I’ve been parked in Las Cruces, NM for a month as I did minor repairs to Blanche (my 17’ Casita travel trailer), relaxed, and enjoyed time with my widowed brother and my niece.
Today I prepped to leave to get back on both the literal and figurative road. I am eight pounds heavier (thanks to Las Cruces cuisine, cold weather, and two pounds of leche quemada). I’d hoped Blanche and Betty would be a few pounds lighter when Christmas gifts and hand-me-downs were offloaded but I got a few gifts in return so…
As I drove out to run pre-trip errands, I made an internal observation that had been flitting through my mind for some time, despite the near-opposite climate and environment, there is a single, overarching feature of Las Cruces that is reflective of Surfside Beach.
As one drives in and around this smallish city (about 4X the size of Lake Jackson, TX near Surfside Beach) one can forget to see the beauty. One can grow so accustomed to it, even in just a month, that the soaring, sky-scraping teeth of the Organ Mountains and the low, crouching hump of Picacho peak become little more than landmarks for travel. “There are the Organs, I’m heading east.” Or, ”There’s Picacho, I’m heading home.” Instead of, look at that! That’s beautiful! The way the clouds are hugging the peaks. The way the sun is shining on the foothills. The way the orchards light up in the sunset below Picacho.”
In Surfside, I would work some (many?) days and drive home, exhausted by not so much the work as the emotional toll, endlessly picking up the same styrofoam plates or plastic water bottles that other humans didn’t seem to mind throwing on our beach, and crash into my rented house without ever considering how beautiful the beach and the gulf are and what those entities brought to my soul. There were many days I did stop and stare and revel in the beauty. Perhaps not enough, though.
For the past month, I have found a few days to go exploring in the nearby canyons or walk on the pathway near the Rio Grande to reflect and appreciate the beauty around me. Unfortunately, I have also hidden inside Blanche and isolated a good deal as I try to sort through life as a whole.
I find, as I did in Surfside, that when I am in the gentle cradle of loved ones who mean to protect and nurture me, I am my weakest. A lifetime of both depending on others and providing emotional ballast for them has left me a simple mind and empty spirit. I have forgotten how to do for myself. I have forgotten how to think for myself. My grasp on learning and memory is tenuous at best. When I look up at mountains or sea, I look at a void and throw my voice to it only to have it fall away as If into a vacuum.
When I look at such beauty, in a place, a thing, or a person, I just don’t hold on. I can’t hold on. I know if I do, I won’t let go and I will never move on to what awaits me.
I clung to Surfside Beach for a long time. It took perhaps too long for me to leave because I didn’t want to let go of my birds, my former home & friends long lost to my ex, a job to which I felt obligated, a man I had grown to care too much about, and, lastly, a beauty with which I was afraid of losing that intimate contact.
Truth was, I held the beauty of the beach like I held the beauty of that certain man, as a personal flotation device to keep me alive and bobbing on the sea indefinitely. Neither could keep me thriving, so I took one last look and drove away.
I will leave Las Cruces in a similar manner, knowing that to stay longer is to cling to something beautiful that keeps me afloat but doesn’t help me thrive.
I have spent a lifetime doing for everyone else: going or not going, being or not being to suit others. Tomorrow, I will take a last look at the Organs and say goodbye. I know I will be back just as I will return to the upper Texas coast. For now, I will drive toward I don’t know what, honestly. I will note that the Organs are there, stalwart sentries in the east, as I head back to Texas.