishes, their turquoise eyes matching the sky, exuded the character of the southwest. My mouth hung open in wonder and my heart felt happy.
Outside, we looked down at the tiny pueblo below, where Cleofes was born and raised and still lived. That experience birthed those New Mexico seeds that grew, hidden inside of me, until my return.
©2021 Marianna Mejia