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  • Writer's pictureT.L. Trent

2023: The Year that Was

The Year That Was


Around this time in 2022, we arrived in Los Alamos. On Christmas Day after what I can only describe as an absolutely harrowing moving experience (including burst pipes and being forced to leave behind so many things we’d wanted to keep), we rolled out of Virginia in -3 weather for New Mexico. We arrived just before the New Year. From there we hopped from AirBnB to AirBnB to a rental flat to finally buying a house and moving out of Los Alamos to the Jemez Mountains.


We are still not fully unpacked.


For me, it’s definitely been a strange year. I feel like I’m living in a different reality than many of my friends and colleagues who have suffered terrible losses, health issues, and difficulties of every kind imaginable against a backdrop of continued pandemic issues, war, and rising political tensions as election time rolls around again for America.


I am, as it happens, very happy. Happier than I’ve been in years. And I feel guilty about that in so many ways—to have found such happiness when so many have it not. But when I look back and think about just how vicious the last decade has often been…well, I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth, as they say. While leaving the land of my birth and all those I loved there grieved me deeply, there was much I was not sorry to leave.


And while the vastness of New Mexico-- the wide-open skies of the high desert, and the precipitous beauty of mesas and canyons--was unfamiliar to me, while being in Los Alamos at times felt like the clock had been turned back to some other part of my life I thought I’d left (namely my graduate years further north in Missoula, Montana), my heart was oddly healed by these things. The first time we went to Valles Caldera I was touched by the sacredness of it, of this great 13-mile remnant of a supervolcanic eruption where elk called in the twilight…and when the house we’d eventually call home ended up not being far from this sacred place, I felt incredibly blessed to make these wild mountains my home.


It hasn’t been easy, especially not for the children. People are definitely different here. There’s a lot that maybe we’ll never quite get used to. But sitting out on my deck listening to the bull elk bugle, watching the Abert’s squirrels and the Stellar’s jay (is there a new name for them now?)—these things are healing my soul in ways I never expected or thought possible. I’m in a near-constant state of gratitude and although this was not at all what I thought my life plan would be, I’m glad we were open to the possibility. Though it was hell to get here, I’m glad we made it work.


I spent a lot of the year teaching, editing, and writing when we weren’t moving to a new place. Though there have been a lot of different health challenges—COVID, back issues, recent foot surgery—I’ve been grateful I could both work on my projects and also be there for the kids as they found their footing in the Land of Enchantment.


I’ve tried to be involved as I could with local writing and it’s been wonderful, though I honestly don’t get to do it enough. I attended the Jack Williamson Lectureship at Eastern New Mexico in April and that was a treat, both to get to drive across the state and to hang out with the talented bunch of New Mexican writers, as well as Grandmaster Connie Willis.


But more than that, I’ve tried to be involved with the ponderosa and the red rock, with the bobcat who makes his trail along the ridge, and the cougar stalking horses and dogs in our neighborhood. A lone Mexican gray wolf made her way up here from the Gila pack and I hope she stays and finds a mate even if that means she’s lost to her subspecies. (Note: They removed her in December, alas). I lie awake at night listening to the coyotes having their convocations down in the valley or am woken in the morning by ravens laughing at our dogs. Rain is magical—I study its patterns on boards and beds of pine needles trying to divine what might be prophesied there.


I watch the patterns of the clouds and stars; I look for people in the rocks. I know I’m privileged to live on sacred land and I plan to use that privilege for the good of all.


And while I may be somewhat disappointed that some of my goals weren’t met, I came so close that I’m fairly certain I’ll get to them in the beginning of 2024.


Early in the year, I took a really lovely workshop given by my friend Angele McQuade. She asked how we wanted our year to end up. “Content,” I said. “I want to be content by year’s end.”


And here I am.

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