Four Masterworks of American Indian Literature
Bless Me, Ultima
Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O'Keeffe
Edge of Taos Desert: Volume Four of Intimate Memories
Mimbres Pottery: Ancient Art of the American Southwest
Santa Fe Style
New Mexico Style
Nobody in Santa Fe really belongs there unless his line stretches back, by one genealogical trapeze act or another, to the seventeenth century; so my wife and I—native New Yorkers both—have adapted without strain to being outsiders and aliens. Who doesn’t feel like a transplant in America? Here there’s nothing else to be. It’s an oasis culture; nobody gets much more than his minimal quota of earth, air, and water, and who needs more? Every so often, just to make contact with our fellow transients, we drive down the valley of the Rio Grande to the flat marshlands of Bosque del Apache, south of Socorro, some 140 miles from our house in Santa Fe. Into these wide lagoons and stagnant pools thousands of wild fowl come every year to spend the winter months—visitors, like ourselves, with strong memories of northern places and deeper forests, but content for the time being with a for-the-time-being existence. There are Canada geese, sandhill cranes, a few rare whooping cranes, multitudes of mallard, teal, and a dozen other species whose names I don’t know. To stand under the cloud of wings when five thousand wild white geese explode into the air all at once in a storm of honkings and flappings is an experience to stir the blood.
One can drive west from Socorro next day to the plains of San Augustin where stands the Very Large Array. It is a set of twenty-seven giant saucer-shaped receivers painted stark white and mounted on railroad tracks. They are designed to “see” electronically into the outermost regions of the cosmos—to collect infinitesimal impulses from inconceivably vast galaxies at a distance in light-years before which the imagination faints. From some of these outermost galaxies the entire array of telemetering devices receives in the course of a solid year a total amount of energy equivalent to a single snowflake falling on the surface of the earth. Yet by electronic enhancement the machines of the installation can print on a postcard the image of two galaxies, each millions of light-years across, and both at a distance from our little speck of dust too inconceivably enormous to be expressed. There is no reason why the bird refuge and the astronomical array should seem to be making complementary statements; and almost certainly what they say to me is not what they will say to someone else. But the double experience has always seemed to me purifying and exalting.
Daily life in our part of the world imposes odd perspectives too. In filling out certain bureaucratic forms I am occasionally asked to define my ethnic background—the form allows it to be either “Native American,” “Hispanic,” or “Other.” Given those three options, it isn’t hard to figure out where I belong; but putting oneself down as “Other” is always a little jarring. “Anglos” in New Mexico are a very loose category indeed. Orientals are automatically Anglo; a PTA member will also be heard to say, “We have four Anglos in our school, two…
This article is available to online subscribers only.
Please choose from one of the options below to access this article:
Purchase a print premium subscription (20 issues per year) and also receive online access to all all content on nybooks.com.
Purchase an Online Edition subscription and receive full access to all articles published by the Review since 1963.
Purchase a trial Online Edition subscription and receive unlimited access for one week to all the content on nybooks.com.