I grew up in the Texas panhandle, slightly over an hour to the New Mexico state line. A lot of people picture New Mexico as a yucca strewn desert, but a heavily forested mountain wilderness stretches over a large portion of the state. Up north, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains (the southernmost part of the Rockies) reach along a vast wonderland of pine trees and wildlife. It is here that my family built a log cabin in the early 90’s for vacation stays and escape from daily life.
I wish I could describe to you what it was like. I don’t think I can accurately put it into mere words. It was a densely forested mountain land, purchased from the owner of Christmas Tree Canyon Ranch, outside the Mora Valley. He was a grumpy old man, retired Navy Captain, Top Gun commander, fighter pilot ace, and WW2 decorated veteran, but his wife and I had a bond by our shared love for wolves.
Here was a community of mountain lovers. Every 4th of July, the “canyon” neighbors would get together and hold a parade down the tree lined dirt road. The free range horses and burrows at “headquarters” would roam into our yard and beg for carrots. My sister and I would wander the woods alone, true “free range” kids ourselves. Black bears, deer, foxes and squirrels were frequent visitors. The occasional wolf howl would keep us up at night. Bonfires in our fire pit, snuggled up with blankets among the trees in the crisp mountain evenings, were nightly rituals. Here is my childhood.
Then, when I was a teenager, it was sold. I was obviously upset. I loved this place more than anything. But I was just coming of age, and had so much more on my mind. I buried my grief and struck out on a long rebellious rampage. Hello high school. Sorry mom.
Now that my head is clear, and I’ve grown up, I grieve for this place. This was a place of magic and wonder. I grieve for my kids who will never experience this life. Not here. Not where you can watch a bear right outside your window roll boulders over with one paw. Not where you can watch water bugs glide over the creeks and lake nearby. Not where we would dump our dinner leftovers on a board to feed “the critter” in the night. Not where you’re awakened by the piercing howl of a lone wolf in the pitch black night. Not where you wave to your neighbors and stop for a chat during one of the many jeep rides through the trees. Not where a kid can scale jagged boulders in search of animal bones to add to her collection. Not where Sunshine Mountain greets you each morning through the huge triangle windows.
I have fond memories of walking “the loop”, watching baby squirrels in a birdhouse, holding injured humming birds, deer watching, jeep riding, listening to my Papa caw at the crows, collecting bones, fishing, hiking, playing wolf, and building dams in the creek.
My soul longs for this place. I am not content until I’m surrounded by mountains and forest. My dream is to return to the area and build our own home. I want my kids to experience this. Some day. Some day
Currently reading: Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (1899)