Land of Enchantment, Land of Contrast: New Mexico, the Land of “The Cult Cop”
The most striking works of art and photography (as they appear to my eye) are those which play upon the stark contrast between light and shadow, between all that is revealed and all that is concealed. The same dramatic contrast may apply, as well, to people, places, and literature–especially in stories involving mystery, suspense, and the hot and cold motivations of human beings.
New Mexico, suitably called “the Land of Enchantment,” is a model of contrast–of light and dark. And New Mexico is a dramatic character in itself within the novel, “The Cult Cop.”
It is the land of the mystic. It is the land of the no-nonsense, work-a-day laborer. It is home to makeup-forgoing, sun-worshiping, crystal-wearing neohippies and wannabe Indians.
It is home to bonafide Native Americans, particularly Navajo women, who find amusement–and puzzlement–when they regard their white sisters who have made the arduous trek from L.A. in order to brave the harsh wasteland of the Santa Fe bistros and expensive brightly painted false-adobe condos.
It is also home to bikers, druggies, backpackers, dog walkers, birdwatchers, cops, gang members, and practitioners of religions, cults, sects, and whacked-out who knows what… and, in my novel, a transplanted urban dweller named Jack Salter from Jersey.
It is a place where, while snowdrifts cover the ground, the dry climate permits you to be comfy in short sleeves. It’s a place of ancient petroglyphs, the remnants of the little understood Anasazi people who mysteriously vanished eons ago. The petroglyphs are also a source of irritation to West Coast commuters who wouldn’t mind bulldozing a tunnel through the glyphs and have proposed doing just that.
Massive mountains with timber and craggy peaks formed the eastern border of the city. A deep irregular chasm divided the mountains, foothills, and city from the flatland that extended westward to a far line of hills so faint that they faded from his vision intermittently. Three black projections suspiciously resembling volcanoes broke the west side’s uniform appearance.
Jack’s appreciation of the land’s harsh beauty competed with the uneasiness that, as a long-time city dweller, he felt with the vastness around him.
Hastings, who sat beside Salter, commented upon the scenery from over Jack’s shoulder. “The Sandia Mountains. Ten thousand foot elevation–don’t go up there for a few days, until you get acclimated. You’d get the worst headache of your life.”
Listen, Jack, I’m a Presbyterian. Have been since I was old enough to know how to spell it. I don’t have anything to do with cults–not directly–although as a physician I may encounter things that make me wonder about the hobbies of some of my patients. However, I can tell you that, in this town–in this state–there is no lack of religious diversity. New Age spiritualists from California and Santa Fe sleep with crystals under their pillows and search for ‘positive energy fields’. The Indians–those that weren’t Catholic on the reservations, worship the moon and the earth–and maybe a few hundred other deities, depending on the tribe. The Catholics–the Spaniards–settled this town–or more accurately–stole it–from the Indians. Most of the Hispanics here are Catholics, although the Baptists have staked a claim and are getting big in these parts.”
“Satanists. We really should have some of them, too. We’ve got everything else.
It is a land of contrast, of light and dark, of enchantment.
(Excerpts from “The Cult Cop” Copyright © 2015 by Howard F. Clarke)
This article Copyright © 2015 by Howard F. Clarke
Original photographs by, in order, taliesin, johnlindsay, mensatic (last two photos), courtesy morgueFile.com