I am of sacred land and earth; the same mixture of silt, straw, water and clay in which the roots of the plants we grew were used to build the walls of the house in which I was born.
I was born on land over which the river used to flood, carrying renewal with nutrients from the north. Before it was called by a colonial name, the river was known to each community differently; mets’ichi chena, said the Keres, posoge, said the Tewa, paslápaane, said the Tiwa, hañapakwa, said the Towa, Tó Baʼáadi, said the Navajo. As a child, I never considered the possibility that people once drank the river’s murky waters. Twice a week my father would lead us to the Culligan water store, where nutrients and renewal came in the form of two blue raspberry snowcones.
I arrived in the southern river valley much too late to have seen the ebb and flow of the flood, but the sacred land fostered new types of cyclical movement. I got here just in time to have seen the ebb and flow of pious and patriarchal families, driving to church on Sunday, beautifully dressed for their weekly dose of shame. I got here just in time to have seen the ebb and flow of schoolchildren, walking down a road with no sidewalks, shuddering every time the roar of an oversized truck enveloped them. I got here just in time to have seen the ebb and flow of yesterday’s schoolchildren, trudging down the same road with no sidewalks, on their weekly pilgrimage to receive a type of sacrament only available at the holy methadone clinic.
I am of sacred land and earth. My body grew because of the same mixture of milk, blood, mud and honey that were used to build the walls of the house in which I live.
Some who are born here are dug out from the earth. Like ancient archaeological artifacts, their exact age and function is often unclear, but their otherworldly traits are fascinating to outsiders. Some who are born here are drawn up by irrigation pumps from deep underground wells. Like the water, they arrive cold and pure, with wisdom and energy accumulated over thousands of years spent underground. Some who are born here float down from the sky. Like the countless bits of cotton that fill the wind in spring, their movements are unpredictable, but the intention behind their presence is clear. When I was born here, I was made from a mixture of silt, straw, water and clay. Like an adobe brick, I was laid in an open frame with standard dimensions and baked for years in the high desert sun.
Noah Allaire is a linguist and a bicycle mechanic who was born and raised in the South Valley. His interests include environmentalism, hip hop culture and localism.