Montana Wolf

Saturday, January 26, 2013

In the Thrall of O'Keefe

Goddess at the Helm - The White Place

I had not been to the Abiquiu for at least eight years. I had forgotten the beauty of the pinyon and juniper-studded hills, contrasted with the striped, multi-colored rock that recalled the colors of Capital Reef. And then there was the White Place, a hidden canyon of stunning white rock where Georgia O'Keefe walked the washes as she picked up pelvis bones that would later show up in her vivid, sensual paintings.

I made this trip with another photographer so our rhythms were in sync. We exited her flashy blue BMW -- quite the contrast from my old Ford F-150 pickup -- and took off in different directions to find our way through the maze of rock. I chose a slot canyon that climbed and narrowed through a series of smooth, water-formed curves. I was unable to negotiate the final tight turns due to shady, snow and ice-laden rock.  All the more reason to return someday soon. I turned around with a smile and slowly made my way down. As someone who used to crave loops, I have learned that to go to the end and turn around is the same. One sees different angles and viewpoints on the same route.

I entered an open wash and laid down. The crystalline air heightened awareness as I listened to the rustling cottonwood leaves; a raven glided from spire to spire between Robbie and I, his ubiquitous call echoing off the walls. So easy to lose sense of linear time; to merge imagination with the infinite holy blue sky.

 Virgen de Guadalupe
Black Virgen
Our final stop was the Sanctuario in the Plaza of old Abiquiu, not far from O'Keefe's home. The doors were not locked as we commented on our good fortune and proceeded into the sacred adobe church. It was a  simple, inviting sanctuary with an altar of hand-hewn furniture. I sat in the pew, submersed in the energy and history. I have seen hundreds of images of the Virgen of Guadalupe, but I was thrilled to see, for the first time, a weaving of her on the wall, as opposed to the familiar painting or statue. I approached for a closer look. As I turned away, I was stopped short by one of the most stunning renditions of the rare, Black Virgen  I have ever seen. We had stumbled upon the triple Goddess.

Virgin Mary

We departed the Plaza and made our way down the hill to the highway. Quick decision, we sped across the asphalt for a dip into Bode's General Store. "Since 1893," it is the Abiquiu life-line to hardware, feed and groceries. There were skillets the size of a round table top and work gloves packaged by the dozen. I couldn't resist a red-speckled enamelware bowl, perfect for popcorn.


  1. I was with you!!!! Didn't know about the Sanctuario, but knew the Blanca park with my camera about 6 yrs. ago and Bode' Abiquiu, and miss that whole area...thank you for a Saturday morning trek thru it all again...

  2. You're most welcome, Jyoti. Years ago I put these places in my book, "New Mexico's Sanctuaries, Retreats and Sacred Places." It was wondrous to return. I want to visit Plaza Blanca in the snow.

  3. I love Abiquiu, and was there a few months ago. Like you I hiked and visited the church, then topped it all off with a green chile cheeseburger at Bode's. A perfect day - thank you for the reminder!

    1. The area wreaks of magic, doesn't it. Also stopped at Ghost Ranch and remembered my two phenomenal climbs to the top of the Pedernal, where Georgia's ashes were cast to the wind. Say what? Green chile cheeseburger? I'm heading back pronto!

  4. What a treat to taste a morsel of your journey. Thank you for sharing! To lay down in an open wash sounds divine. I suppose a snow angel might have to suffice for now. Cheers Christina!

    1. Thank you for your lively response. Yes, a snow angel for now. I just might drive back there in the morning.