If I was disoriented in Colorado, then New Mexico felt like a whole other country. It actually was another country until it was ceded to the US in 1850, but beyond history, it struck me as being somewhere else entirely. With all the debates raging over who and who is not American and who should be here or not I think it’s important to remember that borders are politically imagined constructs that change over time. Spanish and Native American languages here are more “native” than English. Streets and towns are named in Spanish. Since getting off the plane in Albuquerque felt like stepping into a new dimension I felt comfortable with the state’s tagline as the “Land of Enchantment.”
For three days I bounced between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. I stayed in Santa Fe at a lovely inn on the commercial strip of Cerillos road. While mostly I would hate the strip mall nature of the road (yes, there are tons of chain stores), I also grew to love it. It is the main artery towards town and where you’ll find anything you need at almost any hour of the day. I even bought some Essie nail polish in pastel shades late at night at the Walgreens.
I also was delighted to get out of town a little and visit the Institute for American Indian Arts(or IAIA), which has a new campus and a great art school. It seems everything a college should be – community oriented, cultural respectful, forward looking, fun and in a beautiful location.
I also visited SITE Santa Fe, which is a very exciting contemporary art center. While Santa Fe is known more for “traditional” arts and crafts (as well as tourist arts) there is a very vibrant contemporary art scene. Many prominent artists who defined experimental art in the 20th century live in Santa Fe and their influence shows. SITE is doing a lot to promote contemporary art in the Santa Fe community (and beyond) and while I was there had an excellent show of Amy Cutler’s work, as well as a room sized installation by Ruth Claxton that was fabricated, well, on site.
Santa Fe is also a great food town, which I wrote about on 2 cooks. I also was lucky enough to connect with an New York friend who was also in town and we got fancy cocktails at the Hotel St. Francis and not so fancy cocktails (but served with a straw, classy!) at The Matador, the most excellent (and perhaps only) punk rock dive bar in town. Awesome punk rock tunes were being spun. The bartender was friendly. Thank goodness we had a friend living in Santa Fe to show us it was there.
My most enchanting New Mexico experience, however, came when I drove one hour north of Santa Fe. I drove towards Los Alamos before turning off to the small town of Abiquiu. This is where Georgia O’Keefe lived, but I was visiting the contemporary artist Sabra Moore, who has made her home on top of a mesa with her partner Roger. I drove over a cattle guard and along a twisting, steep, narrow dirt road, inching my rental car over washed out areas.
After I arrived we walked through the arroyo near her adobe house and straw bale studio as the light turned from gold to red and the evening approached. She told me about the history of town and she and Roger pointed out the ancient petroglyphs carved into the canyon walls.
Taking in the landscape as day faded into night, witnessing evidence of a civilization older than I can reliably imagine, and hearing about two artists’ lives, I thought about how this was a moment in my life that will never be replicated. Though I hope to, I may never return to this place, but, like most places that strike us, I will keep it with me. After a delicious dinner made out of local produce and inspired by local food traditions I stared up up at the stars, which at 7,000 feet and away from city lights, looked considerably closer than usual. I was filled with gratitude and allowed myself to let go of questions, doubts, and angst that had been nagging at me all week. I dared to let myself be filled with a deep sense of peace. Maybe there really is something about the “land of enchantment.”
There’s even more New Mexico on my flickr stream.