Off The Beaten Path

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New Mexico’s Turquoise Trail

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Peace I find along roads less traveled

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In this day and age the quest for inner peace is a constant dynamic for some, existing in the backdrop of everything we do, and often remaining hit or miss in the duration of the life continuum. “Holiday” might just be the time it takes to rest or otherwise divest of those things “worrisome”. At a minimum the concept might facilitate momentary immersion into another stream of consciousness.

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Lately I have become accustomed to speaking about transition from a hard day’s life in terms of New Mexico. “New Mexico” as a less cumbersome way of living; and dependent upon choice of location, free from the traffic of cars and people. The ultimate release from a career of day job “gone wild”. Calm and without consequence. This specific reference was couched in terms of doing this or that to get to a this quasi-retirement in New Mexico — quasi because of the Photography and the fact that I still require food. A place more suitable to unbounded creativity manifested through natural states of artistic expression. To become better in tune with nature and its Spiritual connects, long submerged in blind ambition; ambition now refined to a quest to make a difference in some meaningful way that lasts.

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Why NM? New Mexico was an anomaly – the unknown factor of a place frequently imagined. “Laid back” and void of temporal confusion. A place where creativity might blossom – and sale. And having already discovered this in the slightly more uptight (and often politically incorrect) Arizona, there is nothing more awe-inspiring as a southwest sky unless it’s a Serengeti sunset.

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True to form my first view of the outskirts of the airport at Albuquerque was nothing less than spectacular, reflecting a scenario of low hills distinguishing the Southwest from other places I might be. And if I can’t travel everywhere at least I can commit to memory a representative sampling of the diverse beauty this world has to offer. In this case a quick opt-out-of-freeway offers a slower pace, scenic route of Highway 14, also known as the Turquoise Trail, named for early Pueblo Turquoise and recurrent mining industry.

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The sign off I-25 to 40 East was easy enough but I swiftly became lost, a familiar “fear” of trip. It has happened frequently during my travels — strong (and gratefully temporary) feelings of foreign and alone; reconsideration of why you came, contra to the intrepid nature of meticulously planning every detail of a much sought-after holiday. China, Tanzania, Egypt are more exotic examples if immediate regret, then regroup. The tide passed – as it always does, followed by a distinct wave of familiarity and euphoria at the wonderful opportunity ahead; gaining solid stance on traveler’s feet.

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At 1:46 in the afternoon it’s a quiet place as if plucked from disparate terrain and supplanted to another — remniscent “Outer Limits” or a plausible NM facsimile thereof. Just over the hills was the usual urban confusion of highway and routine human existence. Straight ahead was road and landscape – minimalistic, yet inviting. Not constrained by intermittent cars with sunglassed people glinting light to the still of a midday Sun; taking advantage of the convenience of an open road but not as taken as I with the expanse of foothills placed deliciously before me.

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In the midst of my epiphany, a cell phone rings. Startled because it doesn’t seem technology should work here — or maybe within the realm of imagination, it really doesn’t. On the third ring I learn it is my daughter just returned from the Dominican Republic. Thinking me home, she has phoned to share her trip having forgotten my plans for travel in the whirlwind of her own.

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Somewhere, along the side of the road near Tijeras, I shared my perception of a heightened state of consciousness. I felt like I could think…I could write…I could breathe; perhaps like this is where I should be. My grown daughter listens to my ranting, as she always does when reason gives way to philosophy and hopeless romanticism. She is supportive of my thought process, though frank, as she asserts that a continuation down the current stress-laden path will generate an unnecessarily early end and failure to achieve the objective presented by this new, improved perspective. Translation: “If you don’t make a change, you won’t make it to retirement”.

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Remarkably I agree and pledge to consider her Wisdom further at a more convenient time. “Gotta go(es)” and “Love you(s)” return me to the here and now of my camera and its wondrous view. I stopped many places along the road to Santa Fe. Fascinated as much by what was not seen as what was, detaching myself from the accoutrements of modern civilization in the process. Notable were the adobe church and coutyard, mining remnants, western storefronts and galleries of Los Cerrillos, and the remarkable vintage of the 1835 adobe of the San Francisco Catholic Church in the town of Golden. I even considered coming back for next-day 4PM mass, thinking the experience would truly wax meaningful in this seemingly ethereal environment.

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After all this wanderlust there’s a brief intro to Santa Fe in Madrid, an artisan community where galleries line the road as prelude to the city view soon to follow. But its not a swank gallery environment as perceived in Santa Fe, but individualistic; a glimpse of the people who didn’t just come to visit but came to stay, presumably in search of tranquility, free expression and life simplicity. A lack of complete buy-in to the possibility of artistic sell-out.

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This would be the first leg of a New Mexico experience and despite the many highlights I felt the territory miraculously uncharted, awaiting my arrival. Of course I believed my perceptions sharpened as well as my closeness to the Universe — and its Supreme Artisan. See what a little quiet reflection and endless expanse will get you?

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Armed with my speculations on relocation I continued my own very personal quest for enlightenment in the Land of Enlightenment, further down a Turquoise highway and amid the artful canyon roads of Santa Fe. And although I spent three fantastic days sampling a Southwest environment that it wouldn’t take too much to love, my greatest memories of the trip will always be my arrival and its stark contrast to an overly busied life.

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On the wall of a robust office environment is a picture of a rustic pastel door framed in adobe beckoning to a courtyard predicting flowers. Decorative scene or symbolic gesture? I like to think of it as an ever-present reminder that there’s always a welcome, midday view waiting — patient, along a Southwest trail.

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And persistent need to get back soon.

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All photographic images (non-video) are © Pamela Kelly Phillips,
PK Phillips Photography, 2012

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