I love New Mexico skies, maybe more than anything else in the world. The sky feels endless above the desert, bright blue stretched as far as you can see. At night the stars make me feel small in a good way. In a desert night, the universe feels vast. On that scale, my own problems aren’t so overwhelming.

My name is Cathy and I’m a new reporter here at the Chieftain. I’m originally from Las Cruces and got my degree at UNM. I spent the last two years working as a reporter in Mississippi, a very green place with tree canopies always overhead. Backcountry roads in Mississippi often feel like a tunnel between windblown trees. The dappled sun across a dirt road is beautiful. But Mississippi skies are mellow, the sunsets painted in pastels.

The entire two years I couldn’t stop talking about the New Mexico sky. I used to joke that I talked about New Mexico like an ex-girlfriend. At least one friend got very tired of my soliloquies on the desert sky. He’d simply roll his eyes any time I mentioned the stars.

There is apparently actual science behind my preference for those dazzling New Mexico sunsets.

Clean dry air, low population, high elevation and clear skies all make it easier to gaze at stars here. The atmospheric elements in the southwest are a perfect recipe for brilliant sunsets. I’m going to be honest though, despite much googling, I don’t totally get the physics behind when dust and pollution enhance a sunset versus when they mute it. One thing is very clear, the sky overhead.

Needless to say, I’m thrilled to find myself back in the Land of Enchantment and excited to get to know Socorro.

More than the sky, I missed the people in New Mexico. The pandemic made it impractical to travel home for a visit over the last year. Until April, I hadn’t been in the state since 2019.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve been driving up and down I-25, bouncing from Las Cruces to Socorro to Albuquerque taking care of moving and new job logistics. There’s always a lot of labor involved in a move. It starts with the ceremonial sorting of the things, wondering how you even accumulated so much stuff in the first place. I puzzled over why I accepted a free armchair that weighed a ton, when I lived on a second floor. The washer and dryer had to be sold. Boxes were packed, at first with thoughtful care, then with a kind of frenzied abandon. A trailer was rented. Then I spent two days driving the 17 hours back home.

When I moved to Mississippi in 2019, I did it abruptly and left a lot behind, literally and metaphorically. I packed everything I could fit into my tiny car. The rest was handed off to friends or family or donated. I didn’t give myself much time to say goodbye. Then the pandemic happened, and I regretted leaving in such a rush. For this move, I gave myself a little more time to say goodbye to my Mississippi friends.

I know my own isolation from loved ones was not unusual in this pandemic. It’s been a very difficult year to be a person. While necessary, COVID prevention measures include avoiding those things that make us most human: gathering together, holding each other, sharing space. I am so grateful to be vaccinated and optimistic about what the summer ahead holds. There’s a sky full of possibilities overhead.