This is a cell phone photo of a Georgia O'Keeffe painting from a calendar I bought in Santa Fe last summer at “her” museum. It’s of “her” mountain: Pedernal. According to a book (purchased at the same place as the calendar), she thought if she painted it often enough God would give it to her. Or something like that. I’m not sure God works that way but boy howdy could she paint.
I had never heard of Pedernal mountain. I had never heard of Ghost Ranch or Abiquiu either, until we visited the Georgia O’Keeffe museum. But I knew I had to see it before we headed home. We drove south from Colorado, passing up a frighteningly abandoned (and equally frighteningly boiling hot & dry, with similarly frightening toilets) campsite at Echo Canyon, and chose a big flat (dusty, windy) campsite in the shadow of the mountain instead. It had showers! I was thrilled.
There was some discussion between us about the mountain. Walt said he had a feeling it was important in some way. A sign at the bathrooms confirmed his suspicions, adding an extra layer of happiness to our already happy evening at camp. We watched a storm swirl by, with lots of lightning. Laid in the tent while the sides and roof whipped around like sails. Hoped it wouldn’t collapse like it did in Taos. Made dinner. Observed with trepidation the arrival of a large group of young men armed with a large quantity of grocery bags and alcohol at 9pm......and barely got a wink of sleep thanks to them. Folks, if you are ill enough to need to hock loogies (and then later retch and vomit) at a shockingly loud volume every 5 mins all night long, please don’t go camping at a place where you’re right next to other people. Please. I guess the plus side was getting to watch Mars rise and the constellations move across the sky in spectacular fashion.
Morning came, and the second the families around us were up & at ‘em we packed and loaded our things, with Sunday radio blaring, and roared out of there. Left it in the dust. Drove straight toward ghosts.
It was a breathtaking morning. All the pain of loud-drunk-guys-induced insomnia aside, I am grateful beyond belief that we were on the road so early that day. To enjoy the morning and THAT LIGHT.
We went to Ghost Ranch, all the way up the drive to the visitors center, but after rambling on the road and in state parks for a couple weeks it seemed too complicated, so we drove right back out again. We already knew they didn’t have any available campsites anyway. These photographs are from little stops along the road on the way there, and inside the ranch itself.
By the time we pointed the truck back toward Texas, everything looked different. The glow was gone. But the memory remains, possesses my heart. Calls me back.
This is the only film photograph I made of Cerro Pedernal. A day or two after we arrived at home, I dreamed I was still in Abiquiu. In the tent. Under that sky. I woke up confused in my own bed; it took me a while to remember where I was. And for the first time ever, I wished I wasn’t home. I wished I was still on the road. I guess some places can claim a piece of you and keep it there without your knowing.
I also made a bunch of photographs with a roll of Lomo Turquoise (that I had been hoarding for ages) the same morning in July 2018. You can see them here in Into the West.