As we broke through the clouds, the city of Albuquerque revealed itself, light pouring in from the precipices of its foundations. Stretching from the Sandia Mountains and hugging the winding turns of the Rio Grande River, every sporadic glance lead the eye miles in each direction. On the horizon, the condensed city lights gave off a hazy glow of places in it and beyond it. From this vantage point, one could see that this city was built out, not up, like in the cities back east.
This was my father’s home and it was different than mine. Adobe and stucco replaced cape and saltbox houses. There was more sand than grass. Mountains and flat mesas replaced hills and dense forests. This place was painted with a different color palette, giving each aspect of it its own personality. Though different, it still was just another place, just the same as mine, growing and changing.
It had been about two years since our last visit to the Valley and with each visit, as in this one, the urban sprawl continued to make new ground, enveloping the surrounding areas.
My father, who gets to visit his home as infrequently as we do, embraces the changes with both sadness and awe. Driving, he points out fields he once played in that now house large urban developments, and small water pools that the neighborhood kids of his day would venture to, now dried up or filled in. One poignant reminiscence came from a water tower he used to run by every day. It was a visual certainty in his life as he would go for his morning run. The water tower was always there, marking the halfway point in his run. To the tower and back. A parking lot was now in its place.
On this trip we had a couple of days to explore and go out into the town. We decided to see a movie. As we approached the massive IMAX theater, my dad was in disbelief.
“A movie theater in the Valley? I would have never thought. And look! A sushi place! If you told me that this stuff would have existed here as a kid…It shouldn’t be here. Sushi in the Valley…”
A lot of this went over my head because I did not grow up there. I would never be able to experience the place before it had changed, but the notion that certain things come to pass, change with or without you, was interesting. It was clear that the current status of the city was a far cry from the streets, fields and pools that my dad had grown up with.
Now living in Boston, hours and hours away from the place he grew up, my father missed the changes that went on back home. This may seem like pretty standard observation, but it makes an interesting point about the nature of development and how we experience it. Thinking in conjunction with my last column, where I spoke about art and how we perceive it around us, I began to wonder what had changed more, my place or my father. Using him as more of an analogous form for everybody, I would say that he did, moving to a faraway land and dealing with people composed of different worldviews and mindsets. Descending upon the city, he found that not only had the landscape changed, but so had he.
I spoke of seeing the beauty in the world in my last column and I focused a lot in finding those things in plain view all around us. In many ways, I neglected to mention the more important variable. Ourselves. When our dispositions and demeanors change, we change how we see things. For my dad, the place of his childhood outgrew him. The changes on the landscape marked a change not only in the place, but in him as well. Without the water tower to look to, the place felt foreign. In many ways it was a new man visiting a new place.
I think Alice, from Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, sums it up nicely.
“I knew who I was this morning, but I have changed a few times since then.”
Featured Image By The Associated Press