To New MexicoLift, 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