Life is for doing and enjoying, not for having and acquiring, owning or gaining. The way to really live your life is to realize this truth and get on with enjoying the amazing things in the physical world, whatever your position is within it. The most beautiful things in the world are not owned by anyone.— Girlosophy
I always had the impression I was a city woman. Really, this impression made no sense. I grew up in a farmhouse built my great-grandfather, placed upon two acres of land surrounded by either corn or soybean fields depending on the year’s rotation. You must travel upon at least two gravel roads to arrive to my family’s lane. Perhaps that is the very reason why I felt I was a city girl. I had a constant rebellion against what I only knew; boxed in the country life, stifled within my humble community. Big ideas and liberal outbursts weren’t what most kids my age were into, and my extroverted tendencies led me to believe the city could offer me more opportunities than any farmland ever could.
It was until graduating college and living in Indonesia for a year that I realized I was a country girl at heart. I fell in love with the island beauty of Indonesia: the bounding seascapes, raging rivers, tropical jungles, and wildlife, plant-life and aquatic-life beyond any midwestern girl’s imagination. My heart expanded with every afternoon spent on a deserted beach and the drives on my moped through winding, beautiful palm trees and shores of bodies of water often left me without words. My Papuan host family on the other hand were completely fascinated with Iowa. “Tell us about your home,” they would say to me. When my Iowan mother sent my Papuan family a book of Iowa photographs they were thrilled, always bringing it out to house guests so they could see the pages of corn fields, tractors, expanding sunsets, and cows grazing. Through their love of my land, and my equal appreciation of their land, I learned to not take for granted the roots I came from. I embraced the Iowa girl that I obviously am.
Traveling north from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, then onwards to Taos and a small, rural community called Lama, I was reminded of my intuitive desire to be rooted upon wild and open lands. As the train plunged further north the population obviously lessened. City visit memories began to fade and my heart seemed to open to nature, once again, calling me home.
Clear air, mountains, gorges, plants, blue skies, birds, giant spiders – no matter the creature, I was excited to see it because it was natural, placed on the earth for a reason that the city seems to forget. Upon driving into Taos, my friend CJ and I went to an event by The Aldo Leopold Foundation. An author, educator, philosopher, ecologist, and early wilderness advocate, Leopold also understood the beckoning of the ground: “That land is a community is the basic concept of ecology, but that land is to be loved and respected is an extension of ethics. … We can be ethical only in relation to something we can see, feel, understand, or otherwise have faith in.” Listening to this lecture was the perfect introduction to the community of northern New Mexico.
A sun-soaked mountain backyard of natural wildlife and mountain air greeted me Friday morning. Still in my pajamas, I grabbed some shoes and with camera in hand trekked through the dewing wilderness with the most well-mannered dog I’ve had the pleasure to meet. We examined each particle of silhouetted weeds, and watched the way sun rays reflected off golden cyprus leaves. I was home again, in a land I had never been.
Nature completes me and reminds me of the world outside of the hustle and bustle that I passively claim having some kind of importance to my life. I sync into the fast-paced city life with too much ease, forgetting the sincere joy and pleasure I receive from the wild world. Once in nature, I remember how and where I belong on the Earth. When I find myself in the open air it’s as if I can finally breath again. My shoulders feel lighter and my smile shines brighter.
Hiking the canyon walls of the Rio Grande Gorge later in the morning I knew that an important reason I began the journey of Rae on the Road in the first place was to satisfy my wanderlust, but within that I realized it’s also to satisfy my intense desire to find home, whatever respect that may be in. This natural paradise was a new home, and although I was only there for a few days it will be within me forever.