If you’ve ever looked at a Maxfield Parrish painting and wondered if the vivid colors depicted in his skies are pure flights of imagination, then I doubt you have ever been to New Mexico.I lived east of Albuquerque for about 10 years, on the edge of the Sandia National Forest in a small community along the scenic Turquoise Trail that winds northward to Santa Fe. When I first arrived, I would step out onto the deck each evening, drink in the kaleidoscopic sky, and marvel at my great good luck to be in this amazing landscape.It’s a fact of life, however, that human beings are quick to habituate to their surroundings, even when the sky at end of every day looks like the psychedelic dream palette of a Fauve painter.

I know this, but I was still shocked when, after only a couple of years of residency in the Land of Enchantment, the truth of how easily the fantastic becomes commonplace hit home. I was driving into the sunset with my mom, who was visiting for the holidays from St. Louis. Lost in my own thoughts, her gasp brought me back to the present with a jolt. I automatically tapped the brakes and looked frantically for whatever I was about to hit… but there was only empty asphalt ahead.

“What! What’s wrong?!” I said, completely confused.

“Nothing’s wrong… but, oh my god, is it always like THIS?” Mom replied, with a tone of awe in her voice that didn’t make the situation any clearer for me.

“Is it always like what?” I asked, truly befuddled.

“The sky! Look at all those colors! Are the sunsets here always like this?” she wondered in a hushed tone, almost to herself.And in that moment I was brought back to beginner’s mind, and really saw the sky and my surroundings again.

“Oh,” I said, feeling a bit stunned now myself by the depth and intensity of the hues splashed across the horizon just beyond the windshield, and not a little chagrined that I had been so oblivious. “Yeah, most of the time it is like this.”

“You get used to it.”

“Unfortunately.”[Thanks to the following photographers for making their work available through the Creative Commons license: Thomas Hawk, Colin Gallagher, Mr.TinDC, Howard Holley, Jodi GroveThomas Hawk, and Mike© 2017 Sidewalk Zendo. Reprints welcomed with written permission from the author.]

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