To New Mexico

Lift, New Mexico, your tired forehead
That clouds the enchantment of your peaceful face,
And joyfully receive the bright crown,
Symbol of glory, venture, and peace.
(excerpt from Official State Poem)

When I was about 8, I remember reading my first chapter book.  Can you guess what it was?  Yes it was a mystery book…give up… well it was a Nancy Drew mystery.  Not the originals from the 30s (although I have a few reprints), it was one of the series with the blue binding published in the early 50s.  I have the complete set of yellow bindings from the early to mid-60s, and yes I still read them.  But once I read that first book, I was swept up into the magical world of Nancy.  I wanted to grow up and be able to jaunt about with friends to wonderful adventures and solve mysteries.

So you can guess what genre of books line my 3 bookshelves and over flow onto the floor.  And what TV shows or movies I watch.  Any old TV or movie mystery will do especially Perry Mason and old movie mysteries from the 30s, and the standard Film Noire of the 40s and 50s.  I am a mystery addict.  Craving for the complicated plots that tax my “little gray cells” (Hercule Poirot).

It follows that with all this love of anything mysterious, I also am drawn to mysteries that are historical.  I love to visit new places and walk amongst the buildings, along the paths once trodden by ancient civilizations.  I marvel that once lived here a people who have disappeared or moved on.  What did they look like? What happened to them?  I feel truly honored to walk their path.  Some of the most magical places I have visited here in the United States are in the Southwest.  With my family rejecting the snow and cold of the Northeast and moving to Arizona,  that afforded me an opportunity to explore these ancient dwellings.

And when a dear friend moved to Santa Fe, NM, I began to get to know and explore that state as well.  After all it is also brimming with history and mystery.  I even spent my 50th birthday there with family and friend because it such a beautiful place.  I fell in love with the Native American culture and artwork, the slow pace of life and the incredible vistas everywhere you look.  The mountains create unique micro climates and even though there is snow and seasons, the sun is warm and the snows easily melt.  The high desert climate creates a different style of gardening, xeric, that you must embrace.  And what struck me as most unusual were the colors of the landscape.  Everywhere you look the vegetation was a beautiful blue-green color, almost turquoise.  Even the roadside weeds and wildflowers were this gorgeous color at least in the Santa Fe area.  Here in the NE we rarely see that color.

This year I was lucky enough to explore beyond the Santa Fe area.  We took a day trip to Bandelier National Monument, north of Santa Fe and near Los Alamos.  To say we were entering a mysterious place was putting it mildly.  As soon as we exited the car, I was struck by an incredible spiritual and scenic beauty.  The pictures here are all from Bandelier.  I took hundreds that day trying to capture the feeling of this amazing place.

To really appreciate what you are seeing, I want to give you a bit of the history of this amazing land.  This place was inhabited as long as 10, 000 years ago when nomadic people followed migrating wildlife across the mesas and canyons. Different sources say at 800 or 1150 CE Ancestral Pueblo people began to build more permanent settlements creating villages or pueblos with as many as 40 rooms.  As the population increased they began to make tools to scoop out the stone walls.  What is amazing about this is the stone walls are volcanic making it a bit easier to carve cave-like dwellings fronted by multistory pueblos made of earth and wood beams.  The pictures of the remains of the large pueblo structure on the ground in front of the cliffs housed as many as 100 people.  By 1500 they were gone with the coming of the Spanish exploration.  They continue to excavate the site today and have found thousands of dwellings throughout the plateaus.  The areas was named for Adolph F.A. Bandelier who explored the area.  He was born in Switzerland in 1840 and raised in Illinois.  It was made an National Monument in 1916. One other interesting note was that the park was closed for several years during World War II to the public and the Bandelier lodge was used to house Manhattan Project scientists and military personnel.

But beyond the history and the imagined secrets of this site is the amazing landscape.  There are Cottonwood and Box Elders covering the canyon basins; Yucca, Saltbush and Cholla clinging to canyon walls; Pinyon and Juniper crowding along the mesa tops, with Fir and Ponderosa Pine living in the high elevations.  With these magnificent trees come habitats for elk, black bear, and mountain lions.  Luckily we only saw the resident squirrels the day we visited.

This magnificent place will be forever burned in my mind.  I found it to be ethereal.  More than a mere place of history.  A magical earthly oasis that was once viewed as I have viewed it.  A heavenly abode in which to make a home.  And while you may not consider it a garden, I do.  I find it to be a fertile, beautiful spot to sit and contemplate life as once the people did here 10,000 years ago.  Much like I sit and contemplate in my garden oasis at my home.

So with that said, I have decided to enter the picture below in the Gardening Gone Wild’s Picture This Photo Contest-February 2011.  The contest’s theme is to photograph our special place and Bandelier could not fit the bill more.  While this picture was taken by this novice photographer with a Canon SureShot camera and has no hope of winning, I have decided to throw caution to the wind and utter that famous NY mantra, “Hey you ever know”.  If you click on it, you will see it in all it’s full size glory as it shows through my eyes the majesty of this garden oasis!!

I read recently that we learn to understand ourselves through our relationships with the world around us—its seasons and landscapes. That day at Bandelier I learned that the Great Spirit dwells in many places and offers us respite.  A place where we find happiness, peace and understanding of life.

“Who in the world am I? Ah, that is the great puzzle.”  Lewis Carroll


  1. Donna says:

    I have always considered NM to be one of the prettiest states and it is because of all the color and texture to be found. You can get lost here in thought and exploration. And like you mentioned, history and spirit of place. I so want to go back because it was almost 30 years since I was there, yet the pictures in my head are like from yesterday. It had that great an impact on me, so I can readily see why you selected that image. And my other reason is I am a huge Georgia O’Keefe fan and I want to experience it through art like she had done.

    • Donna says:

      Donna I love Georgia O’Keefe as well and I think I am drawn to the beauty and mystery as she was….Santa Fe and surrounding areas are my very favorite and I hope to retire there ….

  2. Gail says:

    Donna, I want to visit this part of our beautiful country! It’s captivating. When our son was much younger we took a train trip from LA to Santa Fe! I fell in love with the city~the colorful homes, the fantastic food and the gorgeous countryside. It’s time to go back and see even more. gail PS My first mysteries were by written by Elizabeth Honness. One she wrote was Mystery At The Doll Hospital!

    • Donna says:

      Lovely..thx Diana..I realize these awards sometimes are just a chain but I participated to simply thank some great bloggers…accepting it was nice and I realize some will participate and others will not…but I am glad you accepted it in the way it was intended…a very heartfelt thank you to a wonderful blogger and mentor

  3. Jess says:

    I’m with you on the Nancy Drew… I am a huge reader these days and she was an integral part. Indiana Jones also shaped my life. Growing up a combo of the two would have suited me perfectly!

    • Donna says:

      I am so glad you could relate…and so glad you visited..I hope you will stop back now and again…I have discovered your blog and cannot wait to read more!!

  4. lifeshighway says:

    The best part of the blogging world is seeing real beauty in places that you have never seen. Thank you for sharing New Mexico with us. I have never been there.

  5. Dee @ Red Dirt Ramblings says:

    I’m a huge Nancy fan too. I have one of the really old editions. It actually was my first N.D. book found at a garage sale by a friend of my mother’s.

    As for New Mexico, what a wonderful place. I’d love to explore it even more than I already have. Have you ever read Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop? It is not a mystery although it sounds like one, but instead, a history of the Archbishop who came to New Mexico. Wonderful reading, and Willa C. wasn’t even Catholic.~~Dee

    • Donna says:

      Dee I am happy we have Nancy to share…I have never heard of the book but will search it out and make it a must read…glad you liked NM

  6. Jenn says:

    I love how timeless Nancy Drew is. I’m in my 20s and I read every single Nancy Drew book by 5th grade and loved them! I too love visiting places with history. It is my dream one day to make it to Greece and Rome. I haven’t been to the southwest but from your pictures I would love to visit there one day!

    • Donna says:

      wow Jenn that is wonderful that Nancy is timeless…i often wonder that…you would love the for Greece and Rome…make sure you get there…such beauty in the world!!

  7. Carolflowerhillfarm says:

    Donna, I might have been about the same age, when I fell for Nancy! I read all of her books and to this day I love a good mystery. Holmes, Christie . . . about my speed. I have only just discovered a wonderful painter, who lives in Santa Fe! How lucky for you to have a dear friend there. The light and colors of the vast landscapes seem magical. I know it is a haven for artists. Georgia O’Keefe being one I particularly love too. Your photographs are wonderful and each does indeed provoke a mysterious and spiritual quality. Good luck with the contest! I greatly enjoyed this post!

    • Donna says:

      Carol I do so love Georgia O’Keefe as well…I am happy you enjoyed the post and it will be stiff competition but I had fun just putting it together!!

  8. Liane Benedict says:

    Donna – I loved mysteries as well. ever hear of the Trixie Belden series? And of course I read the Hardy Boys series…

    This is a beautiful post – thanks for sharing.

    I love the line…we learn to understand ourselves through our relationships with the world around us—its seasons and landscapes – may I share those words?

  9. Cat says:

    Donna I just don’t know where to start…first of all, best of luck in the contest…your photo captures the heart of the contest – a place that stokes your spirit! Secondly, New Mexico speaks to me…it has the most creative energy and the colors, climate and people are wonderful. We spend quite a bit of time there as we can drive pretty easily (12-14 hours) and ski. Toas is amazing and some day that is where I would like to raise my chickens and goats!

    • Donna says:

      Cat, I agree with you about NM…it speaks to me too and I hope to live there one day…how lucky you are so close…and thx for your good wishes in the contest…my first time entering any photos in a contest…

  10. Catherine/ A Gardener in Progress says:

    I loved reading Nancy Drew books too, my mom had saved quite a few of hers and my sister and I read many of them.
    New Mexico is a place I’ve always wanted to visit. It just seems so different from where I live. Your pictures really captured the beauty. Good luck in the contest, the picture is beautiful!

    • Donna says:

      Catherine first how cool your mom saved her books for you…I have mine but sadly no children. Next, New Mexico is a place you have to visit…simply an amazing Eden…and lastly thank you for the good wishes in the contest…we shall see since I am up against incredible competition.

  11. debsgarden says:

    The first time i visited the western part of our country I thought I had landed on another planet. It is so different from where I live and not at all what I expected. The desert is incredibly beautiful and a perfect place, as you say, for contemplation. I have not been to Bandelier. Thanks for sharing! And good luck with the contest!

    • Donna says:

      Deb the northern part of NM is so different from the deserts and a wonderful place to visit…thx for the encouragement with the contest

  12. Stacy says:

    What beautiful photos! I moved to Albuquerque a few years ago and mostly visit the southern part of the state. You’ve inspired me to head north soon! I second Dee @ Red Dirt Rambling’s recommendation re: Death Comes for the Archbishop – a really loving evocation of the landscape and people.

  13. Janet/Plantaliscious says:

    Hi Donna, I’ve only visited NM once, for a conference in Santa Fe, so I didn’t get to explore much, but I did drive around through the mountains. There is something unique about the combination of high desert landscape and associated deep hush that is instantly calming to me. I loved it, and it was wonderful to be reminded of it by your post and to see a little more of what it has to offer.

  14. Malidna says:

    I love the mystery of your photograph! I’m from Colorado and visited NM a few times. It’s fun it imagine what these sites looked like when they were inhabited. You can feel the sense of community.

    • Donna says:

      Malinda, you understand the pics fully…I do try to imagine just that and capture the incredible feeling and the history of these great people…I am so honored to be where they were…thx

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