Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Photo post: Mabel Dodge Luhan and Autumn Glory in Taos

Oh, what a glorious turning of the leaves in the Taos Valley these past several days. Two weeks ago I struck gold up at Taos Ski Valley


where the aspen glowed from greenish to bright yellow to red. These trees alight with warm colors set against the evergreen reminded me of some of  Ernest L. Blumenschein's paintings and his fascination with such contrasts in nature.

Lately, I've wondered what Mabel might have thought, and as I skimmed through her books Winter in Taos, Edge of Taos Desert, and even Lorenzo in Taos, what struck me was how much time she spent outdoors, how much she observed and wrote about nature. Mabel certainly felt the rhythm of the seasons. I wondered if she felt the same uplift of the heart as I do at viewing fall colors. She did and so I thought it would be fun to illustrate her words with photos.

Here, where we live, the autumn has come upon us imperceptibly and we have not noticed its gradual approach.

A yellowish tinge comes over the big cottonwood trees so slowly we do not see it until we go away and come back, then our eyes are fresh and we suddenly see that summer is over.

 The trees change color quickly now for there is frost at night and they are showing every shade of yellow against the dark mountains. The distance turns a deeper blue for all the yellow near us.

After the trees are fully turned and are like torches of fiery yellow, often with coral red tips, and others are big balls of radiant, sun-colored loveliness, they have a long quiet pause before the end. 

Day after day of Indian summer passes, breathless, when the whole valley is immobile and every leaf is motionless, shining golden and still. What days! One moves in a dream through the country, scarcely able to believe one's eyes, for the wonder of it.

Again the cottonwood trees were yellow against the dark-blue sky and there was no wind—not a breath of a breeze in the rich autumnal air.

This past Sunday I drove from Santa Fe to Taos, and all along the Rio Grande clusters and families of golden-glow cottonwoods loomed over the river as it snaked along the canyon. As evening deepened the color on the trees intensified from rich goldenrod to cadmium orange, morphing finally to rosy bronze. No camera could have captured this: I have it only in my mind's eye...and you must imagine it. When I arrived at the overlook onto the Rio Grande Gorge and Taos Mountain with the valley spreading as wide as the eye could see, it seemed that globes of cottonwoods festooned the sweep like so many tethered balloons looming over the landscape.

It's gone now. It's raining and the glow is gone. But not the memory and not the thrill of seeing nature wearing her glory coat of autumn.

With hopes that this has provided you with a feast for the eyes and a different view of Mabel Dodge Luhan.

Adios for now,


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Short: Mabel Dodge Luhan & the Transformative Power of Taos

Whew! Visions and names of the Remarkable Women of Taos whirl in my head and inform my dreams. I'm interviewing and writing up women ranging across the age and community groups of Taos. Soon the Remarkable Women of Taos media campaign will go live, and you'll be able to read about some of the women in full, but today I'll give you a sampling of what is to come.

For this piece I am focusing on one of the questions on the interview form used to gather the stories of remarkable women, namely: "How has the landscape / environment of Taos shaped you?"

Obviously, I can't ask Mabel this question, but as Judi Jordan pointed out, mining Mabel's work can unearth some answers. Here's one example of the transformative power of Taos from The Edge of Taos Desert. Mabel first writes about the change she felt as all the trappings from her former life fell away. Leading into the following paragraph, she recalls the intimate memories of her life, then relates the effect of Taos on her:

I was offered and accepted a spiritual therapy that was cleansing, one that ... finally rewarded me with a sense of reality.

Looking at a similar question, I thought you might like to know how some contemporary Taos women responded. For artist and book illustrator Amy Cordova whose family has lived in the area for three centuries, the land holds the stories of her ancestors.

There is something sacred in realizing that my ancestors traveled my same routes, saw the same grand peak of Taos Mountain, smelled the sage after the rains, or the scent of pinon rising from a kiva fireplace on a cold winter’s night…just like I experience…now. I feel close to them through this way of thinking.

When she first arrived, glass artist Delinda VanneBrightyn immediately sensed that Taos was a special place--a place that felt ancient yet left her, like Mabel, feeling renewed, alive.

The land and sky here has shaped me for sure. It informs my art. It fills my soul. It hardens me to be strong and fit and capable. It softens me with its boundless and breathtaking beauty. It leaves me in awe of my insignificance. It inspires me to push on to be as creative as possible.

This just a glimpse of the transformative power of Taos. May these few paragraphs also provide you with a flavor of the contemporary remarkable women of Taos who will appear on the blog in the months to come.

Adios for now,