Text and Photographs
You can walk into the Oasis Coffee Shop and count on finding a table of movers and shakers guys who were born and raised here and all went to high school together pronouncing on the state of the world. If you are an elderly lady and your phone rings more times than your friends think is proper without you answering, a small fleet of cars will descend on your house before you can dial 911.
If you become ill or need help, youll be put on a prayer chain, and people will help you with whatever you need without you even having to ask. When the apricots are ripe, so many bears roam through town that ladies on their way to their bridge game dont even bother reporting them.
Raton is the fuzzy robe capital of the world, a place where the air and water are clean, the nights are deeply quiet, and its no crime to be caught in your robe and slippers at 11 am.
Thats quite a different pace than back in the big city. On most Albuquerque mornings Im up by 5 am, exercising, cleaning the house, cooking; then, by 8 am Im at the computer deciphering email, facing the daily deadline schedule, juggling appointments. In Raton, only the need to change the brown shower curtain disturbs my composure. Its not just that Im busy like everyone else its the quality of busy-ness that is wearying. The work day seems scissored into a crazy quilt of odd bits and pieces that can be fitted together only with great ingenuity. Time must be stolen from an overbearing schedule for a chat with a friend, a trip to the doctor. Work is so fragmented that its difficult to gain a feeling of accomplishment even at the completion of a project, and the daily to-do list is never completely checked off.
The small town pace is far kinder. Setting my laptop on the kitchen table, I feel like a country squire, surveying my acres of time. Theres ample time to concentrate on producing my best work, to stir a pot of soup, to walk my dog to the park. The lack of distractions bookstores to browse, movies I want to see, classes to take, shopping malls to spend money in is actually soothing. A drive over the pass to the Trinidad farmers market becomes an event. In a small town that hasnt become a major tourist attraction, theres even enough time to get bored.
As an East Coaster who grew up in the most densely populated state in the union and spent school and woking years in Washington, D.C., Boston and New York City, I instinctively comprehend urban life. Small town life always seemed somewhat exotic, and my lack of small town residency always felt like a gap in my education.
The cozy little place in Raton changes all that. I am finally a card-carrying member of a small town library. I can walk to the post office, the grocery story, the library or the café. Someday Ill get rid of that brown shower curtain, but for now, theres no rush.
This article originally appeared
in the June, 2005 issue of SAGE,
a monthly magazine of the Albuquerque Journal.
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