"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The power of Pecos--chapter one

There are places where the universe is thin, some believe, and I believe that it is one of them.

I've been trying to write about the old adobe church ruin for quite a while, but for some reason, just couldn't sit down and do it. Even these sentences are coming slowly, but every once in a while, you're given a sign that provokes action.

We were thumbing through old National Geographics before giving them away, just to see if there was something to save (that's another several blog postings to come). We put one aside to look at later, because it was from 1990 with Quaddafi on the cover, illustrating an article on Libya coming out of isolation. I barely looked at it, and then, just a couple of weeks ago, discovered the very last article in  the issue was about this favorite place of mine.

Pecos National Monument, 25 miles east of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The article was about the ancestors of the now extinct pueblo--who now live at the Jemez Pueblo 100 miles west--gathering the remains of 2,067 of their ancestors from a Harvard museum and reburying them in their own sacred ground.
Pages from the past. National Geographic, November, 2000 about the return of Pecos Indian remains. Two religions--the old adobe Franciscan mission in the background, with a  circular kiva in the foreground, the ladder leading down into the earth for sacred and secret Indian ceremonies.
I don't much believe in serendipity or coincidence, but I know there are forces in the world that we don't grasp nor comprehend.  The discovered article was the prompt to sit down and write about this place of power for my imagination and spirit. I know I'm not alone.

I had just visited there Memorial Day and taken more photos, as I have done many times before, along with taking students there for photography and writing, wandering the ruins with family and friends and the spirits and presence of the very visible past.

I've watched over the years the continual improvements to the National Park Service Welcome Center and its unceasing efforts to preserve the earthen monument and rock walled pueblo ruins from further decay. You can see scaffolding in the photo at the top of the blog, taken Memorial Day, as workers continue their efforts.

The adobe church and pueblo are historic--even mentioned in Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop. The skies and light of New Mexico continual change the color of the adobe---almost orange in the morning sun, muddy brown at midday, sometimes almost red in the evening.

 I've tried to paint it many times, never to my satisfaction. I will try again.
12 by 9, watercolor, 300 pound d'Arches paper
This is a traditional view, looking northeast, in the evening light. So-so, I think. Good enough to frame and hang at home because it's personal.

To me the most captivating part of the ruin is that window...it's almost like it's an entrance into another world. More on that later with photographs. By the way, that is not the front of the church. It is a window into where the bells once hung near the rear of the church. The projection on the left is the former apse of the church. The huge structure faced West.
5 by 7,  watercolor 140 pound d'Arches paper
This abstract--impressionistic, expressionistic painting was a departure for me, forced away from the traditional to really capture the spirit and force of the place rising out of sacred and power earth...I guess by the spirit and force of the place.

Obviously I need to do more of this, because I sold a very large painting of Taos pueblo in the same style at the Paseo Arts Festival--my larges sale in a long time. But Pecos' influence was first.

I don't believe you can measure the power of such places.
An earlier 11 by 14 photo of mine from one fall morning a few years ago. It hangs in my garage because I don't have a place for it.
  Next, more about the pueblo, its history and photographs of that mysterious window.

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