Dramatic puffs and dreamy shapes left sweeping white tails across the upturned bowl of turquoise sky. While my husband and our guide chattered over horseback, my pony and I plodded silently along behind them with deliberate steps through open range and steep arroyo. Against the backdrop of scrub-brush and sand, I let my thoughts drift with the striations of pink, cream, and muted orange that flanked distant cliffs and buttes. We had journeyed from Santa Fe by car in a modern, informal pilgrimage to Chimayo that afternoon, and now found ourselves looking for rabbit tracks and listening to the gentle wuff and snort of working horses. My pony did not know where I had been. If I could have told her, I would have said that I had taken a journey of the heart.
Earlier that week, my husband and I had spent the first day of our journey driving first to one airport, finding no flight out, and then driving four hours to another one—the second leg of that journey I spent tearfully as my husband explained that I often am less forgiving of my daughter than I am of my son. Among the emotional baggage I yearned to shed, thus my desire to see Chimayo, I added to it prayers to relinquish my daughter from any of the leftover hard-heartedness I have carried the last few years.
I went to the chapel at Chimayo only with the expectation that true miracles occur with absolute belief--as a friend later told me, a pilgrimage of within--travel not being necessary. But I knew the very act of my being in this place, this land holding within its history ancient spirits and love of earth, would aid in the transformation I so desired. Later that afternoon, a palm full of Chimayo dirt in my hand, prayers said and tears shed one final time, I leaned against my husband in wordless acknowledgment of his love for me, the importance of this journey, and the knowledge that this moment was a mark of change, a promise to myself and my daughter. The wide-open palm of New Mexico’s earth raised me up. I would give myself to its jewel-toned sky as a newly emerged butterfly.
Later, my husband and I wound our way from Santa Fe to Taos on a road I had not explored in nearly twenty years. I watched the land stretch as dusty scrub-brushed range and followed its embrace to intimate vistas of crowded Indian reservations. Battered cars, pushed in lines against dilapidated adobe houses; lean, brown dogs chained in yards; skeletons of cottonwood trees before first bloom—there is an absence of life, much less prosperity in these parts. Veritable shanties of stucco, adobe, and wood hardly emerge from the sandscape against the majestic and holy mountains. I said to my husband that the most sacred spaces are the most humble ones.
And so I have returned from New Mexico with joy in my heart and the feeling of leaving a cocoon. Change is in the air, as is the birth of spring. With a better job prospect in the works, new friends in the making, and a clean outlook on loving my little girl, I am honoring the gift of Chimayo, sacred sands, and majestic mountains.