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  • Writer's pictureKeith Stacey

A western border, where it all began.

Updated: Nov 24, 2021

Chama, New Mexico and its surrounding wilderness that my soul calls home...

Home is a tricky word. As a kid 'home' was in Middle Tennessee. It was the house I slept in and ate meals, experiencing the familial love of a young family. However, at some point in my early grasp of consciousness, a family trip to visit my mother's family in New Mexico impacted the depths of my psyche and my being. Mom is from a tiny town called Chama, just a few miles from the Colorado border, surrounded by foothills and majestic peaks of the Rocky Mountains. We always drove out there; a two day trip. As soon as the car made its way north of Santa Fe, deep mystical magic took a hold of me. Red landscapes of canyons, mesas and ridges turned into evergreen and aspen adorned mountains. And all of this was VAST. Breathing in the high mountain air of nearly eight thousand feet elevation spoke of this magical vastness. Listening to the mountain breeze in the distance was a beckoning. Just as waves crashing on a beach draw people to the water, those alpine whispers called to me. Then there was the high country snow. Christmas trips meant that the itty bitty lowlander kid from Tennessee was going to walk to my grandparents door with shoulder-high snow to my left and right. Winters up there had their own smell. The chimneys in the small village of Chama added a unique aroma of welcome to the air. None of these descriptions stem from a single moment or memory, all of it was absorbed organically into my being.

As I got older and began hiking in the backcountry with my uncles; those men know that land like their own backyard. Thats where I really began to discover the life-giving soul-fueling magic of the high elevation back country. The Wildness as many call it (including John Muir). Adding to the mystique of the Wildness, there's the old steam railroad, Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. Before you skip ahead to avoid boring train-nerd talk, just know those old steam engines have been rooted in that wilderness since the 1880s, and the lonely whistle bellow from those locomotives only add to the spirit of those mountains. And long before the railroad was a thought various Native Tribes knew the mountain ranges and valleys long before the Spanish began exploring that country in the 1500s. So theres something in the air there that impacted me as a young'n. And still does. The spirit of the Wildness is all over the place, though. Every continent in every corner of the earth. In the modern age, for better or worse, it requires intentional pursuit to find it. I'm simply fortunate that my mother grew up in a tiny village at the base of the Wildness. BUT, living and growing up in Tennessee while always feeling a draw for Chama and all of Northern New Mexico/Southern Colorado caused me to rarely feel "at home." Here at the age of thirty three the "at home" 'feeling' meets me in mountainous, secluded places...home is where the heart is, right?

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