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!


New Mexico's Zia

The zia is used on the state flag.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about symbols and how they get integrated into our surroundings. The reason this is on my mind is because in New Mexico, one simply cannot avoid the zia. It is literally everywhere. It is in store signage, on building exteriors, embedded into tile floors, on t-shirts, on the state license plate, and of course, the state flag. It is surprisingly ubiquitous.

Zia means “light” in Arabic and is also the name of an indigenous Indian tribe in New Mexico. What else is ubiquitous in New Mexico? Sun. Sunshine. Bright, blazing sunny sun sun. So that connection, I get. But I wonder: do builders or designers feel so impassioned by the state symbol to include it in all facets of our surroundings?

This is the aspect that I find most interesting — how the zia is integrated into both home and commercial buildings. Nowhere else have I lived can I think of a symbol so omnipresent that multiple houses on one block proudly showcase the same symbol. I mean, you don’t walk down a block in New York and see depictions of Lady Liberty in the ironwork of people fences or in the trim of their homes.

I have decided to start capturing the images of zias as I see them walking around town. I don’t have to go far for the first photo. Right in our entry, there is a zia design made of tile in the floor. Welcome Home.

 


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.