Before we moved to Las Cruces, a colleague of my husband’s took us on a tour of the town. Riding Purple Mountains Majestyaround in the back of his SUV, he brought us in and out of neighborhoods, crisscrossing the city while giving an informative voice-over on its history and future plans.

One thing he said I found charming (and I’m sure he meant it to be), was that in the National Anthem, when they sing “purple mountains majesty,” they were talking about the Organ Mountains–the mountains that form the east side of the city.

It is an awesome sight, in the true meaning of the word. The color sometimes takes you by surprise, and it only lasts a short while until the sun sets over the mesas in the distance.

So while I don’t have an answer to the “why” the Organs turn purple (and my Googling didn’t turn up anything of significance), there are a few great spots to watch the mountains cycle through its colors in the evening. One is on top of the Las Cruces Dam behind Albertson’s & Target. This is a high perch with plenty of parking, and has the added benefit of being able to watch the sun set over the horizon in one direction, and its color-washing on the Organs behind you.Another spot is just driving up Lohman Ave. from Downtown–for a short while of the drive you are head on with the mountains and get a great view.A third spot, I believe, (we haven’t done it since we were considering moving here) is up in Picacho Hills, at the other end of the city. From here, you will get a view not only of the mountains but of the city as it starts to light up for the evening.

If anyone out there knows why, please feel free to share. I’m curious!

Wind Storms Through New MexicoThe first time I was in a dust storm that blocked out the sun, I felt like it was an apocalypse. I was driving down one of the busier streets in our town, talking to my mom through my headset, and noticed it was starting to get darker… and darker… and darker… until it seemed like night in the middle of the day. But unlike the blue-black sky of night, it was a murky, dirty brown sky. Dirt pellets and small rocks hit my car; actual tumbleweeds blew across the streets, victimizing whomever or whatever happened to be in its path.

I remember saying, “Uh, the sun is completely blocked out of the sky.” And my mom asking, what on earth do I mean, an unfathomable experience for East Coasters, who only know high winds to be part of hurricanes.

But today is one such day where the typical bright beautiful blue New Mexican sky turns an awful shade of newspaper pulp. Here’s how it happens: first it starts out a little breezy in the morning, then picks up by midday. By 1pm, I have to make my first round of pick up items at risk of blowing away — a seat cushion out of the pool, a pool float pressing up against the side of the wall separating our backyard from our neighbors… I start to see items swirling around our yard, not ours, but new visitors such as plastic, paper, or pieces of garbage, dancing in the air — and I hope they will move on to land somewhere else but here. Little piles of desert dirt begins to pile up at the seams of our doors and windows. If you walk outside, you hold your breath or risk breathing in a mouthful of it.

On the horizon, the dust storm, clocking in around 30 mph I hear, turns what is usually a clear view to a blanket of grey that wiped out my view of our entire town. I can no longer see two blocks away. The sun is out, but there is a haze that covers it completely.

It is an unusual thing living in a place that is overtaken by dust — where you have to hold down pool covers with rocks, move outdoor furniture against the house, and hope your kid’s plastic swing set doesn’t fly into the neighbors yard.

The wind will die down tonight — it usually does once the sun goes down. But, it will pick back up tomorrow. It might even get up to 60 mph, they say.

One of the most amazing things about living in a small town in the Southwest is the amount of land still undeveloped. Coming from the densely populated New York suburbs, where towns bump right against one another, having land still in its natural state in between stores like Kohl’s and Lowe’s in unfathomable.

There are many of these plots of land in Las Cruces. Creosote bushes between banks. Sand between sandwich shops. Tumbleweeds between townhouses. (Ok, just kidding, there aren’t sandwich shopS.)

At first, this imagery as I drove through town was like misfiring neurons in my brain. Why were these lonely pieces of land left out of the development pie? What does this town need that should be built here. When would they be built?

And one that gives me the most pause: What would this town look like in 20 years from now?

The excitement of what is to come is also tempered by a sadness of the deterioration of the natural beauty of the desert. Today, roads are paved to the desert’s edge and abruptly stop, as if to say, “That’s enough for now, folks.” But one day they will continue and the desert will be consumed by people.