Escaping Santa Fe for an occasional weekend—the purpose as I imagined it four years ago—seems more and more urgent, strange as that might sound. The state’s economy depends on a toxic combination of plutonium pit development and the attendant waste (for which no permanent resolution has been found), massive injections of tourists, uncontrolled commercial development with no water, and in the south, oil and gas production proceeding at a furious rate. But in spite of all this, we remain at the bottom—the bottom!—of the list of states in child welfare, with grinding poverty, beleaguered immigrants who do all our hard work, and an education system drained by charter and private schools, left to deal with those who have no other choice.
I’m convinced that all of this, while having no immediate, daily effect on my life, has created an atmosphere as turbulent, cloudy, and drought-ridden as the air and sky we can’t escape.
So—escape to a high mesa, dry as dust, up a precipitous dirt road that is regularly washed out by the monsoons?
We know now we won’t be able to grow anything there; our one well produces too little water, and the ground is gritty and full of stones. Once, goats and sheep managed to survive there, and the little stone house that is now my studio began as an animal shelter; once, there was enough of a community to build the one-room stone schoolhouse which we have remodeled into a very basic living space; once, perhaps—although this is less likely—our beautiful new barn, recently completed, might have held four horses. But there is no grazing in our big beautiful sky-tending fields, only scrub, sage and thistles. Trucking in water and feed is not only prohibitively expensive but likely to further degrade our precarious road.
So—what to do? I don’t abandon dreams lightly, especially in the present times which seems so tormented. But I am also practical and aware of the costs in money and energy and time the ranch has already consumed, with more on the way.
I hope to drive out there next weekend if the very welcome, indeed life-saving monsoons that have slightly dented our five-year drought during the past week don’t wash out the road. And then look and walk and think…