“My name is Bob Nichols… there’s no other place I’d ever live.”

When Bob Nichols said this to me, he had a spark in his eye.
I think you can see it in the video, albeit a bit hidden by the hat he’s wearing.

I see this spark whenever I talk to locals about the Spirit of the Southwest.
When I ask how would they define it, at first they look away, as if trying to look inside themselves to give me a thoughtful answer. And once they start sharing, bit by bit, there’s an energy that starts coming through their words.
I see that spark here and there while they say certain words or describe certain feelings.

There’s also this particular way in which New Mexicans carry themselves, and I can’t help but stare.
When I first saw Bob Nichols, he was browsing through some of the things at this local shop. He was quiet, minding his own business. I could see that, although he was aware of his surroundings, he (it seemed to me) only made the absolute, necessary moves.

The word “dignity” is what immediately comes to mind.

I think I understand a bit more of what those old Hollywood movies about the wild west were trying to capture. And it’s difficult to put into words just what the Spirit of the Southwest really is, or looks like, or feels like.

You just gotta visit…

Maybe I should go back and rewatch some of those…

This is Bob Nichols Ranch, when you visit, tell him I said hi.

 

The little things at the public library…

My mother used to say; “It’s the little things”, when talking to me about cleaning my messy room, talking while eating, or complaining about life. She meant to teach me that small details matter because they are the things that fill our days, and can make the number of days in our lives pleasant, or not. She is a wise woman, just like her own mother, and her lessons have stuck vividly in my mind.

The power of wise, strong women within a family, and in a community is one of those mystical ancient traditions that never fails to stop me right in my tracks, and take notice. My grandmother was one of them, and I kind of have this fifth sense for noticing them.

A few weeks ago I visited my local library, and while chatting with my librarian I saw a side of her I hadn’t seen before; then I realized … she’s one of “them”. Hanging out at “her” library is like hanging out at a friend’s house. They don’t just read there, they commune. There are happy kids there, not just doing homework or connecting to the internet, but enjoying each other.

Sometimes the feeling I get from just walking inside the library is that, at any minute, some friendly face is going to walk up to me with a tray of cookies and milk and ask for me to sit down and just chat. It could be, as the kids who volunteer and spend time at the library are so warm, friendly, and happy. They are Tularosa’s kids.

And the librarian? She doesn’t talk a lot. She’s also warm, and happy. She loves the kids, her job, the library, the future. I think she deeply understands that the job she’s doing is of great consequence. Her demeanor, the way she talks to the kids, the attention to detail in the choices she makes for the library…there is fire in there.

Why do I tell you this? Because I think this is also the fruit of the Spirit of the Southwest. Inner strength, ancient wisdom, deep care, and the occupation of the people who live here to work on what really matters in life.

You gotta visit…

Valley of Fires and Carrizozo, New Mexico.

Screenshot_20171020-091013Carrizozo, New Mexico is about an hour away from Alamogordo and at about 40 mins from Ruidoso. But if you are in Albuquerque you will take a bit over 2 hrs.

I love the drive. The plains early in the morning or late during the evening are just gorgeous.

I think of the wild, wild, west during these drives…The Spirit of The Southwest is definitely for me!

The Valley of Fires Recreation Area has several campsites (some with hook-ups!), and provides access to the Carrizozo Malpais; a petrified lava flow on the west side of the town.

We enjoy bringing our picnic most of the time, but this beautiful, small, southwestern town has several eateries as well. There are picnic tables, and a big shelter with a fabulous view. This is one of my favorite places to picnic with the fam.

We camped here once before and the experience was exhilarating. The darkness, the sounds of the wild, and a feeling of being so close to nature; it could bite me. Glow sticks, finger flash lights and dinner by the fire made for great family time. This was my first time making biscuits in a Dutch oven covered with embers. I felt like a real camper!

It does get quite windy, and during the summer months the sun can be very harsh. We have found that visiting during the Fall is the best time. But don’t skip a visit to the town of Carrizozo!

You will want to visit the Carrizozo Heritage Museum and go back in time to see how life used to be in Carrizozo and the area.

If you are looking for New Mexican Art, you will love these two Carrizozo Treasures: The Tularosa Basin Photography Gallery, and The Malkerson Gallery on 12th street. (Find a map here)

Now, there is a challenge Carrizozo has for visitors interested in a fun activity right after dinner: The Burro Challenge. 21 Painted Burros have been placed around town, and you might be able to locate them all if you keep your eyes open. Share your selfies on Instagram with #PaintedBurros and #Carrizozo

We are already planning our next visit (It’s fall!) and will definitely be sharing more on the Spirit of The Southwest we found in Carrizozo, NM.

The outdoors, natural wonders, and history! Take the virtual tour of Valley of Fires Recreational Area: