A Thousand Miles from Nowhere

Matthew - Darien, Illinois
Entered on April 25, 2008
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: hope

Dwight Yoakam once sang, “I’m a thousand miles from nowhere.” Apparently, he was at my relatives’ home in the desert of New Mexico. The desert was a barren area. Tumbleweed rolled by, like it did in the old western movies. Cities were rare, and even they represented the emptiness of the desert. However, despite its disappointments, the desert showed me the opportunity and hope that exists in bad situations. Unfortunately, there were many disappointments.

The few cities in New Mexico were like the desert, empty and devoid of life. The landscape itself was a palette of neutral colors; the dirt is light brown, the cacti are grey, and the mountains on the horizon are a dark brown. There were few animals, and even less people. Many of them were impoverished and drove old, rusted pick-up trucks. Their trailer homes were scattered throughout the desert and reminded me of the “Hoovervilles” of the Great Depression. Most of the jobs were labor-intensive; many men work as gas drillers, ranch hands, and even hard-rock miners. Mexicans on the side of the road sold chilies that they had dried on the roofs of their old, run-down shacks. The town closest to my relatives’ house was Hillsboro, population 300, which boasted itself as a “ghost town” and an artists’ haven. The whole desert seemed empty and poor. Just being there gave me a sense of despair.

Then it rained. It was a scary rain, with lightning flashing and silhouetting the mountains in the distance, and thunder booming and rolling throughout the hills. The arroyos, ditches in the mountains, turned into raging whitewater rivers. However, this anger and energy brought life to the desert. Flowers bloomed on the cacti, changing the landscape from boring shades of brown to a vivid canvas of pinks, reds, and yellows, and the grass, saturated by the rain, turned the hillsides a lush, bright, green, reminding me of the Irish countryside. It was an astounding transformation of the land. Even the people became upbeat. The artists were taking advantage of the event to paint and photograph the new landscape. The rainstorm turned something bland and ugly into something beautiful.

When I think of the desert’s dramatic change, it reminds me of the hope and opportunity that exists in the most desperate of situations. Just one thing, a rainstorm, was able to transform the desert. Similarly, one event can change a person for the rest of their life. Things like receiving an education and having a better, safer home, can permanently improve one’s life. Perhaps if the impoverished people of New Mexico, and the rest of America, were able to be get these things, they wouldn’t have to sell chilies on the side of the road just to scrape by. I believe hope still exists for these people, and that with the right help, they can put themselves in a better situation. I believe that like the desert, they too can blossom.