Getting Our Heads Straight
We are getting our heads straight for New Mexico this weekend, slowing down, cooling off our fevered brains, talking and thinking about our pilgrimage to a place Maria already loves, a place I already love without even having seen.
Maria lived in New Mexico for a time,and our trip there together will tie both of us to one of the most important experiences in her life. I am eager to go.
I've figured out my medications, and my photography I'm bringing the monochrome black and white camera, and one portrait lens.
If I need a color image, I can borrow Maria's new Iphone 8, the camera is amazing. Reading about Georgia O'Keefe and other books about New Mexico art, I'm in a black and white mood.
This morning, Maria started reading to me in bed, she read from "Remembering Miss O'Keefe: Stories from Abiquiu," which was the home of O'Keefe's famous Ghost Ranch. And where we willl be Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.
It is lovely book by Margaret Wood, who left her home in the Midwest in 1977 to work as a companion and caregiver to O'Keefe
for five years.
The famed artist was then 89 years old, and her eyesight was failing. Wood was twenty-four, inexperienced and in awe of the formidable and demanding O'Keefe, who cared about every detail of her gardens and home. The book is an elegaic remembrance of her five years with O'Keefe and the beautiful small moments that made up the artist's life: tending the garden, preparing dinner, nighttime reading, afternoon walks at Ghost Ranch.
I bought the book for Maria some years ago, in a Museum bookstore, whoever spends time with Maria will spend time in museums.
I love hearing Maria read from this book, it has so much feeling for her, and now me. Maria is a completely different kind of artist than George O'Keefe and I don't mean to be comparing the two, yet O'Keefe's life reminds me of Maria's life in several important ways.
Both are ferociously dedicated to their work, both care much about every detail of their lives, their homes, the walls, their distinct way of dressing, their identities. Both love every herb and flower int he garden, and both love nature and draw great strength and inspiration.
From what I've read of O'Keefe and her iron will, she always knew what she wanted to be, and Maria is only recently finding out for sure what she wants to be. But their passion for life is strikingly similar.
Maria is as determined to be an artist as any human I've ever met, and there is not a plant or cactus or tree or bush or pot or windowsill she does not care about and respect and love. I live in an art gallery, my wife is the curator.
In the foreword to her lovely book – Maria wants to read it to me on the plane – Wood, now a speech language pathologist based in Santa Fe (I would love to meet her) writes about learning of O'Keefe's death in 1986 at the age of ninety-eight. By then, she could no longer live at Ghost Ranch.
"I thought about the variety of feelings I had experienced with her," wrote Wood, "from exasperation to love. I reflected upon her remarkable life. When I thought about her death, I hoped she had died peacefully. I wished she could have died at Ghost Ranch, the place she loved best, gazing toward Pedernal in one direction, the brilliantly colored cliffs in another. In my mind, her regal spirit still reigns over that entire kingdom, from the magical flat-topped mountains to those majestic cliffs."
This is the right mindset for us, the right story to hear, this is the right place for us to visit together, we will drink from this sweet well and be nourished by it. Somehow, it is what we are about, a pilgrimage we need to take. We want to step our ourselves, we are as tired as we are happy. We always celebrate creativity, and in that sense, Abiquiu is a shrine.
Maria has a long list of museums she wants us to see in New Mexico, and I am game for that.
We are committed to doing some resting too, but we are always committed to that, and we never seem able to do it. At some point, one has to accept who he or she is.
This morning, we both swore we were going to Abiquiu with a spiritual head seeking quiet – we are staying in a village nearby – and then we listed about 15 museums and pueblos and weaving communities we wanted to visit nearby, and in Taos and Santa Fe.
If we do even half of them, and we will, do all of them there will not be a lot of time to rest, we won't be there too long.
The book is getting us in the right mind, but the truth is, we always have fun together, even when we drive down the road. New Mexico will be a joyous feast.
I love the stories Wood tells about her life with O'Keefe, whom she came to love and call a friend. Over that time, O'Keefe lost her memory and most of her sight, and could no longer paint. Her spirit was a force of nature.
We both hope to draw from her genius and her spirit and her great strength. Tomorrow night, we begin the pilgrimage to Abiquiu. We are more than ready.