During the summer of 2030 I went on a road trip through the Western United States. There was no particular plan, except to not use interstate highways nor to visit cities or towns easily accessible from them. Early August I stayed in Taos, a small historic town in the high desert of Northern New Mexico nestled against the Sangre de Christo mountains.
The cashier at a market chatted as if I were a longtime neighbor, the purchase transaction being secondary to an opportunity to connect. I encountered this openness at a bank, in restaurants, a hotel, virtually everywhere. I shared the experience with a professionally attired woman sitting nearby in a boho coffeeshop.
She said, yes, this is what we are most proud of in Taos: all of us learned to value, accept, and care for each other, which has made possible the progress our town has experienced during the past five years. The better we became at this, the quicker formerly tenacious problems yielded to solutions.
Nature seemed to have invaded the town. Glancing up at random while strolling along sidewalks I was just as likely to glimpse leafy overhanging branches as to view the deep blue sky. It felt as if I could stand anywhere in town and touch something natural within arms length.
I visited the Taos Commons (previously called Kit Carson Park according to a plaque near the entrance) a large open green expanse. Tables surrounding a small fountain, with chess board tops, were occupied by people of all ages challenging each other. At the far end of the commons was a group of young people cheering raucously as one of them struggled to complete a ninja warrior obstacle course.
The buildings in town seemed to eschew straight edges and square corners, giving the impression they had been lovingly fashioned by hand from natural materials foraged in the nearby foothills of the Sangre de Christos. Even the New Mexico Institute for Deep Ecology, housing a dozen research labs, hugged the ground with a collection of similarly organic-shaped, single-story interconnected buildings.
A driverless black shuttle with white lettering silently glided by the main entrance every 10 minutes, which explained the absence of cars around the buildings. Walmart, McDonalds, Forever 21, Marriott and other familiar businesses were reticent to reveal their national brand identities, instead doing their utmost to offer their services unpretentiously as neighbors.
Businesses were fronted bylandscaped pedestrian and bicyclist resting places with benches instead of parking lots (I noticed again the frequent black shuttles passing by front entrances.) Each of these places, patently created to encourage random social encounters, contained illustrated plaques or art pieces chronicling some aspect of Taos’ deeply rooted historic traditions.
Children appeared to have claimed the entire town as their playground, chasing each other, playing hopscotch in the pedestrian-only downtown streets, and hide-and-seek in the flowering shrubs along the sidewalks. I wondered how anyone could find and round them up for supper.
My most vivid memory is of the unconstrained exuberant children, they are truly the heart of Taos. By no better measure than an innate knowing that the town is their inheritance, is the promise of a very bright future.
Magaziner lives and writes in Taos, N.M.