Sunday, December 28, 2014

West Texas

The closer we got to Texas, the more we recognized our surroundings.

Niall was raised in San Antonio. I was born in Austin and lived there and San Antonio as a little girl. My dad, extended family members of mine, and almost all of Niall’s family live in Texas. We have a  bumper sticker on our car that says, “Native Texan.” So, it’s a very familiar place to us.   

I love Texas. Maybe I strongly disagree with the dominant political beliefs there, but I appreciate Texas pride (and have some of it myself). I love that it’s a huge place and there’s a great variety of places to explore.
I fell hard for West Texas while we were there.
There’s a lot of art happening in the tiny town of Marfa.


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First of all, there’s the permanent sculpture, Prada Marfa, outside of Valentine, Texas. We had fun doing the above photo shoot.

It’s so extraordinary – to come across this structure on a stretch of lonely highway, with the wide expanse of earth all around you, in the middle of nowhere. It’s starting to get slightly run-down and become part of the environment. It’s had a couple of problems with vandals, but both times it’s been repaired and continued on.
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The Chinati Foundation is a contemporary art museum in Marfa.
It’s mission is “to preserve and present to the public permanent large-scale installations by a limited number of artists. The emphasis is on works in which art and the surrounding landscape are inextricably linked.”
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This mission is based on the ideas of its founder, artist Donald Judd. We visited the Chinati (the venue is interesting in itself because it takes up 340 acres of an old military fort). We explored the free outside installation, which fits right in with the Chinati’s mission.
These fifteen concrete blocks were made by Judd. They are surrounded by big sky, never-ending desert land, and tons (TONS!) of these fascinating grasshopper-like insects with red wings. It was hard to resist the urge to climb all over the artwork.
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Judd really started the arts community here – moving from the New York City to Marfa in the 1970s and putting a lot of money into the arts there. He was brought there by the simplicity of the small town and the wide expanse of land to use for lasting installations.
Now, it feels like the place to be. We didn’t expect so many young, cool artists to be hanging around this tiny desert town. We both had to admit we were hoping for a bit more of the old, cowboy cool vibe. Though, I sure had a blast.
Supposedly I came here as a kid and it was a lot different back then.
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Listen to an interesting story about Marfa here.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Carlsbad Caverns

 I remember visiting Carlsbad Caverns when I was a kid. It made quite an impression and I was excited to bring Niall to visit.
It’s pretty incredible to take the elevator down, down, down and explore these ancient caves. It’s dark, chilly, and otherworldly.
The caves were created by sulfuric acid dissolving limestone rock. About 250 million years ago, the limestone was part of a reef complex on the edge of an inland sea. 17-20 million years ago, these ancient reef rocks started to rise up because of tectonic forces. Erosion wore away softer minerals and the ancient reef rock became the Guadalupe Mountains. Sulfuric acid was created from brine deep in the basin combining with rainwater. This acid dissolved the limestone, creating cave passages.
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As the Guadalupe Mountains continued to rise up, water drained out of the cave, leaving minerals on the ceiling, walls, and floors. We know these as cave decorations
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During our visit, I kept thinking of the movie The Dark Crystal.
We had fun forming what we called “stalactite and stalagmite hands” (photo below).
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Stalactites and stalagmites are known as speleothems, or cave decorations. The carrot-like ones that cling to the ceiling and hang down are stalactites. The ones that grow up from the floor are stalagmites. There are also a lot of different formations that don’t fit in these two categories – draperies, columns, soda straws, popcorn, and helictites.
This ladder (above) was the way that early explorers ventured into the lower cave.
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It’s pretty mind-blowing to think that this limestone rock is full of ocean fossil plants and animals from when this area was a coastline.
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There is so much to do in New Mexico. We had a lot of good ideas and it was a little hard to narrow it down. I’m glad we decided to visit this spot. It’s like nowhere else I’ve ever been.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Santa Fe Continued


Sammy posed at the Capitol building. Of course, the architecture matches the land.

Natalie Goldberg writes a lot about the vast sky of New Mexico. I understood what she meant when we were there – it was so expansive and blue.

Even in the city, the sky and the mountains loomed.

Georgia O’Keeffe had this to say about New Mexico,

There’s something so perfect about the mountains and the lake and the trees…sometimes I want to tear it all to pieces.”


The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum was inspiring.

Being there made me think deeply about the relationship between human and place. O’Keeffe’s memory is soaked through that part of the country. She embodied the enormous skies, the brilliant colors of the landscapes, the dry earth and bones.  She found sanctuary in her dream home near Santa Fe and had this to say:

It was all so far away – there was quiet and an untouched feel to the country and I could work as I pleased.”

I love the idea of home as sanctuary. I have been thinking about the idea of a peaceful, clear space to work – to write, to create, to breathe. I hope to have a space like that in the not-too-distant future.

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Here’s an O’Keeffe quote that gets my heart beating:

“The bones seem to cut sharply to the center of something that is keenly alive on the desert even though it is vast and empty and untouchable... and knows no kindness with all its beauty.”

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Besides the O’Keeffe Museum, in Santa Fe we spent some time strolling outside of galleries. However, we were more excited about the public art outside.

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We found an outdoor cafe for coffee and pause. Inspired and tired, we re-fueled.

I then went to visit an old, dear friend in EspaƱola and met her tiny baby and sweet husband. It was such a peaceful, beautiful visit. It gave me motivation to continue, though my body was exhausted, my mind was full, and my heart craved some peace and quiet.

Interest is the most important thing in life; happiness is temporary, but interest is continuous.” -Georgia O’Keeffe

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Santa Fe

On to Santa Fe!


We breezed through the Turquoise Trail from Albuquerque to Santa Fe. This is a scenic and historic route full of pretty views and artist shops and stops. We drove to the top of one of the Sandia Mountains (above) and hung out in the clouds for a little bit.


When we got to Santa Fe, we stopped at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. I insisted we take the photograph aboveI love the sentiment, “Love one another constantly.” If I open my heart, I find reminders as to how to live my life everywhere I go.

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This parish has existed since 1610, when Santa Fe was established as a city.

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Though I do not practice any religion, I love visiting places like these for the history, art, and stillness.  

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We also visited the Loretto Chapel. This chapel is the home of the miraculous staircase (read about it here). It is a gorgeous, small chapel and the spiral staircase inside is interesting to gaze upon. The staircase was created for free by a carpenter who randomly showed up after Sisters had been praying to find a solution to getting to their choir space without a ladder or space-consuming stairwell. This stairway was formed without any nails or visible means of support.


However, this was my least favorite part of Santa Fe. It felt way too much like a tourist trap to me. There was a charge to get in, it was crowded, and a loud audio recording that filled the whole space. To me, spirituality doesn’t feel anything like that.

I was eager to get back outside immediately. 

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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Albuquerque Nightlife - Merican Slang

We went out to see James’ band, Merican Slang, at an old bar just east of Albuquerque in the small mountain town of Tijeras.

Molly’s Bar is the kind of place that has regulars every night. Couples dance, cheap beer flows, and friends laugh. The night we were there, a woman clad in all sheer black wandered in, swaying in front of the band, with a distant look in her eyes. No one paid her much attention, as her date watched on across the room. Lots of characters like her to observe that night.

Everyone loved the band.

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It was really fun. James sure sang his heart out. There is great joy in these guys playing together – they were going strong with the Ghostbusters song when we arrived and went on to play a variety of passionate originals and covers.



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What a great night.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Albuquerque Expanded


Albuquerque’s Old Town was founded in 1706 and is full of historic adobe buildings. It’s very touristy, but in a good way. San Felipe de Neri Church is the oldest building in the city.

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We wandered around old New Mexican shops, galleries, and cafes. So many great artists in New Mexico!  We ate good food smothered in green chile, loved the interesting plants we encountered, and admired the Sandia Mountains. Sandia means “watermelon” in Spanish, perhaps in reference to the hue the mountains take on at sunrise and sunset. 




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