When you catch a New Mexican glibly saying they are "on Indian time," they're referring to a certain relaxed approach to schedules and numbers that is simply part of the way of life in their home state. But once you leave the urban areas of Albuquerque or Santa Fe and start winding your way through the red canyons of the northwestern New Mexican desert, the phrase seems to take on a new significance.
The enormous, silent sweep of plateaus and sky really does seem to form a landscape that's impervious to time—one that conjures the spirits of those who lived here long before recorded history. As you stand on the edge of a sandstone cliff overlooking the San Juan River, walk through Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon, or study the pattern of a handwoven Navajo rug, don't be surprised if you sense the presence of the ancient cultures that inhabited these places, and lived their lives based on the cycles of nature rather than the clock.
The countryside here has a stark and powerful beauty that has been recognized for centuries. The Anasazi people (whose name in Navajo means "Ancient Enemies") first built their cities and roads here more than 1,000 years ago. Today, the region is dominated by the Navajo in the northwest, and the Puebloan descendants of the Anasazi, who live closer to the Rio Grande. The two largest cities in the northwest today, Gallup and Farmington, are the legacy of even later arrivals—the traders, soldiers, homesteaders, and prospectors who made this area their home beginning in the 19th century. Today Gallup is a prime destination for Native American art and jewelry, and Farmington, at the crossroads of the entire Four Corners area, is a hub of energy exploration.