Monday, June 6, 2016

O'Keeffe's Ghost Ranch

My photograph of Cerro Pedernal. Follow this link to see O'Keeffe's painting, Pedernal, 1941-1942.

Georgia O'Keeffe was an artist best known for her paintings of oversized flowers, New York skyscrapers and New Mexico landscapes.  There's a good reason for the last!  She lived here!

Can you see O'Keeffe's painting, Pedernal, 1941-1942 on my phone?

While we were in Santa Fe working on a Habitat for Humanity build, I visited the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum.  The museum's collection displays her works in a way that helps you see her artistic development over the course of her life.  Of course, once I'd viewed her paintings, I wanted to see Ghost Ranch, the place that inspired her art.

O'Keeffe first heard of Ghost Ranch in 1929 on a trip to Taos, NM, but it wasn't until 1934 that she visited the dude ranch.  Once she did, she fell in love with its beauty and for the next decade, she spent her summers there and her winters back in New York where her husband, Alfred Stieglitz, a noted photographer, lived.  After Stieglitz died, she purchased a cabin and seven acres from the owner of Ghost Ranch and moved there permanently. For the rest of her life, she was inspired by its beauty.

Tim and I drove the 90 miles from Santa Fe to visit the ranch in northern New Mexico.  Highway 84 runs through a beautiful part of the Charma River Valley, the subject of O'Keeffe's painting Chama River, Ghost Ranch, 1937.  The river has carved intricate cliffs which are stunning for their variations of color, inspiration for her Red and Yellow Cliffs.  The scenery is gorgeous!  No wonder O'Keefe tried to capture these vistas in her work.

There are several hiking trails through the ranch which is now a retreat run by the Presbyterian Church.  

We chose to hike to Chimney Rocks, a prominent geological formation, captured by O'Keeffe in her painting The Cliff Chimneys, 1938.

The closer we got to the top, the steeper the trail grew.

I wondered how O'Keeffe was able to carry her box of paints and her easel up the trail. 

O'Keeffe's paint box is on display at the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe.

Chimney Rocks

We were told that trail had the best view of Cerro Pedernal and the woman at the ranch office was right.

O'Keefe could see Pedernal, the distinctive chopped off mountain, from her kitchen window.  She once said, "It is my mountain.  God told me if I painted it enough, I could have it."

And so she did!  She painted Pedernal over and over again.  When she died at age 99, her ashes were scattered over its summit.

Cottonwood and Pedernal

My Front Yard, Summer

Pedernal 1941

Red Hills With Pedernal

Road to Pedernal

During the drought in the 1930s, ranchers in the area lost many animals to starvation.  As she roamed the countryside around Ghost Ranch, O'Keeffe picked up their bones.  She saw symmetry and beauty in these skulls so she packed several boxes of them and shipped them back East.  According to a docent at the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, the boxes arrived with postage due, much to her husband's dismay.   Over the next several winters, she composed paintings of the bones like this one, Cow's Skull with Calico Roses

I wanted to find the area that inspired my favorite O'Keefe painting, Black Mesa, but that vista was not to be seen from the Chimney Rock trail. 

All the more reason to return to this land that Georgia loved!

Postscript:  We're now at my family's farm in Kansas.  We'll be here for the month of June, helping to harvest this year's wheat crop.  There won't be time for me to write blog posts, but I hope to pick this up again next month.  Thanks for reading!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Bandelier National Monument

Climbing on the playground's jungle gym was a favorite activity of mine when I was an elementary student.

So it was a joy this past Sunday at Bandelier National Monument to watch a new generation of young children scamper up and down ladders to peer into the cliff dwellings that were home to the Ancestral Pueblo Indians centuries ago. 

Although our ascent was at a more sedate speed, Tim and I, too, wanted a glimpse of what it must have been like to live in a cave carved high in the limestone cliffs of the Jimez Mountains.

Located 40 miles northwest of Santa Fe, Bandelier's more than 33,000 acres preserve the cliff dwellings and territory of Ancestral Puebloans going back over 11,000 years.  I'd visited the park in 2007 when my family held a reunion in Santa Fe, but Tim was unable to join us that weekend.  I wanted him to see this intriguing national park which, like the National Park Service itself, is celebrating its 100th birthday this year.

Parking at the monument is limited so the National Park Service has started a shuttle service from nearby White Rock, NM.  The shuttle leaves the Visitors Center there every 30 minutes during the week and every 20 minutes on the weekends.  We were happy to leave driving over the winding mountain road to the shuttle driver.

I have a National Park Service access pass that I received for free due to my hearing disability.  This allowed us to bypass the tourists in line to pay the park's entrance fee.  That was good because we had only 3 hours to spend in the park before catching the last shuttle back to White Rock.

At any park we visit, we like to watch the NPS video at the Visitors Center.  The movie at Bandelier gave us a brief introduction to the history of the Puebloans whose descendants still live nearby, not in cliff dwellings, but in the Pueblo communities of Cochiti, Santo Domingo, San Felipe, San Ildefonso, Santa Clara and Zuni.

Leaving the visitors' center, we joined the crowd of tourists to climb the path to the dwellings; then, waited and waited for our turn to ascend the ladders up to the caves.

Everyone--and we were no exception--wanted to take photos as friends and family climbed the ladders.  

Undoubtedly, many of these digital images were posted on their Facebook pages later as evidence of their visit here.

But the Ancestral Puebloans documented their presence in a much more permanent way; they left petroglyphs engraved upon the rocks.

We were reminded of the cliff dwellings we've seen at Mesa Verde National Park in southwest Colorado.  The ruins at Mesa Verde are more extensive, but those at Bandelier were more mysterious to me.  

Why did the people here build both cliff dwellings and homes on the canyon floor below?  The ranger we spoke to gave us a plausible answer.  She said the foundations left on the canyon floor were likely summer homes.  There, the people had closer access to the water of the Frijoles Creek and could grow crops on the canyon floor.   The caves on the cliff, on the other hand, had the southern exposure warming the canyon wall in the winter.

Most of the crowd drifted back to the visitors center or perhaps they set out to hike the Frey Trail  along the top of the mesa, named for George and Evelyn Frey who managed the lodge built here by the Civil Conservation Corp in the 1930s.  Seventy percent of the park is wilderness with over 70 miles of hiking trails. 

Regardless, we were glad that fewer people continued on to Alcove House, a large cliff dwelling that can only be reached by climbing a 140-foot series of ladders.  

Just ahead of us on the ladders was a father and his son who couldn't have been more than five years old.  That boy scrambled up and down the ladder without a hint of fear.  

Several adults were more leery, taking the ladders with much greater caution.  I'm used to climbing up grain bins on my family farm in Kansas so this was easy for me and, of course given his days as a SWAT team member, Tim knows no fear.

Coming down from Alcove House, we'd hoped to have time to hike one of the trails, but the park ranger warned us that the last shuttle would leave the park at 5:00 p.m.  So we spent some time talking to the ranger and learned that she and her husband were seasonal rangers who left their home in Florida to spend six months, at first, Sequoia National Park and now at Bandolier.  They are trained to answer questions from tourists and are paid a nominal salary.  They live in the lodge behind the visitors center in very tight quarters with no television or wifi.  When they worked at Sequoia, the nearest grocery store was an hour and a half away.  Wilderness, indeed!

If you go to Bandelier, take plenty of water with you.  We drained our water bottles and wished we had more.  Once back at the visitors center, we were able to refill our bottles before we caught the shuttle back to White Rock.

This is one of my favorite NPS parks.  If we ever come back, I'd like to take one of the park's Nightwalks.  I think the view of the stars here would be amazing.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Sightseeing In Santa Fe

The Palace of the Governors

Work on a Habitat for Humanity build brought Tim and I to Santa Fe, NM; sightseeing in the city was a side benefit.

Our sightseeing centered on the Plaza where the famed 19th-century Santa Fe Trail terminated.  Being from Kansas, I've seen the ruts left in the prairie by the wagon trains as they traveled the trail.  But, standing on the Plaza where the Trail ended, I could picture the excited townspeople who greeted the wagons' arrival and the eager hands that reached to unload the goods.  It made that piece of history come alive for me.

Last Sunday afternoon we rode our bikes five miles to the Plaza on a modern day urban trail, the Arroyo Chamisos Trail, which runs right behind the Rodeo de Santa Fe fairgrounds where we and the rest of our Habitat team of Care-A-Vanners were parked.  

Arroyo Chamisos Trail

The Arroyo Chamisos doesn't go all the way downtown; instead, it intersects with the Santa Fe Rail-Trail which follows the old Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe rail line.  Taking that turn will bring you to the railroad station just blocks away from the Plaza.  Both trails are paved with asphalt, making it an easy ride.  When we arrived at the Plaza, there were no bike racks in sight so we did as the natives did and chained our bikes to a streetlight.

Lowrider Car Show

Parking at the Plaza is always at a premium, but even more so when there are special events and fiestas.  We happened to chose the Sunday of the Lowrider Car Show when 100+ cars paraded from Fort Mercy to the Plaza.  The springs in these cars are shortened so the chassis rides low to the ground.  Who knew that such cars were so popular in New Mexico?  We enjoyed viewing them and found it even more exciting when a demonstration of passengers car hopping from one to another began.

The Palace of the Governors
Under the portico of the Palace of the Governors, Native Americans artists rolled out blankets and covered them with beautiful jewelry for sale.  Regulated by the city to ensure the highest quality and authenticity, these vendors are there every day, even in summer's heat and winter's cold.  I admired their work but I didn't buy any.  I wasn't sure the stunning pieces I saw would go well with my wardrobe of T-shirts and jeans.

Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi

Easily seen from the Plaza, the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi sits majestically at the end of San Francisco Street.  Constructed from 1869 to 1886, it is the mother church of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe.  

Interior of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi

Inside, the stained glass windows, including its rose window, bathe the sanctuary in colored sunbeams.  If you've read the book, Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather, then you know its setting is this cathedral.

Loretto Chapel

Just down the street from the Basilica is Loretto Chapel where a mysterious carpenter built the Miraculous Stairway, a spiral staircase that seems to have no visible center support.  Realizing that a staircase was needed to reach the choir loft, the Loretto Sisters prayed for nine straight days that St. Joseph would intercede for them.  The next day, a shabby-looking man appeared at their door and said he could build the stairway if he had total privacy.  So he locked himself inside the chapel for three months until the stairway was completed.  The nuns believed the carpenter was St. Joseph himself.  Do you believe in miracles?  This might just be one!

San Miguel Mission

The oldest church in United States is the San Miguel Mission, built from approximately 1610 to 1626.  It's located a block away from the Loretto Chapel.  Mass is held there each Sunday evening at 5:00 p.m.  We wanted to attend but we were dressed in our biking shorts which I felt was not appropriate for the occasion.  We'd hoped to return the following Sunday, but knowing that we also wanted to visit Bandelier National Monument, we decided to save that for our next trip to Santa Fe.

Tim and I with Pat and her husband Mike

Our calendar was filled with social hours and dinners the rest of the week, including a dinner with my college roommate, Pat whom I hadn't seen in ages.  We ditched our husbands and caught one another up on our life stories over a glass of wine and dinner.  Yay!  Girls' night out!

The Palace of the Governors

Friday evening we found ourselves with nothing scheduled.  Luckily for us, that coincided with free evening admissions to the New Mexico History Museum and the New Mexico Museum of Art.  Sue and Don, fellow Care-A-Vanners, joined us.  Sue and I discovered we have something in common; we both majored in history when we were in college.  Dragging our husbands along, we made the New Mexico History Museum our first stop.

The New Mexico History Museum

The New Mexico History Museum begins in the Palace of the Governors and continues in an adjacent building.  All the exhibits were interesting to me, but the one I especially enjoyed was the information about the Fred Harvey Company. 

Upper left: Fred Harvey

Fred Harvey, an impoverished English immigrant who first found work washing dishes in New York City, formed a family business that built a string of Harvey Houses at major stops of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad throughout the Southwest.  There Harvey Girls served food to weary travelers.  American humorist Will Rogers once observed that "Fred Harvey kept the West in food--and wives."  Looking at the sterling silver tea service and the Harvey Girl uniform, I couldn't help but think of MGM's The Harvey Girls, starring Judy Garland.  I love old movies almost as much as I love history!

The New Mexico Museum of Art

Just across the street from the Palace of the Governors is the New Mexico Museum of Art.  Its permanent collection focuses on regional artists, but a current exhibit called Con CariƱo: Artists Inspired by Lowriders delighted me.  Taking an abandoned car and turning it into a one-of-a-kind sculpture on wheels was an aspect that I did not fully take in when we experienced the car show on the Plaza the previous Sunday.  But seeing the paintings, photographs and even furniture artistically replicating the driver's seat gave me a greater appreciation for the cars and the artists who celebrate Lowriders in their works.

Cross of the Martyrs

To complete our Friday evening tour, the four of us hiked up the hill to Fort Mercy Park where the Cross of the Martyrs stands.  The cross commemorates the 21 Franciscan Friars killed in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, a mass insurrection by the native people against the Spanish.  Overlooking the city as the cross does, it was the perfect vantage point to watch the sunset, a view that reminded me of Psalm 113:3,  "From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised."