My first time visiting New Mexico was with a friend, whose parents live in Taos. We stayed in their guest house; a sweet, tiny adobe tucked into the mountains. Outside our door was a garden bursting with vegetables, fruits, and flowers. It was unexpectedly lush, considering the merciless desert earth. I realized then that Taos was magical. Little did I know what awaited me.
I connected with a mutual friend–a photographer–, and we ventured out, exploring back roads where Appaloosas roamed in the shadows of the mountains, their tails flicking lazily back and forth, swatting at flies. They were magnificent (the horses, not the flies) as they stood quietly in the field, just…existing. We called out to them, and to my surprise, they came to us. I stared speechlessly as they approached–no doubt hoping for an apple or a carrot. No matter how many times I’ve been around these incredible creatures, it’s always new and I always have to catch my breath. They let us rub their muzzles as the sun set, bounced off the mountains, our gratitude overflowing.
The Southwest is wild, too. And I don’t mean the prairie dogs that pop out of the ground everywhere, running back across, visiting each other’s underground caves and not being nearly cautious enough when crossing the road… I mean truly wild. While (possibly) trespassing on the rough, sage-strewn land surrounding the Rio Grande, looking for a place to picnic, we spotted the one creature we had hoped to see: bighorn sheep. We kept our distance, wanting to respect their turf. I was musing on the size of their horns and we were gifted with a spectacular display of dominance: two bighorns butting heads, each wielding a magnificent set of horns, creating an unforgettable sound, while the herd looked on.
I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you the story of the herd of bison, a fence, and a pair of ripped jeans. Or perhaps I just did. I’ll let you use your imagination. But, oh, the bison, with their big, sloping backs and charmingly fuzzy heads. To see them in the wild is a treat. Massive animals who command respect, but also peaceful as they graze, wanting nothing but to be left alone. (Don’t pet the fluffy cows!)
The beauty of the Southwest is unrivaled, as if an artist took a brush to the earth and painted blue skies as far as the eye can see, sunsets of pink, orange, and purple, rivers pulsing through the mountains in twists and turns, and fields of sage and chamisa. And there, in the midst of it all, the most beautiful creatures, unbothered by humans, living in peace.
(Photo credit: Lenny Foster / www.lennyfoster.com)