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New Mexico As a Writer’s Retreat

Shiprock, New Mexico

Shiprock is a widely recognized natural icon of New Mexico. photo from Wikipedia and taken by bowiesnodgrass

Mountain  Retreat

Recently, I just left the state of New Mexico for greener pastures hopefully on the coast of California. For the past winter I was gainfully employed as ski lift operator in the Sangre de Christo Mountains of northern New Mexico. During the course of the winter I got to watch quite a few winter enthusiasts come cruising down the mountain slopes, as well as make a good number of runs on my own. Northern New Mexico was double blessed this winter, for the area received bountiful amounts of fresh snow, while other places in the country went dry, most notable Colorado, Utah and California. My winter mountain retreat along with the occasional trip into town to buy groceries and visit a bookstore gave me more than ample time to contemplate my current situation. Fortunately, some of the time was spent looking at western writers, especially those who spent any sizable amount of time in the “Land of Enchantment”, as New Mexico is sometimes called.

Santa Fe Trail in Cimarron, NM

Sign in Cimarron, NM marking the Santa Fe Trail, photo by Billy Hathon courtesy of Wikipedia.

Historical View

If the Santa Fe Trail had not become so important, today, New Mexico would probably still be a Spanish-speaking part of Mexico. As it turned out covered wagons that traveled overland from the Midwest brought with them an enterprising and industrious traveler that settled into many parts of the state. As a result a brisk trade resulted between the new English-speaking arrivals and the long-standing Spanish and Indian residents. It is generally agreed that just about all parties benefitted from this exchange, which helped to create the modern state of New Mexico.

A British Writer Visits New Mexico 

Perhaps the writer, who most put New Mexico on the literary map was he far northern D.H. Lawrence. The British writer spent about a year in the far northern reaches of the state near present-day Taos, while he penned “The Plumed Serpent”, a twentieth century novel that takes place in Mexico. A piece of property was lent to Lawrence and his wife, Dorothy Brett, so that the British writer could finish the novel. Several other minor works were worked on or completed while the couple lived north of Taos near the Colorado state line. Eventually, the University of New Mexico acquired the piece of property, which is officially known as the D.H. Lawrence Ranch.

Other Writers

Though it has been almost a century since Lawrence lived here in the “Spanish State”, only recently has the place seen the success of local writers. Regardless of their place of birth, such writers as Natalie Goldberg, John Nichols, N. Scott Momaday, Rudolfo A. Anaya, Jimmy Baca and Leslie Silko have found a home here in New Mexico.

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