Told that I would be Enchanted by the New Mexico Landscape, I Scoffed
March 24, 2010 — 9:30am
When I was told that I would be enchanted by the New Mexico landscape, I scoffed. I was after all a Minnesota girl. I liked my landscape in shades of blue and green; tall green cathedrals, wide blue expanses of water. I could not imagine finding joy in barren red rock…red rock for miles and miles. Some say they love the New Mexico landscape because it matches their own internal landscape. But not me I have come to love the New Mexico landscape because it is so completely ‘other’ to me. It’s the mysteriousness of it all, the very different-ness that enchants me.
This week I head out to start my Holy Week journey. We will head north out of Santa Fe toward Ghost Ranch and we have a confounding view of the Rio GrandeRiverValley. In Minnesota, on the rare occasion that I can see a long distance, I can set my sights on the horizon and I follow the road to that point, generally keeping the same view of the horizon in sight. In New Mexico I’m confused because every turn in the road, every rise or fall of the highway, thrusts me into a completely new view.What seems to this Minnesota girl like the flat plain of a river valley is in fact a series of unique arroyos each of which has its own landscape and as the road rises out that particular dip the whole valley seems to have changed.
We’ve come down a bit from the 6000 plus feet above sea level that is Santa Fe and are headed first toward Espanola on the banks of the Rio Grande. Espanola is known for its low riders and Angelina's restaurant. Low riders are refurbished cars, generally in glorious colors, with a special hydraulic system that allows them to drive very low to the ground or to lower the back and raise the front or raise the back and lower the front. Or they can be leaned to the right or to the left. Apparently on a fairly regular basis the low riders come out en mass and cruise the streets of Espanola. But I’ve never been there on Friday and Saturday night.
I have been to Angelina’s. In fact, I think it's safe to say that I've visited her 19 out of 20 trips to New Mexico – in multiples of 2 or 3.The new building is on the new road with the new bridge over the old Rio Grande. It’s concrete in that same beautiful warm brown that most of the buildings are.Inside it’s light and airy and still full of chatter.But I really liked the old building better. Scrappy looking on the outside; the remainders of old posters ripped off leaving their tracks. Chipped and cracked, broken and leaning. Real adobe with low ceilings. Dark to the eyes of those of us just come in from the New Mexican sun. And each booth was decorated as some old building in town. I liked the booth that represented the city jail.It was great to pretend to be one of the bad girls - free to go whenever I wanted to ‘break out’ - in the meantime content to be waited on by one of Angelina’s great staff who quickly brought the green pesole and an ice-cold beer.But Angela’s is still the same great food and relatively inexpensive and so we still stop.
Having crossed on the new the bridge we are on the western bank of the Rio Grande.The road heads north seeking out the place where the ChamaRiver empties into the Rio Grande. And there we head northwest alongside the Chama.The road winds to match the river.And I wait and watch expectantly for that moment when we come around the tip of the mesa on our left and I catch the first glimpse of Pedernal. Pedernal is one of the grandfathers in that region who towers in sovereignty over the already huge landscape. Flat and flint-topped the sun is caught and tossed back at us. And I know its’ gonna be a good day.Pedernal is the mountain about which Georgia O’Keefe said, “If I paint it enough times, I believe God will give it to me. “For the next seven days Pedernal will dominate my personal landscape. But I’m not there yet and I wait to start the Holy Week journey in that holy place. May all of you who celebrate Holy Week find yourselves on an extraordinary journey.
The Rev. Peg Chemberlin is the executive director of the Minnesota Council of Churches. She is the immediate past president of the National Council of Churches, an organization of 36 communions with 45 million constituents across the nation. Read more about Rev. Peg Chemberlin.
Rev. Canon Peg Chemberlin was asked to provide a Christian perspective on religious violence at a bipartisan press conference this Monday at the State Capitol. "We affirm the best of our faiths' traditions which call for respectful engagement with each other."