HOME AWAY FROM HOME
My first introduction to New Mexico was in 1968, when I was in seventh grade. My dad had just been transferred from Dubuque, Iowa, to Albuquerque. Once we arrived, I wasn’t all that impressed; I didn’t even like New Mexican food. I do remember the Sandía Mountains.
After two years, my dad was transferred again, this time to Florida. We eventually ended up back in Dubuque. I took a course during my junior year of college that reintroduced me to New Mexico: “Field Studies in the Southwest.” We traveled by bus through Nebraska and Colorado to New Mexico to study the region’s geology, flora, and fauna. We were based at Ghost Ranch, a place I knew nothing about at the time. We arrived after dark, were assigned our rooms, and everyone went to bed.
When I walked outside the next morning, I fell in love. Ghost Ranch was the most amazing place I had ever seen. The landscape: gorgeous. We spent the time hiking the ranch and going to various sites. I had New Mexican food in Taos and Santa Fe, and this time I really liked it. Back in Dubuque, I noticed that New Mexico hadn’t left me. It was now a part of me, and I was a part of it.
After graduation, I found a job in Albuquerque, and enjoyed all the state had to offer. I even met my wife. Circumstances found us leaving New Mexico in 1986 for Florida and Arizona. During our time in Phoenix, we took advantage of the proximity and drove to Albuquerque several times a year. We’d drive over to get Hatch chile on Labor Day weekend, go to the Balloon Fiesta, or sometimes we’d go just for the sake of going.
We are currently back in Dubuque, and more than ever I find myself longing to return to the Land of Enchantment. I do what I can to bring New Mexico to me, including maintaining my subscription (since 1986) to this magazine. I get Hatch green chile delivered every year, I make my own carne adovada, and we have some nice pottery and turquoise. I even have a Zia symbol tattoo. None of it really makes up for not being there. Really, what could? I miss the Hispanic and Native American cultures and influences. I miss the Sandía Mountains, the food, the climate, the smell of piñon smoke in the air. I hope that one day my wife and I can retire there. When anyone asks me where I’m from, I always tell them I’m from Dubuque, but New Mexico is my home.