New Mexico desert

I have a new understanding of why artists move to the New Mexico desert to paint, draw, photograph, write, sculpt, whatever. There is such a magnificence here.

In a big bus driving to Ghost Ranch, the desert unfolded in front of us, and the colors of the dirt and craggy cliffs filled me up. I though, inexplicably, of Judy, my older sister Joan's childhood friend. Judy had a sturdy frame, and was tawny skinned with dark shiny hair, in a family of blondes. She had a realness I loved. When she grew up, she moved to the New Mexico desert on a sheep ranch down a long, long dirt road. She got pregnant, and had her baby at home. The baby died during the birthing, and was buried in the dark red desert dirt.

Judy would show up from time to time at my parents house to visit, her face and hands weathered to a dark mahogany, and I would look at her and wonder: does she wish she'd had her baby in a modern hospital? But I never asked. My parents went to visit, and came back with photographs of the small adobe house she'd built with her own hands. Kerosene lamps, kitchen tools hanging from the wall, strands of dried plants from the ceiling. I pored over those photos. Does she wish? Does she ever stand over the baby's grave and wonder?

But now, all these years later, I understand. The desert claims you. You become part of the desert and its vastness, the red dirt and the unending sky, and you and your babies live and die in harmony with the breathing and sighing, giving and taking, of the desert.