Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Day 4—a day spent with Marsden, Chris, and Georgia

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

After a good night’s sleep in my palatial accommodations, I got up, ate breakfast and trotted over to the O’Keeffe Museum. The current exhibition is on Marsden Hartley, and I toured that as well as the selections from their permanent collection of O’Keeffes. I overheard the docent say that that of the 2029 known works by Georgia O’Keeffe, the Museum now owns 1141, so, there are always new pieces on exhibit.

Chris Reed showed up at noon, and we walked over to his favorite new restaurant, a tiny French hole in the wall where I had some excellent quiche. We had a really delightful and I think companionable lunch. He has left his job as chair of an art history department in Chicago and joined the English Department at Penn State, where he will be a Professor of “Visual Culture,” a term which he invented to describe the mix of art and intellectual history he’s developing. He has grown tired of the tight disciplinary boundaries of the Art History world, where he was being pigeon-holed as a specialist in “20thC British decorative arts” which is not at all what he is doing.

Anyway, I think we had a real meeting of minds. He has been working on Japanisme—American reactions to Japanese culture, and has also been organizing a large exhibition on American collectors of Bloomsbury art, which happily opens at Duke next winter.

I spent the rest of the day at the O'Keeffe Research Center, making lists of things I wanted photographed and checking references.
Tomorrow both the Museum and the Research Center are closed, so I will be reading and writing in my room--with a bit of wandering about town before going to Chris's lecture.

Back in Santa Fe (3)

Monday, March 17, 2008

I am back in Santa Fe and doing just fine. Sunday and Monday were fairly quiet days. I made friends with some nice people from Albuquerque at breakfast. They were staying in Mable’s room, and had forgotten to bring their camera, so I went up there and took a bunch of pictures.

There is an adjacent bathroom—all glass windows painted by DH Lawrence. The door was open, so we were able to peek in and take some pictures.

I spent much of the day reading, sadly a rather unusual occurrence for me these days. Felt very decadent. Later in the afternoon when I could feel that I was stiffening up from sitting too long, I went down to the plaza and walked through some of the stores. Picked up some dinner and spent the rest of the night finishing my book (Mable’s account of Lawrence in Taos: I must say they seem like a pretty emotionally immature bunch—everyone jealous of everyone else and going into sulks, refusing to speak because they’ve been slighted in some ways. Makes me very thankful for my friends.) and refining the pictures I’d taken to give to my new friends.

I didn’t bother lugging my laptop to the main room until Monday morning, so was late finding out some sad news. My best friend in Seattle, Mona’s, mom had died the day before. I have been close to the family for over 40 years, so this was pretty upsetting to me. Her husband Jim had gone into the hospital last spring break and had died shortly thereafter. Bea was fairly fragile, had been on oxygen for years for her emphysema and had weathered breast cancer. At Christmas she had been still very sad over Jim’s death; she just kept slipping away, getting small colds, and finally a pneumonia that put her into the hospital.

I drove out of Taos, stopping at the famous (and very beautiful) Los Rancheros Church, in the shadow of whose tranquil bulk, I called Mona on my cell and got the full story on her mom. I drove back to Santa Fe on the “River Road,” with spectacular views of the Rio Grande River Gorge.

Came back to Adobe Abode to a fabulously luxurious room. They’ve got a group of families with 13-year old boys staying in the main house, so gave me a free upgrade to “Cactus”—my own little adobe cottage. It is all done in shades of aqua, and is huge and roomy, with a sofa, fireplace, and shower big enough for several people.

I kind of took the rest of the day off, but did do a lot of catching up on e-mails. The Woolf conference does want me to docent the tour to Santa Fe after the conference, and my Australian friend Suzanne is definitely coming—which will make the whole excursion a wild adventure. Suzanne would have immediately bonded with Jamaica Kincaid, for instance… Considering all the crazy karmic stuff that always happens around here, I am anticipating some real fireworks. And she will keep the bus amused on the six-hour road trip from Denver.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Adventures in Ice and Mud--Taos Day 2

Taos, Day 2—the Search for D.H. Lawrence

Today was much better than yesterday—I mean, I felt so much better, verging on normal.

I type this sitting in Spud’s room, looking straight out the windows at the mountains. Somewhere up there is supposed to be a cross which Georgia painted, but for the life of me, I can’t see it. I always seem to forget to bring my binoculars. Spuds was Mable’s secretary, a cowboy writer and printer in his own right, with a press of his own in town, called Laughing Pony.

Today (Saturday) started out bright and sunny, with much less wind than yesterday. I took the road north to find the D.H. Lawrence cabin (ranch). It was much farther away from Mable’s house than I had anticipated, almost 20 miles, the last five of which were on a dirt road that got increasingly smaller as the snow banks encroached, and muddier as they melted. The road winds back and forth through pinon forests, switch backing across gullies and cattle guards, with sudden bright vistas of the Taos Valley miles in the distance.

I met only one car as I drove up the mountain side. As the ruts got deeper and icier, I was certainly glad I’d rented something with high clearance and 4-wheel drive; I’d never dared try to get up there otherwise. Or, if I’d tried, I’d still be up there --since my guess is even Verizon doesn’t reach that far.

Once I arrived at the property, I was dismayed to find it utterly deserted. The snow was almost two feet deep around and on top of all of the buildings, and I guess they thought nobody would be stupid enough to drive up there under those conditions. Very little was marked, so I took a bunch of pictures of various buildings, hoping that I could use the books I have to identify them later. It was eerily silent, the only sounds an occasional crow calling, and one little calico cat who stepped delicately across the snow and looked at me as if I’d lost my mind. In my long skirt and low shoes, I was not exactly dressed for climbing around snow banks.

I tried to make it up the concrete path to the memorial chapel, but that was even icier than the gravel paths. I slipped once and only saved myself from falling by plunging my arms (and camera) into a snow bank up to my elbows. Cold, wet, and not a little freaked out, I decided it was about time I used my better judgement , and so I picked my way through the frozen patches of slush to my car.

I do have a sense of how beautiful it is up there, but wonder how in the world they ever got in there with supplies etc. Talk about living primitive! Only one step up from camping. Of course, they mostly didn’t live there in the winter—still, Brett’s cabin (which is marked) is a tiny square, just big enough to fit a single bed across one wall. I would guess 8’ by 6’. There’s a stove in there, but the cabin is so small that the door bangs on it.

Having fulfilled my main agenda item for the day, I came back down to Taos, stopping at the Millicent Rogers Museum on the north side of town. This is a neat little place, full of odd stuff collected by this society woman who settled here. She was a great collector and designer of jewelry; my favorites are the “running star” designs she adapted from Native American pottery —there is a nice collection of pots and textiles as well. One of my favorite parts of the museum was a whole room devoted to the art of local children.

Apparently I have pretty good taste in museums because Jamaica Kinkaid was also there. I am sorry—I am not as good as Mark about going up to famous people and talking to them. I wanted to tell her about the twins, but never found a convenient moment. I think they (the famous) deserve their privacy, for one thing. The woman at museum reception gave me one of my favorite compliments—she asked me if I was from the area, and when I said no, she said I was dressed like a local. I packed pretty much all aqua, and that seems to be THE color of about everything here that isn’t that distinctive red-brown ochre color: Santa Fe rosy-orange. Of course everyone around here dresses like an old hippie, so I fit right in.

Spent the rest of the afternoon puttering in stores and galleries. Had a nice lunch and some pleasant chats with gallery owners, but found little I was moved to buy, other than some handmade paper. Can you believe I went in and out of a very nice bookstore without buying a thing?

However, I did find a WONDERFUL yarn store for Sue.. . http://www.lalanawools.com/
I‘ve opened the window in my room and it is starting to get chilly. Better run down to the wood pile while it is still light… Ah, the perks of being up in the main house: a wood pile by my door.

Apropos of nothing…. I think I may have found my totem. I’ve always liked the idea of magpies, and often describe my research methodology as a magpie-like gathering of shiny objects. But, if I’d ever seen one before, it didn’t register. They are all around the back of the house here, foraging for stems and bits of fruit tossed out in the compost pile. They are just gorgeous. As big as crows but starkly contrasting black and white, with a flash of deep cobalt blue when they open their wings. I’ve tried talking to them, but they seem rather skittish. Now want to find out all I can about them.
Well, I promised last time I’d only write every other day because it was so inconvenient (that was supposed to be the last word of yesterday’s blog). But I had so much to set down about today. I’ve also read about half a book—a memoir of Taos. Amazing how much one can get done when there is no TV, radio, or telephone, and limited Internet access. (Of course I do have my cell. Has the weather been particularly bad in Clemson? I’ve gotten about 4 or 5 lightening advisories on my phone today.)
Almost 7:00. I am going to run out and find some dinner. Then I think I will start my fire and curl up and finish my book. Tomorrow is Sunday. I’d planned it to be a quietty, mostly reading day. There are a number of resources here—books and articles etc. –which I want to take notes on. I am also planning to go to the famous Taos Church tomorrow, and see the exhibit of Lawrence paintings at La Fonda, the big (relatively speaking) hotel on the Plaza.
Hope you are all doing well.
Mom and Dad, I will call you Sunday as usual: 11:00 your time is noon here.
PS: I now have mud splashed up to the top of my bumpers—getting a little more authentic every day!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Santa Fe and Taos--Day 1

Dear Ones—
Well, I am sitting in a brick-red suede couch in the main sitting room of the Mable Dodge Luhan House, typing away. I can only access the internet from this area because the old adobe walls are so thick, the signal cannot travel far. The walls are hung with old pictures; I peer into them, trying to sight familiar faces: O’Keeffe, Lawrence, Jung etc. Dennis Hopper owned the house for a while in the 70’s, so there are also Easy Rider emanations from Dylan and the like.

AH, that’s better—I’ve moved into the dining room—there really was no place comfortable to type. The atmosphere is very homey and relaxed. When I asked for ice –as always—they took me back into the kitchen and showed me the ice-maker tucked into a corner. I can’t wait to get in there tomorrow when the light is better to take pictures—it’s gorgeous; very old and much as it used to be. The whole place is adobe, covered with stucco—with the diagonal sticks across the ceiling—in here they are black and red and white—an interesting mix of pueblo and Italian. All the doors are tiny—Jerry would constantly be stooping.

My trip has been going very nicely so far. I got to Albuquerque in good time and picked up my car. Not only do they have small SUV’s for rent, they even let you pick the one you want—so I have a nice little forest green KIA which amuses me by matching most of what I am wearing.
It took just about an hour to drive north to Santa Fe, watching the sunset stain the clouds behind me and getting used again to the immense reach of the horizon; space seems so much bigger here, even though there are mountains at the edge of things. The weather is pretty nice, clouds and sun, but terrific winds. It has still been snowing in the mountains, and as I wound my way up the “high road” to Taos, I passed many pine forests, still blanketed with white under the shadows of the trees. Apparently there is some chance I may get my wish for a snowy Sunday. I just really want to be able to take pictures of all this curved adobe outlined in snow.

But I am getting ahead of myself. I spent last night in Santa Fe at my B&B, the Adobe Abode. Was pleased that I had no problem navigating straight to it, except that when parts of Guadalupe were shut down for re-surfacing I had to go around via various back streets. They checked me in to a different room at the Adobe Inn—“Cabin in the Woods” is painted red and festooned with antlers and plaid, but quite comfortable. They do have nice hard beds!!

Slept very soundly, got up, repacked, had leisurely breakfast with a mom taking her daughter to interviews to go to acupuncture school. Then went over to Museum and the print gallery next door and had a brief look round. Got in touch via e-mail with Chris Reed, who seems pleased I am in town. We’ll get together for lunch next week. He’s been a Fellow at the O’Keeffe Institute all year; I think I may have told him about the fellowships back in 2004. Anyway, I am eager to hear how his research is going. His book Bloomsbury Room was fabulous and won several important prizes in the art history world. He is speaking Wednesday at the Foundation.

Haven’t gotten a lot done today. Have been listening while driving to the new teen vampire book that’s supposedly sweeping the high schools, Twilight; Mark Charney loaned it to me. I must say that it is captivating—and set on the Olympic Peninsula, which is fun as I can visualize the places. I have lots of good things with me to read, but spent much of the afternoon kind of half-napping.

The altitude does get to me for the first day or two. You feel rather out of breath, definitely spacey; I keep checking my pulse to see if my heart is racing—though so far it really isn’t. I got kind of woozy driving all those curvy roads coming up here—when I go back to Santa Fe, I think I will take the straight shot highway instead. So I dozed for a while, checking out the little book on flowers in the work of O’Keeffe and Andy Warhol I had bought at the museum. I got up about 5:00 PM and went around taking pictures of the house and outbuildings. It really is a photographer’s dream.. It really is a photographer’s dream. There are all kinds of lovely little vignettes – Sue, you’d love the fact that the main patio roof is studded with chickens.

When I came in about 2:30 downtown was just a zoo—tiny narrow, twisty streets packed bumper to bumper with people and cars (clearly it is a local badge of authenticity to have your car spattered in mud up to the door handles). I waited until after 6:00 when the shops were all closed to take a little walking tour. It’s pretty tiny but seems to have almost as many stores and galleries packed in as Santa Fe.

So now I am going to go back to my room and build a little fire (they give you a starter kit and directions to the wood pile), and take a luxurious hot bath and read myself to sleep. No TV’s or phoneshere, but fortunately I have lots of books and music on my computer, so it keeps me company.