Wednesday, December 9, 2009

New Age

30 October 2008

Dear Belle, I got back yesterday evening--it was a long day, I covered 400 miles, was close to New Mexico, and did three small-scale surveys. I took the attached photo (with my new camera) northeast of Trinidad, just a mile or two west of the Santa Fe Trail. The Sangre de Cristo Mountains are in the distance. As I approached this spot, I realized there was a small herd of antelope ahead of me, which you can see in the distance.

Earlier, I had been driving along the Purgatoire River valley. There are some very small towns and some houses, but I saw almost no one, no cars. The fall colors (cottonwood and aspen) were spectacular. It occurred to me that it was one of the prettiest places in North America, although not well known--not a tourist sort of place. I thought about taking a photo there, but I was in a hurry to get to my destination, so I didn't stop.
[Unfortunately the photo John enclosed, the one I would have wished to post and which as I recall showed an abandoned rail line ending at a vanishing point within a desolate landscape, is no longer on my computer.]

Dear J... I was inspired to take a couple of photos for you on my walk this afternoon. You saw a herd of antelope, I see whitetailed deer, though not today. No abandoned rail lines, but an Amtrak train heading north. The Catskills are my Sangre de Cristos, a mountain range I had never heard of.

I found Walsenburg on the map, but Heath and Earl weren't on it. Before yesterday I had never heard of Trinidad, Colorado, but this morning when you wrote that you were just NE of there I thought, yeah, Trinidad, of course - I know just where that is. And not far southeast - whoever knew there's a Des Moines, New Mexico?

Imagine all the toil and misery that went into building the rail line in that Heath photo you took. Was it Chinese or black slave labor? My god, talk about Purgatoire - worse. I am intrigued that there are two abandoned houses there. I wonder who lived there - the station agent perhaps, in one house, but who in the other? - and what it could have been like to live there. I picture a woman, about to hang laundry outside to dry, pausing to grimly survey the vast empty landscape. (I'm haunted by the lone tree at the horizon.) I wonder if with peak oil, there might be a new age of railroads. Perhaps the Missouri-Pacific railroad can be dusted off and revived, and a bit of life might once again return to Heath.

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