My husband kept asking what I wanted for my 60th birthday, hoping to make it very special. It took about 10 seconds for me to tell him, "Taos, New Mexico. A road trip!"
We live in north Florida. Taos is about 3 full days of driving from our home. This meant we needed to be gone for two weeks, to make it all worthwhile. But he immediately agreed. And so I got Taos, or my version of it, for my birthday.
First, we drove to New Orleans and spent two nights with dear friends. And then we hit the road and drove west and then north through Louisiana, over to Dallas/Ft. Worth, and then out to Amarillo. On the third day, we arrived in Santa Fe to stay with two more friends for a night. And then it was on to Taos!
We stayed in a cozy adobe patio home on the south side of Taos. From there, we made day trips to Ghost Ranch, Ojo Caliente, and places all over Taos.
One of the places we visited was the Millicent Rogers Museum. The collections of pueblo pottery, Navajo rugs, Spanish iconography, and Indian jewelry are not to be missed. http://www.millicentrogers.org/The-Collections/Maria-Martinez.aspx
We also alighted at the home of Mabel Dodge Luhan and her husband, Tony Luhan, for a sweet respite. Their home, also once owned by Dennis Hopper (who discovered it and Taos while filming 'Easy Rider'), is now a conference center. It's also a wonderful example of pueblo-style adobe building.
This was the spot for intellectual and artistic discourse in the early twentieth century when the likes of Georgia O'Keeffe and DH Lawrence stayed there.
O'Keeffe is a particular favorite of mine. The first time I visited Ghost Ranch and Abiquiu, in the Chama River Valley, she was still alive (but very old and living out her last few years in Santa Fe). I have read many biographical books about her and she is very alive for me. And I love her art. She invented a modern genre and sometimes I am able to see the natural landscapes she painted as if through her eyes.
I first caught a whiff of the Navajo artist, RC Gorman, in the early 1980s, when I drove from LA to Denver with my sister and we passed through Albuquerque. Merchants on the plaza in the old city of Albuquerque told us he had just relocated to Taos and, since we were also heading on to Taos, we found our way to his beautiful Navajo Gallery. We caught a glimpse of him there, but were most enthralled with his mesmerizing work. Amazingly, I was allowed to take photos all over his gallery that day, film shots I still treasure.
On this recent trip, we were sad to hear that Gorman had passed away a few years ago. His last works have been reproduced in lithographs and on calendars, mugs, and other products, and many are also on display in the La Fonda Hotel on the plaza in Taos. We visited both the hotel and the gallery and, when I got home, I dug out my old photos of that long-ago trip when he gave me free reign of his gallery with my camera.
You can find many of Gorman's images on Google. Here's one link:https://www.google.com/search?q=RC+Gorman+art&client=firefox-a&hs=knc&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=xCKoUfm7H-LI0wH2s4GwAw&ved=0CIQBELAE&biw=1346&bih=621
One day, when Glen was not feeling well, I drove out to Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch with a friend of mine who once lived in Tallahassee. About five years ago, she moved to Santa Fe. We had talked about one day visiting the Chama Valley together and, on this day, it happened.
I told her there was a labryinth far in the back of Ghost Ranch and so, after lunching in their cafeteria, we set out to find it. The gorgeous cliffs in the background make walking this particular labyrinth a very special thing.
After we walked it, we went to sit under what is probably my favorite tree in all the world: the cottonwood tree. On that day, the wind was very stiff. But the shade of the tree protected us from harsh desert sun as we gazed at cliffs and over to the Pedernal, a distinctive mesa so often present in O'Keeffe's work.
This was a day of adventure, but also a day of peace and healing. I think this is the day I began to let go of some of the sorrow I've felt since Dad's passing last October.
I come from a land of sunlight and blue skies, but the sunlight and blue skies of that high desert plateau are different. The particular orangey-pinks of the soils and cliffs in the valley are colors I lust for when I don't see them often enough. Reminiscent of red Georgia clay, they also derive from iron. But many of these cliffs are prehistoric sand dunes from ancient seas.
Ghost Ranch is kind enough to place some Adirondack chairs under 'my' tree and it is in this spot that I most relax.
Glen began to feel better and within a day was out adventuring with me again. On one of those days, we drove out to see my little speck of land in the desert beyond the Gorge Bridge in Taos. About 10 miles beyond the Rio Grande Gorge, my little piece of land in a vast sagebrush desert is found. What is most magnificent about it are the mountains in the background: Cerro Montoso and the Sangre di Cristos.
This desert gets much more rain than many. Yet, New Mexico itself has been in a long drought.
The desert plateau near Taos was formed by volcanoes, which are now extinct. You can see the dark lava rock below the surface of the canyon gorge. Near Taos, the Rio Grande River is at its very most impressive. Here, it has cut down about 800 feet through the lava plateau to create this dramatic gorge.
The Gorge Bridge is a great place to view the river below. On one side of the bridge artists and vendors sell their wares by the side of the road.
We cannot talk about this wonderful trip without mentioning the goldsmith/jewelry designer Emily Benoist Ruffin, who hosted us in Taos! She also made a fabulous gumbo at her home one night, for a dinner that included the jewelry artist James Binion and his wife, Terry.
In New Orleans, we saw David Kronenwetter and his wife, Vera Nunez, as well as Brad Ott and Tracy Thomson, hatmaker extraordinaire.
In Santa Fe, we saw Steffie Grow and David Kuncicky, formerly of Tallahassee. And I extracted Lyric Kali, also formerly of Tallahassee, from Santa Fe to spend the day with me in the Chama Valley.
And we must especially thank Margie and Steve Osheroff for the marvelous gift card to Ojo Caliente hot springs and spa in the desert. This took us to an afternoon of body therapies and hot soaks that relaxed us to our core. And gave us the honeymoon we missed 17 years ago!
We stayed in touch with friends all over the world via Facebook, and loved all the kudos and encouragements we received along the way. If one has to turn 60 (and it's better than the alternative... what a privilege it is to grow older!), to me, this was the way to do it. I must finally, and totally, thank my husband, Glen Gifford, for this trip. And for his delightful countenance all along the way. He made it my trip, my birthday trip, and this meant I was with him far more of the time than usual on a trip -- since he's much stronger and more adventurous than I'll ever be.