I grew up surrounded by the desert and understood that the river, poor as it was, gave us what we needed to survive. Sadly, in this part of the world, we are too used to thinking of the river as the line that separates two countries.
But the river is a river. And a river always gives life.
My mother, Eloisa, comes from a long line of New Mexico farmers. She was raised around farms and crops—corn, chile, cotton, pecan trees.
The ebbs and flows of growing seasons ruled the lives of my mother’s ancestors. Planting, irrigating, hoeing, picking. Every season ushered in a different kind of work.
My father had a farm when I was a boy. I remember those years vividly.
We were poor and yet somehow I felt intensely alive, surrounded by chickens and hogs and cotton plants that grew to be taller than I was. My father always grew a patch of sugar cane—his gift to us. We would spend lazy summer days chewing on it. My brothers and I made a game out of seeing who could spit the farthest after we’d sucked out all the sugar from the cane. Boys and their games. There are remnants of that farm that still reside in the crooked corners of my heart.
Even though our family long ago abandoned the farm, the last days of summer have always called us back to that time. This is the season for harvesting green chile.
And every year our family gathers to celebrate the harvest in our own particular way. The celebration involves work. Of course it does. In our family, work is what we know. This year, my brother Jaime roasted the freshly picked green chiles. Me and my sister, Gloria and my nephew and my sister-in-law spent the better part of Saturday peeling the chiles. My mother expertly washed the chiles, and then took out the sterilized Mason jars. She watched over the pots of chiles and the tomatoes boiling over the stove. The only seasoning: salt.
The first batch ready, my mother began filling the jars. And then the cycle was repeated. All day. And then the next day too.
Two days to finish our work. By Sunday evening, all the jars were filled.
There will be enough to see us through the winter.