Book of the Week
With deep feeling, F. Harlan Flint writes about several facets of love in his new book “From There to Eternity: Alzheimer’s and Beyond.”
There’s Flint’s enduring love for his wife Chris over 60 years of marriage. She battled Alzheimer’s, succumbing to the disease in 2016.
Sections of the book shift in time to tell about the maturing of a young woman into a vibrant, practical adult. She and Flint met as students at the University of New Mexico.
There’s his love for his good friend Baudelio Garcia. The two were neighbors in the far northern New Mexico hamlet of Santa Rita. It was where Garcia lived for much of the year and where the Flints had a straw-bale cabin they visited. As an example of their friendship, Garcia helped build it.
Then in 2018 Flint suffered the loss of his buddy Garcia. He gave the eulogy at the funeral.
“For a lot of men it’s difficult for us to aggressively describe active love,” Flint said in a phone interview. “It’s an active force in my relationship with my wife, with Baudelio and with my affection for the Hispano people especially of the north… .” Baudelio, he said, was the last survivor of the Hispanics who settled Santa Rita into the early 20th century.
He writes affectionately about when he and his wife first met Garcia “… he was a handsome young man in his 30s, not a tall man but he always stood tall. Whether on a horse, a tractor, in his pickup, or on his ATV, his posture was always perfect and his bearing almost military. A man of few words, he was dignified and reticent, but warm and friendly… .”
The description of Garcia makes readers feel that they too are having the same one-on-one fellowship that Flint had with the rancher-farmer. There’s more description of his friend: He had a broad, easy smile, and was “as strong as a horse, ready to toss bales and calves during the annual branding season.” Spanish was Garcia’s first language and he spoke English cautiously.
A third expressive feeling was Flint’s strong affection for the Hispanics of rural northern New Mexico.
To him, Garcia represented the strain of Hispano people “who had the tenacity to carve out a subsistence living in a very difficult place – no running water, no electricity. They were the last pioneers of New Mexico, moving out from Santa Fe to find the rivers in the north.”
They were in search of water.
Among the Hispanos the Flints got to know were the welcoming folks who ran and worked at the Mesa Vista Cafe in Ojo Caliente. The couple usually stopped to eat there on the way from their home in Santa Fe to Santa Rita and on the way back.
A fourth expression of Flint’s love is for the natural landscape of Santa Rita, the patria chica, or small homeland, in Rio Arriba County. The community is at the southern end of the San Luis Valley. The nearest town is Antonito, Colorado.
One memorable, extended passage tells of Flint having taken a slow ride up the river to commune with nature: “On the viewpoint where I paused, I was surrounded by gigantic ponderosas and spruce, some old enough to have been there when the place was used seasonally by its earlier occupants, the Utes, the Navajos, and Apaches… .”
Later, back on his porch, Flint observes: “…with the lengthening shadows of late afternoon, I listened to the river, the visiting piñon jays, the resident stellar jays competing at the feeder. What a privilege and joy it was to be there, a transient human, enjoying the gift of being a temporary occupant of this special little world …”
Flint carefully gathers written words that seem to smoothly lift off the page to make his remembered experiences magical for readers.
Is the book a memoir? Flint finds it difficult to apply that label. Maybe a quasi-memoir, he said.
The book’s title, Flint commented, is whimsical, and is based on the title of the novel (and film) “From Here to Eternity.” The “From There” portion of his book’s title derives from when Chris “was herself to the period of her decline and on into the future. It seems to substantially describe the path of the book,” the 91-year-old Flint said.
He now views “From There to Eternity” as the third volume of a trilogy.
“The (volumes) didn’t start out that way. They developed organically,” he said.
The first book, “Hispano Homesteaders: The Last New Mexico Pioneers, 1850-1910,” came out in 2012. Though some historians say the outer limits of the Hispano homeland was defined by the 1860s and 1870s, Flint argues that Hispanic homesteaders continued to create new settlements into the first decade of the 20th century.
The second book, released in 2016, is “Journey to a Straw Bale House: The Long Road to Santa Rita in an Old Spanish Neighborhood on the Northern Edge of New Mexico.” It expanded on Flint’s growing ties to the people of Santa Rita.