I’ve never lived more than a few minutes from the ocean until I moved to New Mexico and it has probably been one of the most difficult parts of living here. I’ve spent most of my childhood refusing to get out of the water, even when my hands and feet were beyond pruned. Even when life is so hectic and busy leaving no time to even see the water, I was at ease knowing it would be there whenever I needed it. I don’t quite have that same feeling living in the South West.
Swimming in the reservoir where our drinking water comes from was a strange feeling at first but the comfort of swimming won me over. I could float in that water day and night. I find more familiarity in water than I do on land. There are minor differences in the water, but even the feeling of the slimy mud beneath my feet remind me of swimming in Shark River in New Jersey when I was a kid.
On our second day at El Vado, while swimming in the reservoir, I decided I wanted to start trying to get to know the land. I swam across to the side I had not yet been and scooped up a handful of clay from the bottom. Stepping out of the water I clasped the clay in my two hands and began to walk. Letting the clay settle and begin to dry in my hands, I set off to walk around the dried reservoir to the other side. The sun baked dried clay cracked beneath my bare feet. After two and a half hours of walking in the hot golden light, I found myself back where I had began; hands numb, pruned, and covered in dried clay, my feet tender, soar, and heavy from accumulated mud. My body was sun-kissed, my dry skin had patterns that resembled the sporadic cracked clay of the land and I felt like I knew the place a little better.
(Documentation photo credit Amanda Stuart)