LAST SUMMER, I SUDDENLY became acutely aware of the swift passing of time. My younger daughter, Grace, would be a high school senior in just a few months and then headed to college. The inevitability of her departure ushered in a desire to make time stand still, or at the very least to wring every moment out of every day. My thoughts went swiftly to New Mexico, the place I’d moved to at 21, when I was just a few years older than Grace, a place where I knew that time could stand still in the singular hush of the wind blowing down an ancient canyon. Besides all that poetry and nostalgia, the state was the home of Breaking Bad, one of Grace’s favorite shows. New Mexico was a place she’d mentioned that she’d like to see. I booked two tickets from Seattle to Albuquerque, and just like that, we were on our way before August could turn to September.
Time was the currency slipping quickly through my hands, and the nature of time in our relationship snapped into focus as we drove our red rental car north out of Albuquerque. As we climbed La Bajada, I realized that we’d been together all day and would be together side by side until we fell asleep somewhere in the heart of Taos that evening. At home, we’d likely eat dinner together and maybe watch a show, but often our time was spent apart, she in her room, I in mine, or each of us out somewhere at distant points in our city. Very rarely since her childhood had we spent days on end beside each other. I stole a glance at her pink-streaked hair and black headphones as she stared out the window at the passing landscape, very much a teen in her own world and yet very much right there beside me. I briefly thought to yank off her headphones and to narrate our passage along the Río Grande with snatches of remembered history from my days at UNM. But then I thought not to push my luck.
We arrived in Taos just as the August sun was setting, warming the adobe walls to a rosy pink as the sky softened. We dropped off our suitcases and walked in the fading light the few blocks to the Taos Inn. As we walked in, a band was playing an old Eagles song in the crowded bar full of men in cowboy hats and women in denim dresses cinched at the waist with concha belts.
“I feel like we just walked into a movie set!” Grace whispered in my ear.
“Welcome to New Mexico!” I said, and my thoughts were filled with victory. I was showing her the place I’d once fallen in love with, and now she was loving it too. Wait until she tries the green chile!
We woke up the next morning in the stunning peace that is Taos. We drank coffee and chai in a nearby café populated by punky baristas and locals reading the paper and trading predictions about the weather. On the plaza, I snapped a photo of her and, looking at it, I was startled. With her dark glasses and pale skin, Grace looked shockingly similar to how I’d looked in a picture taken in front of the Santuario de Chimayó 30 years earlier. I searched for a minute through my phone and found that long-ago photo.
We stood together side by side in the heat with the rush of plaza life swirling all around us, our attention trained on a single point of focus. We were, for just the moment, perfectly still in a fast-moving trip of museums and walks, walks, and more walks down dusty paths and sculpture-lined streets, enjoying bead stores, cliff dwellings, blue corn enchiladas, old friends, late-night talks, a whirlwind tour of the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, and a self-guided tour through the lives of Walter and Skyler White.
As we stood there looking at that photo, it was easy to see not only how very alike we were but also how I had, in fact, conquered time in New Mexico. Here in this moment, I was a middle-aged woman standing beside my daughter who’d soon go off into the world for her own adventures, and yet I was also very much that twentysomething with dyed black hair and dark sunglasses who’d come to New Mexico to find something I could not find any place else.
—Theo Pauline Nestor is the author of Writing Is My Drink: A Writer’s Story of Finding Her Voice (and a Guide to How You Can Too) and can be found at WritingIsMyDrink.com.