Saturday, June 8, 2013

Silver City

I am a few days behind, in fact, I already left Silver City and New Mexico. Unfortunately, I've already returned from my glorious vacation.  Well, this cute little town made me feel the old West.  It looks like what you'd imagine in some old spaghetti western.  The high sidewalks reminded me of the boardwalks that once kept boots out of the hot sand.  The main drag's buildings stand across a wide avenue in a defiant stance that conjures images of a Mexican stand off.  Or, I could easily imagine a duel in front of the Palace Hotel instead of the low riders zooming past.

The shops and most restaurants were closed when I arrived, as it was Monday and Memorial Day.  It was like a ghost town, but it was awesome to just walk around and enjoy the silence.  The sun was warm, and the air was dry.  I did not know what an impact this sleepy town would have, but I felt at peace there.  I met some interesting and insightful people just walking down it's desolate streets.

Silver, as the locals call it, has an interesting vibe.  There is an activist spirit that is infused in every day speech that I don't find where I live.  It's more than social consciousness; it's deeper and more passionate.  It seemed real.  I think it may have roots in the harshness of the earth that one here confronts daily.  You are almost forced to stand for something in this part of New Mexico.

The ride to Silver from Santa Fe was so intense.  It's a long ride, six hours to be exact.  I didn't appreciate the beauty driving to Silver, but on the way back to Northern New Mexico, I found the drive to be gorgeous, and the desert allure that first drew me to this state flashed like neon.  At first glance, as you whizz by at 75  or 80 mph, the straight open road appears to just rip through flat valleys.  But, once you glance to your right or left, the vast valleys expose jagged, majestic black mountain vistas.  The terrain just off the four lane highway is dry, dusty and  monochromatic. The drought-ravaged earth reveals the scorch of the sun as dust devils spring and dance in the distance.  The transportation signs reminding us that you can be consumed by a dust storm or enveloped by floods appear every few miles.   My favorite is, "Dust storms may exist."  (And so may the Easter bunny!  What does this mean?  Don't get me wrong, I found these signs necessary, but somewhat amusing having been in a dust storm in Arizona, where these warnings were few and far between).  If you are the uninitiated, you might believe you are in a place that is ripe for disaster at any moment, but not even the robust wind currents and wind gusts that moved my car into the next lane did not make me waiver!  I pressed on for the new experience---that stark desert had once again enchanted.  I digress.

When nature challenges you, and is in your face like the high desert, you have to rethink your priorities.  I was perpetually thirsty, but knew that a bottled drink was a 7-11 away.  We all take these modern conveniences for granted, and expect them to be there.  Always.  But here, I could reflect and appreciate the realities of the environmental catastrophe that awaits my eastern city, and many other places, if we don't recognize the effects of our footprint on the environment.  It's no anomaly that the east coast has been plagued with catastrophic tropical storms, hurricanes and blizzards.  It's neither commonplace that the tornadoes of the Midwest are ripping through and leveling towns on an almost weekly basis.  Nor is it acceptable that drought occurs in an already water-starved climate.   The drought is as palpable as the poverty in the small hamlets that dot either side of I-25.  What was encouraging was that I did not witness despair.  Even when I visited Zuni Pueblo last year, one of the poorest pueblos in New Mexico, despair was not in the forefront of its people's psyche.  There is beauty in the cleansing ritual of the desert--the scorching sun, and the dry, dry air.

I found beauty in the positive attitudes of the people I met.  From my waiter at Shevek Restaurant (a slow food and green restaurant) to Upasatti, a spiritual brother whose quest to be present in the moment gave me much food for thought.  Just be.  Just do it.  Be mindful.  The anti-nuke activist turned solar electrician had a lot to share in a span of 10 minutes, about herself, the earth, Silver and its politics.  In Silver, there was beauty in the free exercise of one's right to protest and fight for one's own ideals.  On May 25th there was a protest of over 1,000,000  people worldwide and over 100 people in Silver that received no major media coverage.  Why? Presumably because they took on chemical giant, Monsanto over genetically modified food and the requirement for GMO labeling.  Even if you Google it, there is little information.  The Occupy movement is is not dead in New Mexico.  The activist spirit is strong in Silver in contrast to a more spiritual vibe in Santa Fe.

Under the artsy veneer in Silver you find a strong activist spirit present.  The people I met were ready to engage in real conversations about real and pressing issues.  Even though I missed the big blues festival by a day, and most everything was closed the day I arrived, this near ghost town left me wanting to look beneath the covers of this sleepy enclave in southwest corner of New Mexico.