I expected to see desert in New Mexico, I did not expect to see the miles and miles of gorgeous trees, especially the Cottonwoods, now turning yellow in the Fall. They are the most elegant and beautiful trees I have yet seen in my life.
I have to admit to falling in love a bit with New Mexico. I've only been here with Maria for a couple of days (we come home next Wednesday), but this place is already in my head. NM is not one thing but many different things, all jumbled up together in a feast of the eye and the mind.
There is the most astonishing natural beauty I have ever seen. Apart from its stunning landscapes (which change completely every few miles), I am reminded of a number of different places I have loved – New York City, the old West and East Villages, the old Bowery, Provincetown, Savannah, the Old West (cowboys and cattle ranches the size of Rhode Island), the Florida Keys, parts of LA., the broken town towns of Route 66 (which runs through New Mexico.
The beauty and the ramshackle live side by side in New Mexico, it is, so far, the most egalitarian place I have ever seen. Almost every property has a different kind of fence, many ramshackle and falling apart. Why? "It's a New Mexico thing?"
There are artists everywhere, and a rich legacy of American culture. Oddballs live next to rich second homers and ski lodges, stunning mountains loom up behind shacks with goats and chickens (and fences), it is a hip place and a poor place, often right in the same place.
And the towns all have the greatest names.
Today we took a drive up to Abiquiu, the last home of Georgia O'Keefe, and we were both speechles at the richness and beauty of the landscape. On the ride up, miles and miles of adobe shacks and shanties, dead restaurants, abandoned trailer parks, Native-American reservations with casinos and bowling alleys, artist studios, decaying gas stations, and hundreds of trailer parks with who have seen better days.
They don't seem to obliterate their past in New Mexico, as they do in the East, they just ignore it and move ahead. The past, present and future share the same space. I haven't Taos (tomorrow) or Santa Fe yet, we go to Taos tomorrow, but O'Keefe's home and studio were very powerful and magical.
The trailer parks and shanties look natural here, not out of place at all, like they grew organically out of the ground. I'm sure there are tons of rich people too, haven't run across them yet, but I know they are there.
I have a new favorite tree, the Cottonwoods, now changing color, they transcend even the eastern oak for their beauty and structure. I'll put up a photo or two. When I visit New York I wonder where all the characters and artists and oddballs and free spirits have gone. They are here, and it is a great joy to see them.
In much of America, individualism has been pushed aside by corporatism. It very much lives here.
This place is a literal riot, the most beautiful and friendliest mish-mash of geography and culture I have ever seen. I do love it. More to come.
We stopped to see the Trujillo's Weaving Shop in Chimayo, Maria was on fire to see some of the famed weavers in this town, who have kept a dying tradition alive for decades. I thought she was about to run off with Carlos Trujillo, who was weaving on the loom his grandfather built a hundred years ago.
He and Maria connected and she had a hundred questions for him that he was only too happy to answer. I felt out of reach of these two, and wandered the store, and I was happy to see Maria so transfixed, and Carlo so happy to teach her.of his
The weaving tradition in New Mexico is very old and Carlos Trujillo is one of the very few weaving masters left, each of his gorgeous old looms was build by a different member of his family, including the one he built. He said he has no children, but some of his nieces and nephews might take over one day, although they have already moved away and have their own careers.
Carlos's father and grandfather worked as weavers, it would be sad if this long tradition faded away. But it seems likely, like so many other traditions. Modern America has not been kind to craftsmen and women.
I found some wonderful jewelry and carvings in his shop to bring back to Cambridge for the Mansion residents and staff. I bought a necklace for Maria. She was transfixed by Carlos and the things he taught her in such a short time. She can't wait to start working on her new table loom, and he gave her some ideas.
Fortunately, they did not run off, but I suspect we will see more of Carlos before we leave. He is a lovely human being.
Faith is a subject of endless fascination to me, and I usually avoid popular tourist spots, they just rarely touch me or interest me. The Church of Santuario is a beautiful famous church believed to be a source of great healing, we both wanted to see this beautiful structure. The lame and the sick gather outside the church every day, and there are scores of crutches left behind, presumably after their owners are healed.
Architecturally the Church is gorgeous, inspiring and haunting.
I was put off by the gift shops and Disney-like aura surrounding the church, build around a cross found planted in the ground. They sell tins to hold the holy dirt. I don't doubt or question anybody's faith or testimony but my unease around healing sites and throngs of busses and shops bubbled up again.
America's capitalist machine leaves nothing untouched.
The expensive wooden and ceramic images of Jesus being brutally and graphically nailed to the cross in the gift shops were disturbing to me, not what he is primarily about for me, and no mentions or representations of his struggles on behalf of the poor and vulnerable, all the art was about his agony.
I understand his suffering is an enormous part of Christian theology, but I never really see the Jesus I have read about so often. It is not for me to tell anybody else how to portray their religion, I just didn't want to stay there for too long, and I hope all the stories about healing are true.
I thought the most authentic and moving thing I saw was the fence that led from the giant parking lot to the hauntingly beautiful and ornate Church. It was lined with crosses and ribbons and photos and messages to the dead. We spent a long time reading them and feeling them, it touched me much more deeply than the church itself, which surprised me. The messages were beautiful and so very real.
I loved the look of Renee's hair cutting salon and we pulled in so I could take a photograph. Renee came out and I thought she would demand to know why I was taking a picture, but like most people here, she just wanted to talk and say hello. She asked where I was from, and we talked about food. "Do you want Mexican American food?," she asked, "or Mexican-Mexican food?" We chose the later and had some tonight. She invited us to come back anytime.
When I started taking photos in upstate New York, the farmers would sometimes come up to me with rifles, wondering if I was an assessor or realtor, since I had such a fancy camera. Here, every is upset if I don't come in and say hello. Renee didn't want to be photographed, for reasons I understood, but I promised to visit on our next drive back. She wants to know what a blog is and why I have such a big camera.