Editor’s Note: This is the concluding part of an occasional series of personal reflections by Jewell on the challenges and rewards of making a new life for herself and her family in Sierra County.
My family and I have been here in Truth or Consequences for a little more than a year now. I think we’ve settled in quite nicely, especially seeing as we’re in such an interesting time in our society. This feature was meant to be an occasional review of my family’s decision to move here from Virginia and how our plan to start a new life in southern New Mexico is progressing. But it’s been so long since my last installment, I’m not sure where to begin. It seems as though every update here or on my blog has started the same way with “so much has happened since my last entry.” Between my kids, my efforts at developing friendships for myself and family, my business, my expanding food forest, and dipping my toe into community activism, I’ve kept pretty busy.
When I last wrote in May, I was preparing for my “Mama and Child” show at Desert Archaic Gallery on Broadway in downtown T or C. The show was, in my opinion, a pretty huge success. It had been a long time since I basked in compliments and comments on my work. My paintings and digital creations seemed to connect with people, perhaps because they had some vague but good memory of being held by their own mothers. My work has been up at the gallery ever since. It’s so nice to have a home base, a place where I can direct people to view my work. There are so many local talented artists who show at Desert Archaic and in this town with whom I have gradually been connecting.
It feels good to have a sense of belonging.
I also had select large abstract works on display at the T or C Brewing Company this summer. Seeing as the brewery’s one of the more thriving, popular spots in town, having my paintings there felt like another way to introduce myself and my art to the community. Once again, I received some high praise and that has definitely driven me to keep creating. Although I’ve not really sold much, having my work visible to a greater audience, rather than hidden in a box in storage, feels like an accomplishment.
Since June, I’ve also been taking part in the Sierra County Farmer’s Market which is held at Ralph Edwards Park each Saturday morning. It has been so nice to meet lots of people there and see their support for local small businesses. Because the market is devoted primarily to produce and food vendors, my friend Lala Magpiong, a fellow artist mama (she makes fabulous jewelry and body and home adornments) and recent T or C newcomer like me, began brainstorming different ways to both support each other and local creatives and crafters.
While there are many brick and mortar businesses that show local artists, it can be a bit difficult to figure out from the outside what might be the best fit for one’s work. Another problem is the part-time nature of so many of these retailers. During the pandemic, store hours have been especially inconsistent, but I visited this town for more than a decade before moving here and cannot recall a time when encountering closed signs everywhere was not an issue.
So Lala and I decided to support and celebrate the local creative community by starting a maker’s market called Makers For Makers. So far, the market has been set up at two events, one in July at Ralph Edwards and the other at the Pickamania concert series at the Black Rangel Lodge in Kingston. Our next markets will be held on October 23 at Hot Springs Glamp Camp, and then on November 13 at Healing Waters Plaza, both in T or C. (For more information, click here.)
During the past year plus, most of us have been living in seclusion, marinating in our own brilliant ideas, hopefully resting as well as contemplating what we would like to see change from the former normal. I recognize my privilege here and know that, sadly, times have grown harder for many. Many others have died. I’m not trying to make light of the events that have taken place, and what is still a very real threat, but I think that now many of us can more easily recognize the broken parts of our society and how toxicity and complacency have become so normalized. We have caught a glimpse of the possibility of a life less ordinary.
I hope that other young individuals and families such as mine discover this town’s potential. I’ve heard about hopes of branding Truth or Consequences as a creative, healthful and environmentally conscious community, and I’m on board. I believe in fixing what’s broken, and slow, meaningful change and growth. My passions are my family (and local youth), my art (and the art of others) and the environment (globally, but especially locally). There are so many other things I’d love to tackle, but I think I have to focus my efforts on those three main areas. I will continue to fill my days driving these passions forward, personally, professionally and civically.
As for my envisioned food forest, I must say it’s coming along nicely. I’m now taking in kitchen scraps from five households and two businesses for compost. My worm farm is prospering. I’m up to 20 food production trees planted, though none fruited this year, I have been eating the leaves of the moringa. We’re still picking strawberries in October. I seeded out the greenhouse last week, and things are already starting to sprout.
This was my first full planting season, and it went a lot better than planned. I’ve harvested around 20 pumpkins, maybe 100 strawberries, a bunch of cherry tomatoes, maybe 30 small potatoes, a few sweet potatoes, two zucchini, maybe a dozen cucumbers, hundreds of green beans, maybe 30 pea pods, spinach, kale, four radishes and so many peppers. It’s obviously not enough to live off of, but I’d call the garden a success. So many things just gave up. I was warned that navigating desert gardening is a process. Well, the advice I received was actually more like “everything you grow will die,” but I knew to take that with a grain of salt.
Everything has not died, and I hold onto hope that my garden will not only survive, but thrive in the coming years. This town sometimes feels like it’s in survival mode, but I know it has potential to thrive, as well. In the next few years, I’m sure T or C—and my garden—will be abundant and full of life.