Driving from Arizona to New Mexico we stopped in a small town to stretch our legs. We'd traversed already a lot of ground. So many miles of the same kind of terrain--the type of terrain where a cow needs a whole acre to graze just to find enough little blades of grass to survive.
The town had no trees. None. Coming from a landscape architecture background, I am always curious about what grows where, and how a place could be made more beautiful by the world of plants. How could an entire town not have a single tree? Don't these folks know how a tree can change the soil, cool the ambient temperature, absorb pollutants, increase property values, and provide habitat for a broader variety of animal and insect species... I mean!
We left town. I spent about an hour devising how sometime in the strange future I'd go to the town council and propose some change. Trees would save them!
As we continued to travel north, the more I looked, the more I noticed that in New Mexico, folks just live right in the dirt. Walk out the back door and step straight into the dirt. Do the people take their shoes off when they go indoors, like in Japan? Or do they just traipse across the kitchen floor in their boots, stomping dust into the tiles, where it changes the color of the grout from off white, to dirty brown? Why don't they surround their homes with trees to provide shade? Where are the front yards with blooming perennials, mulched to keep the moisture in... Where is the picnic table or fountain in the backyard? The lawn for the kids. The swing hanging from the cottonwood?
At the same time we're driving north, my mind is criticizing the usage of a word that folks are employing more and more... "curate." Have you noticed it too, this word, curate?
Just like when I was pregnant and suddenly I noticed pregnant women all around me, this has been a season for me being triggered by social media curation, "curators" of color, style, aesthetics, and the word is everywhere--used in instagram posts and on blogs, and it's seriously bugging me.
...because we are not museum pieces.
And because words have power.
Even pre-teens these days talk about their "aesthetic." Of how they present themselves to the world. I had a conversation with young girl about her instagram grid, and how she's only willing to post dusty, atmospheric images because she's cultivating an aesthetic that incorporates her clothes, her accessories, even the music she'll share on spotify. She's ten.
We have moved into an age of exhibitionism that hasn't been possible until now. We used to show up in person--all of us--where the friend next to us could see our shoes to our balding heads--where pimples were exposed--our wide hips or knobby knees visible. Those features were difficult to hide. But now?
"Curator." Someone in charge of an exhibit.
"Exhibit." To show publicly, especially for purposes of competition or demonstration; to display something for public inspection.
We traveled all over northern New Mexico. Pecos, Taos, Espanola, Santa Fe, Chimayo. I noticed more trees in the wealthy areas where the houses were much bigger--where the walls were taller, where there was an undercurrent of money and fancy, curated interiors. Places that could be photographed and end up in a magazine. I fought with myself not to like these places better. But they were easier for me to understand and didn't challenge my western worldview... I noticed that about myself.
I'm a critic. As an editor, I'm a critic. As a writer, I am a critic. But because of this training, my critical mind has creeped into criticizing other aspects of life--I fight this urge--to watch a movie and then want to pick it apart. Or listen to a homily, and edit it in my mind while the priest is still talking...
So there I was, criticizing New Mexicans for not "curating" the landscapes around their homes. And there I was, criticizing people for "curating" their social media accounts. What in the world? Man, I have some serious work to do.
So, I'll write a short homily just for me. I'll edit it, too.
Jane, I'm glad you care about words. (...just please don't care too much about how other people use them...)
Jane, maybe living in the dirt is something you should try? It could be the thing that saves you in the end. But I also think that if you move to northern New Mexico, it's okay if you plant a few trees. (...just don't tell anyone else that they should...)
Jane, clearly you need another cup of tea.
Published: May 24, 2021 | Filed under: Me