Saturday, September 10, 2011


Labor Day in New York City was clear and beautiful, but then it began raining in New York and New Jersey. I looked forward to escaping to New Mexico, where afternoon rains sometimes happen in summer, but where gray days are practically unheard of.

It must be Seattleite karma, but it has been raining in Santa Fe ever since I arrived on Thursday evening. Now this is grand for New Mexicans - everything greens up, forest fires are no longer a major worry, the rivers are running full - but a little discouraging for visitors, especially since this is the Fiesta weekend in Santa Fe.

All the same, I had a wonderful day yesterday with my friends Pat D'Andrea and Mary Lou Carson, visiting Chimayo, up north from Santa Fe (there we are in the photo). One of my fondest memories is of visiting the Sanctuario de Chimayo with my parents on Holy Saturday, 1969 when I was new to New Mexico. It was a simple adobe chapel then, with the room off to one side where you could find the healing dirt that made Chimayo a pilgrimage site. A tiny old woman asked me to help her in the chapel while my mom and dad were still up in a shop on the main road. When they came in to the Santuario, they were horrified to see me up on a chair doing something to one of the statues, and I had to quickly explain that I was helping out by taking the veils off the statues in preparation for the Easter Vigil (though I wouldn't have known about the Easter Vigil at the time, then being mostly an agnostic).

Yesterday, 42 years and a few months later, it was hard to recognize the Santuario, now surrounded by plazas and car parks, gift shops, and some heavy and unattractive stone crosses within archways (in the background of the photo) that will probably become Stations of the Cross. When we got to the end of the long entry ramp, we found the old chapel of the Sanctuario looking simple and New Mexican, much the same as ever, but it was hard to see it surrounded by all the trappings of a tourist destination. Thankfully, we escaped to the Rancho de Chimayo, where the rain had forced everyone inside from the terraces. We almost didn't get a table, but then were invited to have lunch at the bar, where we feasted on tamales, carne adovada, flautas, posole, frijoles and sopapillas, the very best of New Mexico's wonderful food, and talked as only old friends can talk. The rain couldn't dampen that pleasure!

Later in the day, Pat and I walked down her block to pick up some tamales from her neighbor, Jenny Martinez, who also showed us her lovely collection of images of the Virgin - or the Lady, as Jenny called her. Jenny, who has been praying for me during my breathing crisis and return to health (along with the members of Pat's sangha), shared her memories of Chimayo and sadness at its tourist transformation. And she gave me a little cross to carry back to El Salvador with me. I'll remember Jenny when I hold it, and I'll remember my time in Santa Fe as filled with sunshine of the spirit.

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