Tree, sky 1A hundred decisions during my 65 years led to me stay in New Mexico. But it started with blue sky, red earth and the brush of the wind through the piñons.

I first lived in Las Vegas, New Mexico, after a Norman Rockwell start in central Ohio. Then it was a brief stay in stolid Midwest suburbia before I ended up in Santa Fe.

I remember the drive up La Bajada. I was about 10. I saw the red dirt as we climbed toward Santa Fe. Out of the car, I saw the blue sky, heard the waft of the wind in the short trees. We topped the hill and I saw the mountains with that aspen-covered burn scar on the southwest face. I felt home.

I left again and came back. I stayed because of the sky. Those Taos and Santa Fe painters knew something when they talked about the light. I decided time and time again against going to a bigger city for a bigger career. The experience of a friend being interviewed for a job at the New York Times — “Why did you spend so much time in New Mexico?” the interviewer reportedly asked — burned in my brain. But I also recalled the parting words of a New York Post reporter as he left our New Mexican newsroom after a Los Alamos-threatening fire in the Jemez Mountains in 1977. He had borrowed a typewriter and a phone to file. He looked back over his shoulder as he walked out of the newsroom to return to New York.

“You guys don’t know how good you’ve got it,” he said.

I also have discovered that you could search worldwide for companions but that they would not surpass those right where you are. I have always been a slow learner. And I am glad I have finally learned that I am a very fortunate man for those who surround me now.

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