Not long after crossing into New Mexico from Texas, I abandoned Interstate 40 for Highway 84 stretching from Santa Rosa to Las Vegas. It was a lightly-traveled two-lane ribbon through desert shrubs, but it had its collection of roadside memorials. Our 2021 brought another COVID spring. Restaurants were opening up slowly, but activities were guarded, as were people. For the second year in a row, I kept busy in and around Santa Fe by photographing descansos, roadside crosses that are protected and recorded by the state’s Department of Transportation. The solo activity kept me safe from the virus and engaged in the artistic task of capturing a beautiful composite of artifacts celebrating a life–or in some cases, lives. Each memorial told a story through its detail: A bright angel that lit up at night. A Wilson baseball. A shattered side-view mirror. A ceramic cupid. Four pairs of flip-flops. A miniature red car draped by a rosary. They were small glimpses of larger lives that ended tragically, and too soon.
My descansos photo collection grows. Here’s a few memorials I visited this year in March, April and May, and the objects that tell their stories.