2015 Convention Stories

Enchanted by the Land

Kayla FreyKayla Frey
President, Alpha Mu Gamma Chapter
Rockhurst University, Kansas City, MO

Growing up in rural Illinois, seeing the same flat landscape can limit the scope of knowledge a girl has. I had never been west of Kansas City, but I had seen visions of "cowboy country," glorified in paintings, country songs, and John Wayne movies. People would hear of my upcoming trip and tell me how beautiful it was, how gorgeous the mountains were, and how stunning the land was. I couldn't understand the fascination people had with the land, the mountains, and the sun, so when I heard the convention topic of "Borderlands and Enchantments," I was baffled. What could make the land so important to be the heartbeat of our convention?

mountain viewHowever, the physical act of driving fifteen hours from Kansas City to Albuquerque was perhaps the most eye opening experience I could have received. The land started as I had been used to it. The flatness of Kansas spread into Oklahoma, a normal landscape for me. Then came the area surrounding Santa Fe, sometime around the deliriousness of hour twelve, which brought mountains so abruptly I wondered how I could have missed them. My fellow chapter members ridiculed me for my obsession, but I was, surprisingly, enthralled. The sudden ridge of earth, the blue haze, and the plants stuck somewhere between death and life captivated my attention, and I finally understood the paintings, the country songs, and John Wayne movies. Arriving at the convention, the culture of the west filtered in through the adobe buildings, the native American presence, and the ever present mountains looming in the background.

Going to listen to Simon J. Ortiz, I heard his words in a different light than when I read them in the Midwest. I heard in his voice the passion the people have for the land, and I finally understood their connection with it. The convention theme began for me as a label. "Borderlands and Enchantments" seemed to be a lifeless, broad statement. Now I know the talk about the west isn't just a marketing ploy. It is so widely discussed because that is the focus of life. My previous excursions had brought me to places to see human-made objects like museums or historical houses. I have never been so drawn to the actual land and the earth as I was in Albuquerque. There was truly one word for how I felt: enchanted.