A brief dash of rain last Thursday, hardly more than a few drops, reminds me of how badly we need the moisture here in the southwest, described by some as being likely the most hard-hit by climate change. And the weather has been hotter, drier, windier and more unpredictable in the last three years than in my seventeen years here before that.
At times it seems that this charmed spot is free from troubles like these, although I no longer see the bumper sticker, “Keep Santa Fe Different” that seemed to offer some kind of protection. But we are still different in spite of unplanned out-of-control growth (the population has doubled from thirty thousand to sixty thousand during my time here, partly due to the incorporation of outlying areas that always seems to portend rampant growth). And the little town of Carlesbad, down in the south-eastern corner of the state, was first plagued by a very serious radiation leak in the underground nuclear-storage waste tanks that have been from the beginning of WIPP as this federal project is called reasons for alarm. Now the town is dealing with wildcatting oil and gas exploitation that has led to road wrecks, substandard housing, drunkenness and crime the warts these sites always spawn before they pass on, leaving devastation behind.
Yet in the midst of this, we do preserve some elements of what has always made this town special. Walking back from my neighborhood teahouse where some people actually talk to each other on a recent spring evening, I passed the little corner adobe gallery that has housed many different enterprises, all short-lived. I think this incarnation is going to last. The gallery has two doors; one has a sign that reads, “THIS DOOR IS RUSTY. THE OTHER DOOR IS AMAZING.”
Half way up the block, I pass Rios’ Lumber Yard, a scraggly patch of logs and trucks on what must be one of the most expensive quarter acres in town. The Rios family has held on for decades, selling firewood all winter and lasting somehow through the summer; their near neighbor, the old café that occasionally disturbs us in summer with blaring dance music is also “grandfathered in” to what has become an upscale residential neighborhood. Thank God for both of them!
A little further along on my street which was once called Telephone Hill (the first line ran here) and then upgraded by Alice Henderson to Camino Monte Del Sol (or Sun Mountain Road), a dance and exercise studio has held sway for years in a small old adobe. As I walk past, drum music cascades out of the open front door. Looking in, I see a group of women dancing in Haitian style, humped at the waist, eyes on the floor, passing back and forth in hypnotic concentration as the drums roar.
I’m going to try that next.