It seems marvelously emblematic of our time of transition that in most of the hotels I stayed in across Mississippi and Texas I couldn't get a cell phone signal (and didn't have a phone in the room), but perched on the side of a mountain at a Forest Service campsite outside of Ruidoso, New Mexico, my signal came in strong and clear. I sat outside my tent on a beautiful evening, watching the sun set over the Sierra Blanca mountains, sipping a glass of french wine, chatting with Lynn about our days.
The campsite was only five miles out of town, but four of those miles were rough gravel washboard road ascending from 6,900 to 9,000 feet. Not remote in the way that my favorite campsites have been, but rustic enough to keep the RVs away. Only three of the sixteen sites were taken, so we each had plenty of room to spread out and pretend that the others were miles away. I had my battery powered iPod speakers playing Keith Jarrett, and wrote in my journal until dusk. When it became too dark to see, I moved everything into the tent, turned on the lantern, and read until I was too sleepy.
The birds woke me at dawn, and I felt rested and happy. I sat outside and wrote another long letter to Lynn, wrote some in my journal, tried unsuccessfully to identify the birdsongs, watched the colors change on the mountain opposite as the sun came up.
I don't spend much time at 9,000 feet and I'd gotten pretty winded the night before setting up my tent. It took a moment of vertigo to remind me to take it easy, and I'd taken a break to sit and call Lynn. So I took my time breaking camp, doing just a few things at a time, and then sitting for a bit before doing some more. By 11:00 or so, I was packed up and made my way back down to the highway and on to Santa Fe.
Now I'm sitting on the patio of my hotel, watching the storm clouds come in from the mountains, as they did yesterday. I've spent the day in museums and galleries, and it was sunny and hot, so the drama of a bit of storm is welcome.
The exhibitions at the O'Keeffe, and the Museum of Fine Arts were quite wonderful, but the standout (not surprisingly) was the show at the Institute of American Indian Arts. That's been one of my very favorite museums anywhere ever since I came across it on my first road trip to Santa Fe many years ago. There's an edginess to the work there, an insistence on pushing boundaries and challenging influences that makes every exhibit electrifying. Whether the work is by the longtime masters, or this year's students, there's a passionate belief that art matters, that images and sounds and poetry and color are what you need to make sense of your self and your place. I always come out of there feeling richer in spirit and stronger in intention -- more capable of walking my own way through the world.
After the experience of those three museums, it was tough for the work at Canyon Road to measure up. Don't get me wrong -- the experience of 200 or so galleries, clustered along a pretty little street, full of interesting architecture, is a wonderful way to spend some hours. I saw many, many delightful things -- but there were very few that moved me in that quivering, deep way that the work that I admire (and need) the most does. But I was pretty intrigued by the Nes pastels at Hahn Ross, and there were many pieces (those tapestries!) at the Klaudia Marr gallery that I would have welcomed spending a good bit of time with.
It was nearing 2:00, and I was ready for a break, so I stopped for lunch and more writing time. Another good day. But it's been a dozen days, and that's about my limit. Time to head home.