1. You actually miss the cotton blizzards of July.
Though you had to take Claritin every hour of every day for what seemed like an eternity, the swirls of cotton from the Cottonwood trees floating around you made allergy season a little more whimsical. You’ve never sneezed in prettier conditions.
2. You miss the smell of green chile roasting in late summer.
As New Mexicans we defend our green chile as a lioness does her cub; we fold it into our identity each time we smother an enchilada, a cheeseburger, or breakfast burrito in Hatch chile. Do I have a frozen stash of roasted green chile? Of course! So for any New Mexican, this smell is emotionally powerful. For me, smelling it waft down from the parking lot of Smith’s every August reminds me that monsoon season and textbooks will be here soon.
3. Christmas doesn’t seem like Christmas without luminarias.
It’s a paper bag with a scoop of dirt and a dollar store candle in it, yet it brings magic with it every winter. To a New Mexican returning home, having every home, especially any adobe or pueblo-esque building, trimmed with these glowing farolitos makes you instantly feel all warm and fuzzy.
4. Seeing dirt from horizon to horizon makes you giddy.
After I moved to Denver a friend asked me if I liked my new home, and without thinking I replied, “I’m in love with the light rail, but I miss dirt.”
I missed the geological masterpieces between Farmington and Cuba I grew up calling the Ice Cream Mounds and Cathedral Pass (Turtle Mountain). The blank slate of the desert gives you freedom that a city painted over with buildings and concrete simply can’t. Give me a rusty red and sandy cream striated mesa any day.
5. You crave Blake’s Lotaburger.
Some may disagree with me (they are wrong), but the best green chile cheeseburger IN THE WORLD is made at Blake’s Lotaburger. The toasted bun, perfectly swirled mustard, Christmas chiles (red and green), and maybe a little bacon, is perfection. It’s spicy, but not flame-inducing kind of hot.
6. You miss being able to get lost in nature.
Have you ever driven ten minutes from work and realized you now have no idea how to get home? Now add the sunset to end all sunsets, bursting behind that one obstinate cloud on the horizon; it’s orange, pink, with a splash of purple blending it into the blue sky refusing to say goodnight. The piñon and juniper trees swayed from the warm summer breeze, carrying the smell of someone’s barbeque. Being lost never felt so great.
7. You no longer have access to your favorite salsa.
We all have a favorite salsa. Maybe yours is your grandma’s, but a local restaurant’s holds my heart. I am unashamed to say I go to Si Señor first and foremost for their salsa; the meal is a yummy bonus. This restaurant marries their spicy traditional salsa with the addition of a white salsa—a sour cream and green chile mix not matched anywhere outside of NM.
8. You hoard frybread in your freezer.
Where has all the frybread gone?!
It seems no one outside New Mexico understands what you’re saying when you ask for a ‘Navajo Taco.’ Inside the Land of Enchantment everyone understands your cravings, and might even be able to direct you to a dusty high school gym holding a Navajo Taco fundraiser. There’s something special that fried goodness brings to a taco, stew, or the last bit of honey.
9. You miss the archaeology.
In NM, I lived on land that still celebrates its oldest ancestors; you can’t replace thousands of years of history with a 1700’s building, and call it the same connection. Around Farmington our bigger archaeological sites are Aztec Ruins, Salmon Ruins, and Chaco Canyon, but it is normal to hear about a site being found while putting in a sidewalk, building a house, or constructing a pipeline.
10. You miss kneeldown bread vendors.
I miss driving to Shiprock from Farmington looking for the first kneeldown bread vendors of the season, hoping I would get one before I had to leave my lovely New Mexico again. (I have a bag of beef and green chile kneeldown bread in my freezer too. I’m realizing I have a problem freezing New Mexican cuisine staples.)
11. You miss the mixture of languages.
When I started college in Flagstaff, AZ I didn’t expect to be shocked being surrounded by so many English speakers. I found myself being overwhelmed with comfort every time I heard a few words of Navajo or Spanish.