That’s Cerro Pedernal Mountain in the center horizon, the sacred mountain near Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch so loved and painted by Georgia O’Keefe. Earlier that evening a group of women (and their workshop leader) staying at the Mable Dodge campus met me at the St. Francis Church to photograph it around dusk. I eventually had urged them to follow me up to the last rest stop on 68 as you’re heading into Taos for a fuller view of the sky as shown in this photo.
Earlier I was able to record this lovely light with tree shadows on the St. Francis Church. I want to mention how I met the instructor of this journal sketching workshop. Her best friend goggled “Taos bloggers,” or something close, and found my Taos blog. Since she was looking forward to a trip to Taos for the class she found the blog interesting and forwarded it to Amy Bogard, the leader and planner of the group. Amy was about to experience her first time teaching/staying at the Mable Dodge. She emailed me with enthusiasm and praise for my blog and offered a link to her blog, which is more about her process as an artist. I really liked her blog and we began to talk about meeting when she got to Taos with her group.
She and her best friend had arrived two days before the group to get acclimated and ended up coming over to my house, among other things, on their first non-travel day. Amy bought this small Goddess altar from me and put it to good use as the centerpiece of a personal altar she set up in her room. There are now three other similar altar pieces available for sale at Wabi Sabi, along with a large group of my cards. Amy took this shot with her iPhone and I felt it spoke volumes about how I’m anticipating people will use my new approach to altars. It’s only 4″ across and made of paper mache, so neither large nor heavy.
This remarkable piece of textile art I found hanging on the fence next to Two Graces, a curio shop in the plaza of St. Francis Church. I had to include it in this blog out of total admiration for its brilliant and patient creator. I’d say the figures are Hopi or Zuni kachinas. As you can see it could use some repair, but mostly it’s in excellent condition. Just something unexpected to admire…
To end this week’s blog I’ll share some photos I took last week in the historic district of Taos. This type of rose must like the mountains because they were also common in Sun Valley, Idaho, where I last lived. They bloom early and so their beauty is most welcome and appreciated. I wish I knew the proper name for it, but nothing is coming to mind. I’m sure nurseries sell them. They have a wildish sprawling habit, most charming for landscaping that intends a casual look.
In case you haven’t guessed this is a peony bud. Found this along the north side of Bent Street. I’ll be sure to check back and photograph the flower in full bloom. When I was a young child growing up in Oklahoma I lived next door to a couple who had a large and varied collection of peony plants in their back yard and it was a special treat in late spring to be welcomed over to look at the flowers when they were in bloom. They seemed very exotic to me, hinted at wonders beyond my normal experience, promises of future revelations.
The occasion was the visit of an old friend who asked for my advice on things to see in Taos. I’ve been wanting to visit the Taos Pueblo ever since I arrived last May, but the time just never felt right. My last visit there was 6 or 7 years ago and I arranged my trip from Idaho to coincide with a Corn Maiden ceremony in the month of May. I had been very touched by the experience and grateful the people of the Pueblo allowed visitors to attend their obviously sacred ceremonies. This first photo shows the active Catholic church which stands near the entrance.
Just past the church we started to loop around the main “square” with a turn to our left. Immediately I spotted a man in the distance obviously building an adobe oven (horno). At first he seemed merely tolerant of a couple of “tourists” slowing down his concentration with their interest. But after some exchanges he seemed more willing to engage in an honest way about himself and his techniques for working with the clay. He introduced himself as Martin Romero, a potter. Apparently you have to go slow with the process to give the thick “bricks” of clay time to solidify before adding layers as you work upward. This horno had been under construction already for a week. For a small exchange he let me take this, and several other photos.
One feature of the Taos Pueblo that particularly interests me is their water which flows directly from the Sangre de Christo mountains rising to the east over it. The water is uncontaminated, thus usable for drinking. In today’s world this is basically unheard of–to know (see) where your water comes from and be able to use it just as it comes from nature. The river flows through the middle of the Pueblo bisecting it into two halves separated also by a large open space which allows for large gatherings of people during festival times. The next such time is around Christmas. Red Willows grow along the sides of the stream and there is an association between the plant name and the word, Taos.
This may be my favorite photo of all. Perhaps it qualifies for the Wabi-Sabi award, although if I think about it in those terms, the entire Taos Pueblo expresses that aesthetic (see a former blog about Wabi-Sabi). In brief Wabi-Sabi speaks to our longing for the rustic, for that textured aspect of beauty that clearly shows the effects of time, its movement toward the eventual death or dissolution of all forms. It is a reminder of our personal mortality and there is both a sadness in it and an acceptance of it as truth, thus an authentic quality to its beauty.
I grew up in Oklahoma and as a child learned first-hand that the native people of our country had been, for the most part, abused and demoralized. It was obvious to my child’s mind that they were in the way of our country’s so-called-progress and it would have been convenient if they had all perished one way or another. Sadly, my dad, who must have been insecure, enjoyed reading aloud clips in the newspaper about deaths and other mishaps that occurred on the nearby reservations ostensibly due to drink. Meanwhile our well-endowed library (built on oil money) had beautiful displays of native crafts and artifacts. So there was a split for me. Indians were great and wise artists at some time in their past, but the ones still alive in Oklahoma were mostly poor and dispensable.
I am here in Taos to experience the other side of the story, not a perfect story, but a better one. Already I see the ancestors of oppressed natives here producing great art and honoring their traditions knowing they might have the best relationship to Mother Earth of all of us.