Meanwhile, day after day, I marveled at all the things that seemed uniquely New Mexican. Restaurants, stores, streets, and offices rife with the language of Spain. Towers of smoke arising from weeds burning in ditches in March. Remote country roads peopled with the faithful walking toward Catholic shrines in the week prior to Easter. Iron jetty jacks gone to rust in dead floodplains beside the Rio Grande. The pastoral charm of Albuquerque’s fields and orchards quenched by irrigation canals and ditches: Rio Grande capillaries bearing the snowmelt of Colorado’s Weminuche Wilderness into urban neighborhoods. Freddy Fender lounging beside his tour bus at a Border Patrol Station south of Alamogordo, displaying what the late John Prine might have described as an “illegal smile.” Hard-packed desert soil perversely repelling beneficent summer rain. Tumbleweeds orbiting clumsily in a powerful dust devil. The arroyo, the Southwest’s mysterious idea of a creek, chronically empty yet refusing to go to grass, weeds, brush, and trees, to go away.