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 *