Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

A left turn into the past

It’s not just the destination, it’s the road.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, when I travel to the South Valley campus, I drive through a time warp. No, I don’t slingshot the Enterprise through a gravity field at warp speed; it’s just a simple left turn from Rio Bravo onto Isleta Boulevard.

Depending on the route I take, the drive up until that intersection is fairly industrial or very industrial – when the freeway is congested, I take Broadway south to Rio Bravo, and that’s very industrial, with warehouses, petroleum tank farms, and such like.

The intersection of Rio Bravo and Isleta is itself very modern, with a shopping center anchored by a major supermarket, and about a dozen fast-food restaurants (all but one national chains), and a big convenience store/gas station.

But then I take that left turn onto Isleta. Within two blocks, the shopping center and fast-food places have vanished from my rearview mirror. The road is a winding, narrow, two-lane strip of asphalt, leading through thick stands of cottonwoods. By the time I’ve gone a half mile, I’m out in the country, on a road that feels very much like a British country lane, peaceful and rustic. The road goes by ancient adobe farmhouses, a feed store and blacksmith shop, a bait shop, an old-timey tire shop, a convent.

Sure, I don’t want to over-romanticize. Many of my students at South Valley are dealing with social issues such as poverty and teen pregnancy. (An interesting statistic I recently saw – the South Valley has a very high rate of teen pregnancies, but not so much of unwed pregnancies – family values are big here, and the guys’ mothers and aunts make sure they live up to their responsibilities. And, yes, I do know that having the [not necessarily teenage] dad marry the teenage mom isn’t always the best choice, but it does seem to work well here.)

Part of the character of the South Valley is its rural heritage. Many families raise chickens or goats or alfalfa. On little farms such as exist here, there is no way a family can make enough money to make a living. Instead, the people have to work a regular “real” job to earn the money that the family can live on. But they can keep chickens or goats as a hobby, and they can then have eggs or milk or cheese for themselves and to share with friends.

Another special aspect of the South Valley campus is the closeness to nature. The campus is in the bosque, close to the river. The very first week of classes, I had a golly-gee-whiz startling moment. It was the first Monday of the semester; I didn’t have any classes that day, but I had gone to the campus to learn how things work there. About sunset, I was heading home. Isleta Boulevard was in deep shadows from the cottonwoods, but the setting sun lit up the sky above. Suddenly, a squadron of sandhill cranes, in V-formation, passed over the road just in front of me. While I was in darkness, the cranes were just high enough to catch the light of the setting sun, and so they were gilded with a fiery golden-red glow. They were close enough that I felt I could almost touch them.

There are forces afoot that are likely to change the character of what I have observed. For example, the traffic load on Isleta is far higher than the road is supposed to handle. It’s scheduled to get a major overhaul, going from a meandering country lane to a four-lane-plus-left-turn thoroughfare. Sure, I’ll get to work a few minutes sooner. But I won’t have time to notice the cranes.

2 Comments:

Blogger mg said...

Every once in a while its very nice to hear a lovely view of New Mexico~ Very nice post :)

Wed Mar 01, 04:49:00 PM MST  
Blogger nbk said...

I loved this post. I can see it.

Wed Mar 01, 05:57:00 PM MST  

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