On The Road: New Mexico

But in looking back at the
places I've been
The changes that I've left
behind
I look at myself to find
I've learned the hard way
every time. . .
~Jim Croce~

Reebs Bay, on the north shore of Lake Erie, a land far away.
Reebs Bay, on the north shore of Lake Erie, a land far away.

Intro

A long time ago, in a land far away, a seventeen year old know-it-all whippersnapper had it all figured out. There had been raw upheaval in his life—physical, emotional, spiritual—but he would handle it. He'd simply suck it up to do what had to be done.

Influenced by the Disneyfied excitement of Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett, along with a healthy mixture of Bonanza and Gunsmoke, he had a trailblazer mindset and independent streak. Zane Grey had recently made tracks in his imagination--it was obvious that all things of the old west fascinated him. He was a reader and thinker who'd already perfected the trick of disappearing within himself.

In the winter and spring of 1973 he had a head full of big ideas, a heart inflamed with a passion to help others less fortunate, and an abiding aspiration to change at least one little corner of the world. An opportunity to join a Summer Service program came to him. He filled out an application and listed his top three preferred locations. He wrote a biographical testimony, provided profile pictures, and requested recommendations from adults in his circle.

After submitting the necessary paperwork to the sending agency, he waited with all the patience of a thoroughbred stallion pawing the ground in the starting gate. He haunted the big green mailbox at the end of his street, demonstrating a vigilance that bordered on obsession.

Then one day in mid-March he received a package of information, which along with preliminary orientation material, included where he was to be assigned. His first reaction was predictably knee-jerk and none too pleasant. He had put the Navajo Mission in Bloomfield, NM as his first choice, but that was not where he was going to be sent.

It was to Camp Brookhaven, a place in upstate New York that ministered to inner city children from the Bronx. The news rattled him because he'd been hoping, praying, believing, and fantasizing that he was on his way to New Mexico for an adventure reminiscent of cowboy heroes. In the language of the era he was bummed out bigtime. Not for the first or last instance, he was undergoing a meltdown in his relationship with God.

Grandma & Grandpa Major
Grandma & Grandpa Major
Ken & Anita - 1973
Ken & Anita - 1973

A Question

I knew that young man well, for he was me inside a daydreamer's skin. As I recall, I did a great deal of grumbling, which got squashed and put into perspective when I had a cup of tea with Grandma Major. She was a gentle soul who possessed scads of practical wisdom forged by a faith that was real and lived out in ways that impressed and impacted me.

We were sitting at her dining room table. Late afternoon twilight shadows were creeping through the quiet house. She steadily listened to my whining about where I really wanted to go—she even let me render great details about how badly I felt God had missed the mark, and then, in a tone that still rings in my ears, she lowered the boom.

"Kenny, tell me something," my grandmother said, peering over the top of her glasses with an expression that commanded my attention. "Where'd you ever get the idea that you could tell God what to do?"

That shut me up. It's a question that over the years has hit me upside the head more often than I care to admit in these pages. For the summer of 1973 the matter was settled.

Grandma Major was exactly right, and I had much to learn. For starters, I soon discovered that our Creator has an understanding that transcends our capacity to comprehend. I cannot imagine how incomparable and hollow life would've been had I gone to Navajo Mission in 1973—if that byway had been taken then I may never have been the benefactor of the Almighty's matchmaker services.

At Camp Brookhaven I met a strawberry-blonde college girl from the wilds of Pennsylvania, and as used to be said, we became a hot item—we were the couple of the year and received a blue ribbon award to commemorate that fact. After more miles than can be counted, more teardrops and laughter than can be measured, and more stories than can ever be told, Anita and I remain partners in all things—we dream the same dreams and reach for the same mountaintops.

Plaque on Kit Carson home in Taos.
Plaque on Kit Carson home in Taos.
Marker for the Rio Grande River Gorge Bridge
Marker for the Rio Grande River Gorge Bridge
Rio Grande River Gorge
Rio Grande River Gorge
Anita in the middle of the walkway over the gorge, with vertigo setting in.
Anita in the middle of the walkway over the gorge, with vertigo setting in.
Same place, same thing for me. Looking down was a dizzy experience.
Same place, same thing for me. Looking down was a dizzy experience.

38 Years Later

It was raining on Raton when we crossed the border into New Mexico. The windshield wipers were at high-speed, swishing back and forth with a mad intensity that caused me to take my foot off the gas pedal, and squint in an attempt to see better.

In a moment all was clear—we passed through the cloudburst. The sun was brilliant on the other side of the heavy downpour. A shimmering curtain of bright sunbeams greeted us.

A thrill that mere words cannot adequately convey chased through me. Excuse me if this sounds too religious or a little bit on the kooky side, but it was as though, after thirty-eight years of endeavoring to get here, God was welcoming me to the enchanted wonder of New Mexico.

Behind my dark sunglasses pools of salty moisture welled up in my eyes, and as I blinked, tiny droplets trickled ever so gently down my cheeks. Sometimes the sheer marvel of the goodness of God's provision is vivid and overwhelming—w hy he allows me, a coarse and crabby man steeped in a zillion contradictions, to be in fellowship with him and behold a demonstration of his grace as it breaks into my consciousness is way beyond my feeble reasoning powers.

We stayed in Raton that night, in the midst of a range that the Spanish named Sangre de Cristo because the red colors blending over the mountains at sunrise and sunset reminded them of the blood of Christ. Jubal Sackett, a fictional character, referred to them as the Shining Mountains. Whatever one calls them they are awesome.

The next day, not too many miles west of Raton we crossed the Canadian River. An unspoken wisecrack made me smirk: I'm just here manifesting my destiny. The main rivers of New Mexico are the Rio Grande, Pecos, Canadian, San Juan, and Gila.

We traveled to Bloomfield following Route 64 the whole way, which took us through sections of Carson National Forest. It honors the frontiersman Kit Carson, whose legendary exploits as a pathfinder were marred by his brutal treatment of the Navajo in the service of the U.S. Army. Taos was his home base. It became a town where artists settled, and nowadays it's an important stronghold that staunchly nurtures the presentation and preservation of Native American culture.

In antiquity the area of Carson National Forest was inhabited by the Anasazi people, who left ruins of adobe dwellings, artifacts, and near-mythic mysteries for archeologists and anthropologists to unravel. We drove slow, stopping to take pictures or just to have a closer look whenever the mood struck.

The diversity of the topography is definitely too much to take in and process all at once. Seeing photographs or watching a documentary doesn't prepare one for seeing the terrain up close. Around each bend in the road there was another surprise to grab us. Rocky crags jutting from the mountainside, and then just a few miles later a vast meadow plateau budding with wildflowers amongst patches of snow banked beneath stands of evergreens.

The animals, which all moved with undisturbed ease, were a bonus that I had not anticipated. We saw dozens of pronghorn antelopes grazing in scrubby grass beside the road.

A herd of buffalo were minding their own business munching on breakfast in a field not more than fifty feet from Route 64. By the time we parked on the shoulder and got in position to take snapshots, most had meandered down into a gully. One big bull remained, but it turned its backside to me as the pictures were taken—still not sure what message the beast was sending me.

In the village of Eagle's Nest, of all places, we saw a single bald eagle perched atop a telephone pole, appearing to be a lonesome sentinel on guard duty. A few miles further along, a pair of golden eagles held vigil on fence posts.

On the last day of our cross-country trek there were also lots of prairie dogs and an innumerable number of hawks. As the wildlife and scenery passed by the windows, the search for adjectives to chronicle the rugged beauty became constant—stunning, remarkable, majestic, towering, gorgeous, windswept, barren, magnificent, immense. The dictionary fails to offer a sufficient description. The vast artistry of the Creator is truly breath-taking. More than once I was moved to proclaim anew a phrase that shaped me by weaving its way into the fabric of my make-up: My God, how great thou art.

These musings are merely my first impressions, but I suspect reflect a fair assessment because for unbeknownst reasons, I was blessed with reliable instincts and discernment. We look forward to exploring our surroundings and soaking up customs and folklore, though realize we'll likely miss more than we see—the land and people are so rich in history that we will only ever scrape the surface. We come as sojourners and seekers to serve and grow.

A view from our front step.
A view from our front step.
A view from the backyard.
A view from the backyard.

Closing

Where'd you ever get the idea that you could tell God what to do?

Thirty-eight years after first asked, it still needs to be considered and evaluated. Not sure what can be said while gazing upon snow-capped mountains in the boundless distance or staring at a starlit sky that is a sparkling canvas stretching past forever above the desert.

The ancient words of the Psalmist spring to mind: The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.

It is humbling to be here. Whether we ever grasp it or not, life really is about what God desires to do in and with us—he invites us to be players in his story, to be threads laced into his tapestry. To answer the question Grandma Major poked at me long ago and far away is to remember my smallness in comparison to the One who from everlasting to everlasting is drawing all things together for his purposes and glory—an honest appraisal also produces awestruck recognition that despite my hardcore stubbornness God is at work in my life. That astounding phenomenon never fails to stir my soul to sing a joyous song. And so goes the journey.

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Comments 27 comments

Jo_Goldsmith11 profile image

Jo_Goldsmith11 5 years ago

This is evergreen! Bless your heart! ~sometimes I need a little reminder of who do I think I am to question or command God. I know in my life, I have to tell myself on occasion that it is all in God’s timing and when my spiritual self is ready to handle the responsibility. God will give me the lesson. Really touching hub! Useful/funny/awesome and Beautiful! Voted up...Continued blessings for you and your beautiful wife! :-)


Doris Swope 5 years ago

Awesome!!


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 5 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Jo - Thank you for your kind comments & for voting it up. Blessings.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 5 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Thank you, Doris.


John Weavere 5 years ago

God's timing . . . now there's a lifelong study! Your journey reminded me of some times in my own life when my view of my journey was correct, but the timing was wrong. Thanks for sharing the blessing of your writing (musings).


The Frog Prince profile image

The Frog Prince 5 years ago from Arlington, TX

I gave you a 3 star Ken. Excellent account of something that has made you the man you are.

I think we need to speak shortly about this ongoing project. Harlan has my number so if you'd like, you can get it from him. Also Jim has it. Or e-mail me here and I'll shoot one back to you.

The Frog


Motown2Chitown 5 years ago

Ken, the Lord Himself often speaks to me through your words. I've been trying to tell him what to do for years, and it isn't until very recently that I've learned to shut up and just listen. Sometimes, listening is a difficult process because the answer is so often silence. You and Anita seem to have the listening part down. I pray for that. Peace to you both as you take part in this amazing journey, and thanks to you for chronicling it for the rest of us. Awesome, beautiful, and heart-wrenchingly honest. Again, thank you.


The Frog Prince profile image

The Frog Prince 5 years ago from Arlington, TX

Motown - I tell people all the time to just be quiet and listen. Think of nothing and the answers will come. Great comment.

The Frog


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 5 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

John - Thanks for stopping in & sharing. Glad you enjoyed the visit. Blessings.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 5 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

The Frog - Thanks, man. I appreciate your insights & comments. I'll shoot you an e-mail in a couple minutes.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 5 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Motown - Thank you for your always kind & gracious words. They're always encouraging to me. Listening & waiting are likely the most difficult aspects of our faith-journey. It's no wonder that all through the Bible we are told to wait patiently for the Lord. Also no wonder why Tom Petty wrote, "You take it on faith, you take it to the heart, the waiting is the hardest part. . ."

Blessings & much encouragement to you.


Dave Mathews profile image

Dave Mathews 5 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

Brother Ken it is always great to be out and about on the raod with you across the USA. I have seen more of the US. through your little stories and pictures than I could ever learn by taking trips myself, for I could never concentrate on driving and scenery at the same time. Thanks Bro!


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 5 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

You're welcome, Dave. Thank you for your always encouraging words. Always, always appreciated. Blessings.


heart4theword profile image

heart4theword 5 years ago from hub

Ken, like the hat! Don't see many blue skys like those anymore?(without chem trails, that is) Thanks for the walk...through your path of words:) Very nice!


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 5 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

heart4theword - Thanks. Yes, the sky is pristine blue & is just endless. And gorgeous. Blessings.


Oldyeller3 5 years ago

Nice Ken, just think, you needed 38 years to prepare you for New Mexico, I imagine there's an important job to be done. He has his plan's, enjoy! Send my love to Anita and pat Gus for me.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 5 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Thanks, Daniele. Time will tell.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

I think people often think that they can tell God what to do.Good that you recognized otherwise.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 5 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

dahoglund - Thanks for stopping & sharing.


Cari Jean profile image

Cari Jean 5 years ago from Bismarck, ND

Trying to tell God what to do hasn't worked to well for me either! I love how where you didn't want to go is where you met Anita!! God is good!


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 5 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Cari Jean - Yes, God is good all the time & all the time God is good. Blessings.


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas

Wow...a great opportunity to fulfill that curiosity of so many years ago...guess God didn't forget about it, huh? You have a wonderful ability to see the world as the gift that it truly is to us each and every day. New Mexico has many vistas which display that gift so well and put us in touch with the nature of God. I truly hope you and Anita will find this a rewarding journey Ken...God Bless! WB


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 5 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Thanks, Wayne. Thank you for kind words. I appreciate them a great deal. So far so good. There's so much to see. Blessings.


RevLady profile image

RevLady 5 years ago from Lantana, Florida

"Whether we ever grasp it or not, life really is about what God desires to do in and with us--he invites us to be players in his story, to be threads laced into his tapestry."

This is indeed the bottom line truth.

Thank you for sharing your travels with us which affords us the joy of vicariously experiencing His glories.

Forever His


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 5 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

You're welcome, Saundra. I'm not sure we ever comprehend that bottom line truth, but there are moments. . .

Thank you for stopping in & sharing. Blessings.


Rachelle Anderson 5 years ago

Love the white cowboy hat, I guess that means your a good guy if I understand anything about westerns! Thanks for sharing your story with all of us. It helps us to feel like we are in some way part of your adventures.

Blessings,

Rachelle


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 5 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Thanks, Rachelle. Good to hear from you. Just for the record, I HAD to wear that white hat when I spoke at New Trail Fellowship Cowboy Church in Abilene, KS. BUT, for a country boy from the wilds of Wainfleet, I think I pull it off pretty good. Blessings.

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