About 10 minutes walking time will take me to the edge of the city. Here, residential construction is halted, for reasons of preservation or difficulty of construction, I never knew who to ask. Beyond the last, desperate line of fake-adobe towers and middle class lives the ground sinks some 20 yards, which serves to give these homeowners the right to say they live on a house on the hill, which is just what these are. I’m sure the nearby ‘wilderness’ does as much good for the property values as the highschool does bad. And the property values are because of the extended economic situation that Santa Fe finds itself it; a ‘story’ for a different time.
There are two paths that closely follow the ridge. Jaguar road, a four lane thoroughfare, which follows the snake like ebb of the ridge and divides the housing fomr the other side of the street. On one side, an apartment complex, the fire station, and a few dozen houses, on the other, the library, the preschool, a few dozen other houses, and a few other places of interest.
The other path is a small pedestrian path that is right on top of the ridge, or rather in between it. It divides the ridge in half, which gives the descent a more leisurely incline. The gravel part of the path is about 4 feet wide, and the outcropping itself is about 6 feet wide.
Houses near the border have fences that block off other houses, but not the path. A person can climb right up into people’s backyards; a good mark of the neighborhood’s health. Undaunted by the prospect of animals with broken legs, pets are scattered in the yards, here and there. Dogs seem content to watch passerby, and cats love the freedom they’re given, not that that they wouldn’t have jumped the fence mind you, but it’s certainly easier for them to voyeur, and cats are lazy in the first.
I have never met one of these homeowners in their yard, but people occasionally follow the paths. Depending on the time of day and year, a person will jog along or tow a stroller every 15 minutes. A true voyeur would savor the opportunity, and despise the house wives discussing their trite lives -they never seem to bother limiting a conversation to the nearest hundred yards.
This is the barrier that marks the edge of town. Beyond the steep decline, the land is left to its own devices. Do note my choice of words though, as I refuse to use the cliche’s used in reference to Alaska and the deepest recesses of the Amazon. The land is neither tame nor owned. Humanity simply hasn’t seen any convenience in being here.
This small pocket of… woodland, is about a mile wide and 5 miles long. To the North, the town, to the South is Southside, -If you live in the West, you can probably imagine the assortment of mobile homes, power lines, chicken pens, trucks and pockmarked roads that I’m referring to- the East is cordoned by a major highway, and the West likewise, but the latter is ostensibly in honor of veterans -you can imagine, and have likely been in, the sort of cermony, where people clap every time the announcer points or says someone’s name.
The pocket itself is a rough rectangle, but the area can be more accurately described as an elaborate L that starts off the chapter of an illuminated manuscript. The L is the depressed section of dirt which lay between four hills and ridgelines. Looking at a map, the L would be sideways, with the _ pointing Southwards. To the left side of the L is the ridge aforementioned. On the other side is a competing ridge, which I like to call Hobo Farm, for its sparsity of life construction and tree. As a border to the bottom, a large enbankment borders the Memorial highway. At the very top of our letter, the Capital High School baseball field stands above the valley -if you ask nicely, I can tell you how to get in fee-free.
Following the L is a single riverbed, normally dry. I’ve never followed it to its end, but I suspect that it exists entirely in this small parcel of land, rather than extending to the mountains-that-would-be-called-distant-except-for-the-advent-of-automobiles. It follows more closely to the Southern ridge, which extends the forestry on that side. Looking from on far, the river can be traced by the light green leaves that belong to the trees unaccustomed to the desert. Elsewhere, the dominant Junipers -whose name I regularly replace with ‘bush-tree’- is colored more closely to the yellow soil which supports them.
The Juniper is a wonderful tree, and is a blessing found on the side of every hill, but rarely on the backside of the open plain. Its branches hang high enough -usually- to lay under, providing a regular source of shade. Its needle-leaves blanked the ground thickly, and the gray-black carpet is much softer than the dirt, and is thick enough to insulate the sharp rocks beneath. Lastly, they have a unique and enjoyable scent, which is used in local incense. These trees make the pocket of land a wonderful place from which to read, especially in the shallow ravines which shelter the reader from the wind.
Though I travel backward in my description, it’s only now that I can properly explain the fire station. It’s a pretty thing, red and well designed. With its effortless and subtle beauty, it contrasts sharply -and yet, not at all- the enjoyable-yet-plastic construction of Santa Fe. Here stands the god of the neighborhood. I’ve sometimes seen the lesser brown and square mangers bow in lines before the god’s power and loving protection. This is a rare event, usually accompanied by some planetary -and not celestial, cause nothing gives a shit for the stars- event.
Leading from beside the firehouse -connected to Jaguar Road, pictured above- a dust path, wide enough to carry vehicles, bridges the valley below to the ‘other’ town in the South. This bridge, made largely of displaced sand, divides the ‘l’ in two. It’s a rather grand thing, monolithing 20 yards above the valley. The river is made to flow through the base of the dam, through a cylinder of corrugated steel. Around the mouth of this cylinder is concrete, and upon this lay the prides and egos of the town’s young. Though declarations of ownership and “him and me forever”s are replaced and defaced, the more impressive murals are preserved -on any level of society there is a certain respect for the arts, but I’d attribute this as respect to the artist. Inside the cave is raw darkness, except for the far side. I have found mats and bits of glass in here; a shelter from rain and rats.
The last area I need to describe I can describe quickly. The _ of the L is a wide and open valley. Between two ridges the arroyo makes the last leg of its journey accompanied by the beauty of the valley, which I always recall as being under the spell of sunset. Anywhere else in town, I recall the most beautiful scenes under rain and cloud (the blue sky is bleached, the houses are beige. The only color that is allowed to remain attains an air of holiness, and the world refuses to speak, but for the drip of the sky and the slosh of the road). But here only I see the land unshaped by weather, and proudly displaying its beauty with the assistance of itself alone.
Imagine now the scene. To both sides and behind there are tall hills, and only the one behind -unseen- is lit. Far ahead, another ridge is blackened, and seen only by its edges. From here to there, weeds like wheat -gold and sparse- shine as they wave the day shut. The valley is walled off, except for a narrow passage, just to the left of the sun, through which this land will extend forever. The sky is just barely clouded, enough to line white with luminescent red. In the distance, near the far mountain of darkness, a blue car kicks dust as it leaves you. And all the world is awash with gold and green and darkness. And all that the sky is is faint white, lines of red, and a sky of gold. And between the sheltering sky and the humble earth, a dot of blue roars across the Earth.
And imagine this a daily occurrence, and you know the beauty of my home.