Sunday, July 12, 2020

The top of the world at the end of the road

At the top of a dusty track in Lama, New Mexico is a cluster of ramshackle dwellings that mix abject poverty and sublime physical beauty. On a two-hour photo safari we drove north on NM Hwy 522 as if we were heading to Colorado. We live just 40 miles south of the Colorado state line. But on this occasion our destination was a wandering path through San Cristobal and to the end of a dirt road in Lama. It was not our first foray into these sparsely populated and very mixed communities. For every sprawling rancho there are ten double-wides and hippy-built shacks.  The contrast speaks to the vast disparity between the haves and have nots in the Land of Enchantment. New Mexico with 19.7% of its population below the poverty line ties Mississippi for that sad statistic. And Taos County leads New Mexico at 21%. These are not proud numbers.

Still the countryside where the high desert meets the mountains is undeniably spectacular and the reasons that northern New Mexico has been an artist's mecca for 120 years reveal themselves at every turn.

The hodgepodge of decaying adobe and stick built buildings give off a vibe that says you are not welcome. Some places exude danger. I feel it rarely but feel it every time we reach the back of beyond in Lama. But the setting on the sloping shoulder of the Sangre de Cristos brings us back again and again. There’s mystery to the spot, a heady menace in the vast nowhere.

The falling sun cast a glow on the buildings and bathed the hillside in gold. In these images the forest is flecked with light that seems like a dusting of snow. From our perch above Lama the walking rain spread across the Taos Plateau to our west.

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