"Ultima came to stay with us the summer I was almost seven. When she came the beauty of the llano unfolded before my eyes, and the gurgling waters of the river sang to the hum of the turning earth. The magical time of childhood stood still, and the pulse of the living earth pressed its mystery into my living blood."
Bless Me Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ojo Caliente

On our last day in New Mexico we all took the opportunity to relax a little bit and we went to the hot springs at Oho Caliente. The springs website really explains it best, so I quote

"Ojo Caliente is the only hot springs in the world with a remarkable combination of four different types of mineral water: lithium, iron, soda and arsenic. Our ten pools are filled with different types and combinations of waters with temperatures ranging from 80-109 degrees."

And they had so many different kinds!

"Located at the heart of the springs, the historic pump has been dispensing this unique water since the nineteenth century. Lithium is believed to relieve depression and aid digestion."

"A Native American legend tells that the giant rock in the iron pool guards the place where the ancient people of the mesa once received food and water during times of famine. The warm, iron-rich water bubbles up from the natural pebble floor, providing hot spots to discover in this mystical outdoor cliffside pool. Iron is considered to be beneficial to the blood and immune system."

"The rock walls in the enclosed Soda “steam” pool create a soft echo providing a sense of calm and relaxation. Water from the Soda Spring is said to have been used to relieve digestive problems."

"The arsenic water is believed to be beneficial for relief from arthritis, stomach ulcers and to heal a variety of skin conditions. Water from the iron and arsenic springs is blended in various pools throughout the property."

It was a lovely day and some of us even indulged in a herbal detox wrap where they wrap you up in hot towels that have been soaked in herbs that are supposed to draw out impurities from the body. The expereince was really quite delicious and we all came out ready for another full day of travelling, and we may even be able to survive the frigid air and sunless skies of Michigan.

Sunday Worship Service

This weekend we did our last little bits of shopping and prepared to leave beautiful New Mexico. On Saturday some of the group went and practiced for the worship service that our group was leading at Linda and Scott’s church called Christian Family.
On Sunday we went and all of those who could sing let their voices commingle with the lovely sounds of Linda’s piano and Scott’s guitar. It really was a great experience and all the people at the church really loved it and thought it was such a treat. It was also special because Linda and Scott used to be very involved in the church and they are also worship leaders of Madison.
Afterwards we had a potluck with the members of the church and got to talk to them. I met a fascinating gentleman called Joe who was Native American and lived on the reservation with his daughters. It was a great experience to be able to talk to these people and find out all their views of the area and their experiences with it.

Richard and Tupper

Friday we went out to the Carson area and met Linda and Scott’s friends Richard and Tupper. They are both artists, Richard is an artist and makes the most amazing asymmetrical pots and Tupper does this very intricate copper, silver and glass work. They come from a lineage of artists, and they all work in different mediums. Tupper works mainly with crosses which she incorporates all these different elements in. Their daughter also wraps arrow head and glass in sterling silver wire and makes these wonderful pendants.
Richard and Tupper were very interesting and both did some of their work for us. Watching Richard throw a pot was quite an experience. He worked the clay like it was part of him and created this delicate volumous shape with only his hands and the centrifugal force of the wheel spinning.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

We make it entertaining

On Thursday we went to Santa Fe again. We went (after a detour or two) to Museum Hill to the Museum of Native American Arts and Culture. The exhibit had a lot of stuff like arrowheads and baby carriers and blankets and things like that. They put some really random stuff in the exhibition like a baby car seat and a nintendo 64 which made no sense, and then there was no plaque so understanding some of the exhibitions was basically impossible.

After the majority of our class was through the exhibition we checked out the children’s Discovery Room. There we all got to do some hands on ‘learning’. Erica and I built an almost life-sized adobe house our of giant bricks (actually I built it and then Erica reenacted Godzilla and tore it down but then rebuilt it). Kristen and Carolina played children’s bongo drums and told an absolutely hilariously ridiculous story about mountain lions which we all had a pretty big laugh over. And then Jocelyn tried to do a puzzle but some kids had mixed up all the pieces so her experience may have been a little less than satisfactory.

Afterwards we ate at the cafeteria and then all but Linda and Carolina went to the International Folk Art Museum. This museum was absolutely the best and I think everyone agreed upon that because there wasn’t a single pot in it! They had all these little folk art dioramas from a bunch of different countries which was so cool.

We also got to try our hands at needlepoint, weaving and doing some loom work. Erica was by far the most fruitful and made a sweet little pot holder (the kind you make in 1st grade with the little nylon bands) which she gets to take home and give to her mommy!! Actually, I have no idea what she is going to do with it, but it was pretty cool anyways. The rest of us loomed which was frustrating because all the people before us had kinda of messed it up (that would have been the 6 yr olds that the exhibit was meant for). The needle point was also a hit which we did with giant needles and yarn. Two of us attempted to write ‘Taos’ which I don’t think either party finished. Whatever, it was annoying anyways.

Then we went shopping.

Printing with Michael

On Tuesday we went to Michael’s printing studio and we all got to make prints. The technique was pretty cool but the finished product left something to be desired for most of us.

But Michael was really an amazing person. He learned the trade from his father and was also an artist. He made the most interesting works from a print and then on some he would go back in and re touch them with pencils and add details. He also made prints for other artists and helped them use the technique to create their own masterpieces.

All in all, it was very cool and even though it was a little difficult we all enjoyed ourselves.

The Holiest Dirt

On Monday we went to the Sanchuario in Chimayo. We took the high road to get there and there were so beautiful pictures of the forest and the mountain tops taken. After a rather thrilling ride we arrived at Sanchuario. We went inside and it really did have a very spiritual presence. We went and looked at all the pictures of saints, and notes that people had written. There was even one by Ed Sandoval that was really interesting. It was like a familiar face in a crowd.

Every one was very interested in the holy dirt that was kept in a hole that we were told ‘kept mysteriously refilling itself’ and also that the dirt had healing properties. So we all dutifully accepted ziplock baggies from Carolina and then got a little shovel full of the dirt. The whole experience would have been quite magical had some one (who will remain anonymous because she really was just the messenger) not read the info board on the front of the church that said that the priests blessed the dirt and that it was refilled by a custodian. I mean a custodian, really?? And then to put the icing on the cake it says that the dirt has no healing properties. Well.... there goes one bubble popped.

This would have been a downright tragedy if the church was not so beautiful and had so much history associated with it. But it did. And so we all went home happy.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ed Sandoval

One of our best days I have completely forgotten to mention. Wednesday we saw Ed Sandoval paint in his studio. This was by far one of everyone’s favorite days. Ed was so personable and lovely and we all watched so intently as he built this wonderful painting right in front of us. His darling dog, Chocolate (Choc-O-lat-EY) was also a trip, he jumped all over the place and ran around the studio with Kristen’s scarf in his mouth like he was the king of the world.

At the end I had asked if he would sell me one of his pallets that he paints from because it really was the most amazing amalgamation of colors. Instead of selling it to me he just gave it to me! And he autographed it and drew his signature ‘el viejo’ (old man from the Milagro Bean Field Wars which was a movie we had watched earlier in the week which was filmed in Taos).

All in all, This was definitely one of our best days in Taos and I think that Ed will forever hold a special place in all of our thoughts.


This weekend was nice and relaxing. We all got to catch up on some serious email and internet stuff because, gasp, we have not had internet where we are staying!
On Saturday we checked out some openings. One was Pablo Florez, the man who makes these wonderful crosses, who is a favorite artist of our hosts Linda & Scott. We also checked out the Doc Martin bar and had some dinner. This is where we ran into Ed Sandoval (Jan 14) who as just as charming as ever.

On Sunday some of our class was courageous and got up at the crack of dawn and went to San Francisco de Asisi which is one of the most photographed churches in the United States. Others of us went to the same church as last Sunday. Afterwards, we went into town and had some free time which some of us spent at the Mabel Dodge Luahn House.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Diva Batiking with Gary Fey

Yesterday we had the most amazing class on Batiking. The master Batiker- Gary Fey, was quite the charismatic artist and super encouraging to boot. He showed us all his amazing art and the complicated techniques. We spent from 1 to 6pm there learning the ways of the master.

We started off with a patterned piece of silk which we then did some light underpainting on which gave us the 'multi colored line technique' and was a 'planned surprise' which seemed to be a particularly inspirational part of Gary's work. We then drew our simple designs (which our class may have not known the meaning of the word simple, but we enjoyed it all the same) and then traced it onto silk with wax. This was a rather stressful process of roto-routing (translation: de-clogging the waxing tools), catching drips, and re-dipping.

Then came the really fun part of coloring it with the different dyes. After this there was another layer of wax and another layer of paint.

We finished with a little handwriting analysis (which Gary specialized in and gave some very startling declarations about) and our Batik diplomas (translation: batik wrapped in paper towel with our names on them)... Very cool... Very cool....

The Luckiest Indians (Bandolier)

Normally you wouldn’t call Indians ‘lucky’ with all the kicking off the land and all that. But if you could see where they lived you may be inclined to be a little bit envious. These Indians made their homes in the foot of volcanic rock cliffs. The holes were called cavates which is a combination of ‘cave’ and ‘excavate’. Many of the holes they were living in were natural and they hollowed them out to be larger and then built homes out in front. The effect is really quite striking.
I just cant imagine how wonderful it would be to be a child of about 10 or 15 and be able to go around exploring all the different walkways and hand holds and paths in the rock. It really seemed like the best community to live in.
The crowning feature of Bandalier National Monument was the Alcove House with a restored kiva that you could climb down into. Kivas were ceremonial rooms underground which was where decisions were made and where male children were talked to about traditions.

Unfortunately, the Tyuonyi (chew-OHN-yee) moved off the land before the spanish even got there and moved some miles away to a different reservation. It may have been from over hunting or that the land couldn’t really support the people any more.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Luckiest Indians (Bandolier)

Santa Fe

There’s a lot of history in Santa Fe. A lot. And we did a day of museum-going that definitely was not for the faint hearted. First we checked out the Governor's Palace which was first built by the Spanish and then the indians lived in it and then it was reoccupied after the Pueblo Revolt around 1680. At least thats what I gathered from the tour guide who rivaled paint drying for entertainment value. She had some crazy eyes and a failing memory but we still managed to get some (marginally?) quality information. We learned all about the Spanish, even though some of what she said contradicted Linda’s colorful stories. We also got to see a lot of old artifacts that were part of people’s everyday lives.

One of the most interesting things we saw was the mud wagon that held 15 people and barely rivaled the size of an average handicapped bathroom stall. We also learned that the term ‘Shotgun’ (referring to the person who sits next to the driver) originated from the person sitting next to the driver who would shoot native americans or robbers!!!! WOW!

We also saw Santa Fe Museum of Modern Art which had a fascinating collection of Georgia O’Keefe paintings as well as a sculpture garden and a sweet gift shop. We pretty were all museumed-out by this point. Or at least I was.

Monday, January 12, 2009

To Junta and Back

This had to be the most amazing hike I have ever done. We hiked all the way down to where the Rio Grande River and the Red River meet and are known as wild rivers. This hike was not for the faint hearted- there were ladders, falling rocks, snow, mud staircases and wobbly bridges all perched precariously on a sheer rock face which dropped what must have been 1000 feet down a formidable precipice.
We witnessed breathtaking views which I wont bother explaining in mere words....

After seeing that, you can imagine the trip back up. It was also breathtaking in a different way.... We all made it back up which is really all I need to say.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Chill Sunday with the catholics

Today we Checked out the Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Arroyo Seco for our Sunday Service. Many of our group had never been to a catholic church which was a great experience for us. The service was an authentic mix of spanish and english with some modern and traditional elements mixed in. It was also notable that they were about to celebrate their 175th anniversary of their old church called La Santisima Trinidad.

We also checked out the best New Mexican food in all of Taos. It was called Orlando’s and everything from their festive paint job to their authentic menu made all of our mouths salivate as we took our seats. The guacamole and salsa were great, and most of our crew ate the Los Calores which was three different corn tortillas with red and green chile and cheese on them. It definitely lived up to its name and came out and was the closest thing to an edible rainbow as I have ever seen. Everything right down to the posole (Linda’s translation: corn on steroids, which was 100% accurate) was scrumptious.

After dinner we took some hilarious photos (seriously, check out Christian’s face).

Jocelyn and Christian also decided to try their hand at some culinary arts with some chocolate chip oatmeal cookies which we all were happy to partake in.

Laguna Pueblo

Being two hours ahead, waking up at 8am doesn’t feel that bad. We got up from the hotel and had some breakfast and then set off toward the Laguna Pueblo to look at the San Jose Mission which has been an inspirational location for many, including Leslie Marmon Silko. The church was a striking white against the clear blue sky and red and brown hills that were dotted with pinion trees and the rolling hills in the background.
Inside, the church had a warm rustic charm from the true adobe building techniques. At dinner last night we had talked about how New Mexicans build adobe structures, mixing red clay with straw and carrying the huge beams from far away with nothing but bare hands. This church was archetypal and even in the floors you could see where the mud had worn away and the straw poked through. The ceilings were made from large beams laying widthwise and then smaller wooden posts laying diagonally across them giving the ceiling a herring bone pattern. It was decorated with geometric patterns, curly q’s and birds, which are native decorations to the Lagunas. In its entirety the building was an inspiring collaboration of catholicism, faith and devotion.

While on the reservation Jocelyn befriended a native who invited us to watch their Epiphany celebration. What must have been sixty individuals took part, some very experienced, and some children that must have been no more than three. The group formed a drum circle three people wide around the plaza and slowly marched and danced to the rhythm that the elders were playing in the middle of the circle on a large ceremonial drum. What was remarkable was how everyone in the celebration knew when the rhythm changes and when it stopped.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Journey Begins

Finally, after months of anticipation we have finally left frigid, snowy Michigan and have arrived safely in the heart of the American Southwest- Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The first notable accomplishment that I simply have to give our group credit for is that we all packed only carry on-luggage. Thats three weeks worth of clothes, shoes, books, socks and what ever else. And we’re girls. So maybe we aren’t Paris Hilton, but I think this is still a major accomplishment.

After a quick stop in St. Paul, we landed in Albuquerque and met Scott, Professor Naranjo-Huebl’s wonderfully down-to-earth and amiable husband. We made a quick stop at the hotel and then it was on to San Felipe de Neri in the old section of town.

We checked out the local fare at a little restaurant made in an authentic adobe house. Some of us stuck to the tried and true classics like tacos and an enchilada and others went on a more adventurous route of Chile Verdano and other local specialities.

Tiered and satiated we returned to our hotel for a quick debriefing and then off to the land of winkem blinklem and nodd.... one of the most needed destinations of the whole day.