New Mexico Tales, part 2

"Pink River", New Mexico alabaster
“Pink River” 

I returned to New Mexico in 2003, alone this time, to collect a large amount of stone to ship back to Europe. I planned the short trip virtually blind, using the internet to arrange everything from a cheap motel, a freight forwarder, maps and the three airlines it would take to get me there. It probably was not the ultimate time to travel; the American president was pushing invasion of Iraq when I left Europe, and the governments there were feeling the pressure. I figured that in a weeks time, I could get to America and back before the stuff hit the fan. I was mistaken.

I left Amsterdam and made it to London for a quick stop over. From there, I boarded my plane that would take me to Arizona and on to New Mexico. It was a long flight and when I landed at the airport in Albuquerque, I was bombarded by televisions at every turn with breaking news of security alerts. Well, I had made it through the security checks at three airports, and was by now an old hand at what was needed: new socks. Every security check had made me take off my boots.

I grabbed my one large suitcase (space enough to fit a small person), which was filled with nothing but one change of clothes. The space was saved to fill with small stones and tools I would buy.

I found my rental car and with internet printed maps in hand, I hit the road. The drive would be about an hour from the Sunport airport into Albuquerque to the hotel I would rest in for the night. I had found this hotel on a website, trying to choose something cheap but not roach infested. As it turned out, it was a nice little place just off the highway, and if I wanted scenic views, I got them. The town was a one lane highway with nothing to see but the highway stops of gas and fast food.

That night, as I ate my fast food dinner in my room, the television broke the news that the U.S. president had invaded Iraq. Security alerts were everywhere. As I drove the next day, I saw the little town had posted their support of the troops; lovingly but with sorrow.

The little town had posted their support, lovingly but with sorrow

I was to finally meet the owner of the stone quarry this time. He had not been in town the last time I’d come. Right on time, at the now famous ‘only gas station in town’, I met Marvin and his wife, April. I liked them both immediately. They were friendly in a genuine way, which I was to learn was the way of the people in this part of the world. I followed them to the quarry, which still lay in the middle of nowhere.

The day was blue and bright and in the distance I could see snow-covered mountains. Finally atop the world, I could see why it was named ‘Mountainair’. There we stopped at their home, a small simple place with nothing around except land and more land. I asked April if this is what she awoke to every morning. Yes, she said with a smile, and she loved it. She could hardly bring herself to go into the big city anymore (Albuquerque, population: a fraction of London). She said it made her claustrophobic. I wondered what she would think of London.

Marvin swaggered up in his cowboy hat and proceeded to tell me that all the stones here were available and more if I wanted. I was trying to stay in a 1,000 kilo limit, but I was like a kid in a candy store. The stone was calling me and I would need strength to control myself. As I wetted down the stone to see the colour, choosing each piece as much for size and colour as for the feelings I got from it, I set aside several pieces and Marvin went about cutting them to size for me. For this he strong-armed a huge circular saw and started it up like an outboard motor.

As the dust rained around us, April and I got to chatting, as women do, while her man sweated in the heat. She asked about Europe, a place she’d never been to. She was young, born and raised in New Mexico. We spoke of the war, politics, and of simpler things, like how she had met Marvin; in high school. She had thought him something special and so it went from there that they had married a few years ago.

The land was from Marvin’s family and between his regular job, he dynamited the stone, hand-picked it out of the ground, and cut it into carvable pieces. It was a new business that was hard, because word had to get out that he had this great stone. To do that he and April travelled around to road side trade shows, meeting sculptors and selling piece by piece in hopes of the sculptors coming back for more.

As we talked, I felt the sun strong on my skin, knowing the weather in London when I returned, and god I missed the sun. In a field nearby cows and a horse came by to see what all the noise was about.

I tried to imagine what it would be like to wake up to this every morning. The red and green and violet that I had loved in the stone was here in the hills, the plants and the sky. Though cloudless now, I had awoken that morning to a fog so thick I could not see five feet in front of me. But driving further I rose above it and the sun brought with it such a feeling of grounded peace, that I felt this must be the closest to heaven a human can be. If I could bring any of this feeling back to London through my work, if someone could touch my stone carvings and feel even a little of this, it would all be worth it.

2 thoughts on “New Mexico Tales, part 2

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