I walk daily near my Las Cruces home, really a bit out of town across the banks of the Rio Grande beneath an ancient volcanic cone called Picacho Hill. Farm land lies east and west of the Rio Grande so that my sunrises and sunsets feature not only the Organ Mountains in the distance but acres of chili, alfalfa, and pecan orchards. It’s a lovely site despite the development–on up the road a golf course, ritzy houses, and BMW’s during rush hour.
I live in what I call “the poor sac”–the cul-de-sac of about 14 homes on the farm land plain–a reasonably priced neighborhood of retirees before you vault up toward the hill to those large estates with calculated views.
I like the area because just outside my door is a trail of sorts which borders the farm land and provides me with my two-mile daily walk complete with resident quail, roadrunners, thrashers, cottontails and an uncluttered view of the Organ Mountains.
Tornio mesquite, creosote, and shrub brush create a barrier on one side from the artificiality of the golf course. I can’t see it though occasionally I hear an oath escape following a bad shot.
I never take this walk that I don’t think of a different landscape though. That of my panhandle home in Oldham County, Texas, particularly my own farm north of I-40, converted from milo and wheat to Conservation Reserve Program grasses.
That landscape goes on without me.
It’s a kind of lonely feeling, a sense of separation, of missed responsibilities, of a beloved rhythm felt there–to check fence, course the roads with an eye out, see how the grass crop is doing. I feel what John Donne called his compass foot drawn and stretched out in love. I feel the call of that other place whose caregiver I am.
My dad fell into the category of “suitcase farmer” in a time when living in town (even though only three miles away) meant you really didn’t live on the farm. What kind of a farmer am I these 400 miles away?
Back before what I call “the march of the turbines”–the construction and maintenance of some 260 wind turbines across Oldham County, some bordering my farm–I had almost sixty years of privileged quiet, a kind of stillness of roads seldom used, a privacy of the spirit. The farm was my meditative place. My walks, retreats, always brought me back into town beaming. Restored.
Now when I return to the farm I can hardly get out to the North Place (the farm is in two separate sections); there are always workers on the road speeding along in their extended cabs and the road itself is now covered in large gravel that assures more a turned ankle than a walk in which you feel the pulse of the earth. I still try to get out–I need to talk to, stroke with my strides my friend, its fields, draws, sky (yes, sometimes you can feel you are walking on it, a rain puddle reflection bringing the heavens to you)–but I rarely come back to town unscathed. It’s a busy place now, a commerce of the prairies; what was once thought by many as useless (farm land is cheap there compared to Iowa or California) is constantly used.
Still we must care and especially from afar. We must notice and honor giving our attention to something beyond ourselves. Like the pronghorns after the building of the turbines altered their migration patterns, I search for a way to not be driven from the fields.
The landscape goes on, even without me.