Filling Your Niche
new mexico heart

No place like home

This past weekend, Dan & I made a super-quick trip down to Albuquerque, New Mexico– our first since officially deciding that we’re moving there once we’re kid-free. (Um, side note, that’s only 2 years away, you guys. Holy shit.)

Colorado, while a lovely interim and definitive step up from Vegas, isn’t our place. I suspected it within months of moving here, and suspicions were confirmed when Dan arrived a year later and went cabin-fever-crazy during his first Colorado winter– which, to my Minnesota-bred mind, was absurdly mild.

Dan needs his desert. And I’m surprised to find that I miss the desert too– that spicy smell, xeriscaping, the explosive vibrance of blooming cacti in the spring.

So, we decided to work out a practical plan for moving back to the desert.

There are five true desert states: Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah. Texas is too hot and Utah is too religious; they’re out. We’ve already done Nevada. Arizona… Phoenix is way too big, and we talk about Tucson a lot, but agree that it doesn’t feel right for some reason. That leaves New Mexico.

As much as we adore Taos, subsequent trips there reminded me that visiting vacation towns is all very well and good, but living there is entirely different. I should know; I grew up in a vacation town. Not interested in living like that again. Plus, one of our goals is to find someplace where buying (even better: building) our own place is affordable, and that rules Taos out. Also Santa Fe.

This brought us to Albuquerque. ABQ has mountains and desert and four seasons that include a mild winter and not-too-hot summer. It’s also equidistant from Colorado, where a significant chunk of my extended family lives, and Tucson, where my parents live (although they’re threatening an imminent move to Colorado, which makes everything even more convenient.) And there’s a major airport for flying our own kids in and out at will.

Dan has mentioned ABQ as a possibility before, but I’ve always blown him off. My knowledge of the city was limited to what I’d seen from driving along 40 until it joins 25, none of which offered absolutely anything to impress me. Or anyone, for that matter. The view from the freeway is bleak leading up to city limits, and only lives up to the whole “Land of Enchantment” thing once you head north.

But ABQ seems so great on paper– the right size, the right climate, the fact that it’s in one of the only places where you can get a traditional house loan to build a straw bale home– that logic won out. I couldn’t write ABQ off.

Research and daydreams only take you so far, though. I needed to feel the earth between my toes and inhale the air of our prospective someday forever home to be sure. So we drove down on Saturday and came back Sunday to do exactly that.

Two things I love love love about New Mexico: red dirt and junipers.

new mexico 4

red dirt and junipers

Oh, New Mexico. You so pretty.

And here’s what I learned about Albuquerque proper: my negative first impressions were totally, totally wrong. This is an entire city filled with affordable, adorable adobe houses, with more yoga studios and coffee shops than you can shake a stick at.

And the city is clearly full of evil geniuses, because they’ve led the general population of the U.S. to believe their hometown is shady, seedy, and ugly (thanks, Breaking Bad). But in reality, ABQ boasts a richly diverse culture brimming with art galleries, amazing food, and super friendly people. (But don’t tell anyone. That way they keep the riffraff out.)

There’s this old movie Starman, with Jeff Bridges. He plays this alien who comes to earth and needs to rendezvous at this huge crater so he can get back home. If I’d heard of a bucket list at age 6 or 8 or whatever I was when I first saw that film, that crater would’ve been the #1 destination.

A few years ago, while we were still living in Vegas, Starman popped up for instant viewing on Netflix, and I knew Dan would like it, and would like forcing the kids to watch sci-fi even more. When the scene with the crater came on, I said “Oh man, I wonder where that is. I’ve always wanted to see that place.”

Dan said, “That’s easy. We’ve driven past it a bunch of times.”

I said, “Wait. What? We have? When??”

And he said “That’s Meteor Crater. It’s in Arixona, right off 40. We drive past every time we go to Minnesota. It’s just past the turnoff to Tucson.”

“OH MY GOD!” I shouted, grabbing his arm. “WE HAVE TO GO THERE!”

And the next time we did stop, and I was so irritated with myself for living in that area for years and years, for having driven past the unassumingly brown “Meteor Crater Natural Landmark 6 mi.” sign a dozen times or more and never noticed.

Albuquerque is like that. I guess I never noticed. It came outta nowhere. Or maybe it wasn’t the right place for us until now. As Katie Kacvinsky wrote, “Some people say home is where you come from. I think it’s a place you need to find, like it’s scattered and you pick pieces of it up along the way.”

All the things we’ve picked up here and there, all the different ways our lives have changed, have combined to make ABQ feel like our just-right place, our forever place. And you know it when you feel it, because there’s no place like home.


Maarit • 04/23/2015

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