"Getting old and the fear of dying—I just want to be doing something all the time." -Brent Matlock, Boise, Idaho

Rio Chama serves up wilderness New Mexico style

Silence hovered like rainforest humidity over the lower Rio Chama in the sandstone desert of northwest New Mexico. The river slowed, its barely-audible currents lapping at shoreline grasses, and thousand-foot maroon cliffs took form against an impossibly blue sky.

The quiet of the lower Chama was both distant and distinct, with a quality easy to notice and impossible to define. For the couple miles the river lazily worked past the Monastery of Christ in the Desert there was a presence to the place that seemed more than the sum of its parts.

Perhaps it’s the power of suggestion because the monastery certainly begs some sort of reflective reverence, but even pious scholars who have visited Christ in the Desert acknowledge it is in large part the wild that fills their spiritual wells.

“This is one of the places where I go to pray, rest, walk, swim in the Rio Chama, ride horses, and reclaim my inner peace,” writes John Dear SJ in the National Catholic Reporter. “The landscape never fails to astonish me. The red and yellow cliffs, the cottonwoods, the sagebrush, the stern mountains, the wandering hawks, the bright sun, the pressing silence and expansive solitude.”