One of the many perks of living with parents as an adult is to tag-along when they travel. I just returned from four days in New Mexico, spending time in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Taos. This was my first time to New Mexico, and as I say with many of the places I’ve traveled to, won’t be the last. The Southwest is beautiful. It’s no wonder that so many artists have made their home there. Watching the sun set over the outlines of mesas, gorges, and flat lands makes me want to pick up a brush and take a stab at a canvas.
My mother has been a huge fan of Georgia O’Keeffe for as long as I can remember. We have her artwork displayed in our house, including some of my knockoff O’Keeffe work from 9th grade art class. O’Keefe lived in New York and visited New Mexico for 2 weeks, then 4 weeks, and then permanently made her home just outside of Santa Fe. We didn’t tour her house in Abiququ, but we did go on a bit of an adventure on our quest to find it. My dad is never one to stifle any curiosity and we spent a good 30 minutes driving down a road we thought her house might be on because Google Maps said so. We just wanted to see it, I swear! 30 minutes later and more than enough potholes to fully violate our rental agreement, we ended up on top of a mesa overlooking the most beautiful stretch of land I’ve seen. There is a lot of open land in New Mexico, partly due to the Native American reservations (more on that later), and it allows for many beautiful vistas. Seriously, its no wonder so many artists have made their lives here, as the inspiration is everywhere! We also went to the Georgia O’Keeffe museum in Santa Fe, which offered a peek into her reasoning behind many of her works. The big flowers? Georgia wanted people to stop and notice them, so she made them larger than life so you would have no choice. I picked up two prints to take home a little bit of Georgia and my share the love of O’Keeffe my mommy has shared with me.
We also spent some time in Taos, a ski town north of Santa Fe that is home to the Taos Pueblo. The Taos Pueblo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site of adobe homes that are the longest continually occupied homes/dwellings in the United States. Walking into the village, you instantly realized where 99.9% of Southwestern architecture got its inspiration. I can’t quite put a finger on the feeling of paying to walk into a village occupied by a group of people who have been so marginalized and pushed around by the “white man”. They graciously share their culture with us and preserve the land “bestowed” upon them by the US Government, and here we are tramping through their land and even walking into their homes. Even though we are “invited” as they have made it into a tourist stop, it was still a bit eerie. I am not sure how many people actually live year round in the pueblo, but one woman we talked to spent only her winters there. Most visitors were just milling in and out of the adobes, glancing over the arts and crafts that the villagers were selling. I can’t even imagine for a millisecond having people paying to come check out my neighborhood, no matter how cool our backyard sandbox is. We were curious if the multi story pueblos (some 3-4 stories made of clay, straw, and water!!) were single-family dwellings, or if different families lived in each. What we learned was that before the Spaniards came, there wasn’t really an idea of ownership and whose plot of land you could build your house on. The stuff you had was everyone’s to share. And then in come the Spaniards, giving land that wasn’t truly theirs to dole out and completely changing the futures of the Native Americans. And here I was, standing in this woman’s house. A house that had been standing in the same spot for almost 400 years. Weird. I was very grateful for the opportunity to experience it, but it really made me think of how the actions of each of us will affect the lives of those who follow. There was a bumper sticker that I saw in store in downtown Santa Fe that quoted the Iroquois saying, “In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation… even if it requires having skin as thick as the bark of a pine”. What are we doing now? And what will the effect be on our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren? Do you personally even think of these things each day? I think it would be a bit overwhelming to be burdened with the thought of paper or plastic and what that means for my great-great grandchild.
We also had many typical Ellis adventures, like driving the WWII era Jeep of a friend of my Grandpa’s who fought with him in Europe, my dad losing his sunglasses from his pocket in the only bucket of used motor oil in a huge garage, almost missing our flight their because we were all sitting around thinking the other was in charge, and that wonderful dirt road to no where.
So long Santa Fe, may we meet again…