New Mexico road trip

Like most, I often fall into a routine of home to work to home again. Consequently, it was a welcome change when a childhood friend came to spend several days this month. The visit got me out of the house, into the car and away on a great adventure to see more of the place where I live.

The New Mexican landscape is quite varied—surprising to many who think of the State as entirely desert. The arid expanse running from Albuquerque to Santa Fe reinforces that misconception, since it is what most visitors ever see.

We chose to follow Highway 84 north through Española and Abiquiu, home of Georgia O’Keefe’s famed Ghost Ranch, where great rock sentinels and mesas carved by some great geologic event line the valley.

To our disappointment, smoke from the still-raging Las Conchas wildfire obscured much of the expansive vista. Despite the fact it had burned its way south from Los Alamos to an area east of the Rio Grande nearer to Albuquerque, the smell and taste of the smoke was still quite strong this far upstate. The resultant haze washed the skies to pastel blue, or even gray.

Eventually, however, the smoke abated as we moved into the verdant hills and valleys near the Colorado border. The little church in Tierra Amarilla, just south of Chama, stands against the cobalt skies I associate with America’s Southwest.

From there, we drove east through pine and aspen forested mountains to Taos, then south again through the Rio Grande gorge past the cottonwood stands near Embudo. Our journey concluded at el Santuario de Chimayo, New Mexico’s answer to Lourdes.

Legend has it, on Good Friday 1810, Don Bernardo Abeyta saw a light coming up through the soil. He dug with his hands until he came to its source: a buried crucifix. He carried it back to his home parish of Santa Cruz, but the next day the tiny relic was gone. He returned to the original site, where he dug once again and found it anew. The process repeated until it was obvious the crucifix wanted to remain in Chimayo and a chapel was built on the site.

Somehow—and this is not clear—over the intervening years the soil beneath the chapel was deemed to have acquired miraculous curative powers. In one floor of the Santuario, a hole, or Posito (I assume this to be a corruption of “depósito”), has been created to expose the earth beneath. Pilgrims can reach into the hole to retrieve a handful of the wondrous dirt and later, either rub it onto the diseased portions of their body or brew it into a tea. * ugh! * One miracle few ever question is how the Posito replenishes itself, because after decades of pilgrimages and tens of thousands of visitors, the supply is never exhausted.

A peek behind the wizard’s curtain, if you will:

One of my clients with family in Chimayo explained how every week the parish priest or, more often, chapel helpers pay a visit to the local junkyard where the truck they use is loaded with more healing dirt.  Otherwise, the Posito would have long ago become a cavernous pit.

* sigh *

Raymond Bolton

10 responses to “New Mexico road trip

  1. A friend of mine took a very similar road trip last year, including a visit to Ghost Ranch and Chimayo. She was very excited about the little bottle of healing dirt she brought home. I think I’ll refrain from sharing your insider info with her. 😀


  2. *grins* There are enough mysteries in this world without explanation that I tend to let these slide. 😀 Besides, the belief is what’s important anyway.

    Great post, Ray! New Mexico really is one of my favorite places.

  3. Because of Belva’s, Belva and i have learned there are so many things, we had know idea were going on, are happening each day and week with in a short day trip from our apartment. It’s like the song said, “You can take a trip and never leave the farm!” Well, hardley leave the farm.

    I loved the part about the healing dirt!… and the replenishing of same. I guess what you don’t know doesn’t hurt much.


    • So many people visit the Seattle area, or wish they could, it would be a shame not to explore.

      BTW, has Belva decided where we’re going to have dinner next Thursday? You can get back to me on this at Yahoo.

  4. Maybe the dirt is the reason so many of us grew up healthy – I ate dirt as a kid, didn’t you? But I’m with Wally in that we spend a lot of time exploring our neighborhood. I grew up here and we did that as kids – went everywhere, tried everything – so I try and do that as an adult and not just visit things when we have company. And Katy, absolutely – I believe in the miracles, doesn’t matter how they occur.

    Raymond, it’s so beautiful – I love the southwest and can hardly wait to spend some time there again.


  5. Sorry to be late! I’ve never been to New Mexico, but your pictures certainly make it enticing. It’s been many years since I’ve taken a “road trip” too. As an adult, I think I lack the patience to sit in a car for any length of time, but there are obviously places that can only be visited this way.

    I know what you mean about seeing more of where you live. I don’t usually tour around my city unless I have guests, so…there’s an invitation to the “big smoke” here too.


    • My wife and I have family in Toronto so, although it may be a year or two, we may take you up on that. As for our digs, any blogger is welcome provided we get enough notice to make sure there are clean linens on the guest bed *wink*.

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