It's only a few short miles until one enters a small valley that cradles the quaint village of el Potrero de Chimayó. Chimayo has become known as the Lourdes of America because of its tierra bendita, or healing earth, dispensed from its famous adobe chapel built nearly two hundred years ago.
To those of faith, the powdery earth has healing powers. When I last went inside the sanctuary several years ago, the area just outside the small room with the miracle dirt was abundantly furnished with canes and crutches abandoned by those who came for help, for a milagro, and got it. And for those of little faith who had come to be cured but weren't, help was still possible in the form of a discarded cane or crutches of those who were, I suppose. (Dada prefers to believe in the power of the miracle earth.)
This trip I discovered a very enchanting area accessed by a paved trail just behind the chapel. It descends into a peaceful park-like setting located just beneath the hills in the background above. There I found benches and tables among various religious icons and altars in what undoubtedly serves as a place for outdoor worship and picnics.
Dogless woman in lower left corner. (I had to lighten this photo for her to show, but she gives scale to the arched crosses.)There were seven large crosses within arches made of stones bordering the back of one of the fields across which had just run a small dog that a traveler had regrettably unleashed. A picture I had taken of these crosses reveals the woman at the edge of this formation, hands on hips, beckoning her dog who, when tasting freedom forgot its name and disappeared. She like many pilgrims to Chimayo, suddenly found herself in need of a miracle. Or I wondered if the dog would be joining the crutches and canes abandoned by people who had come to be rid of their encumbrances, cured by the tierra bendita? Maybe a kind of sacrifice for the wonderful milagros performed here.
As I photographed this, my third eye sensed I was being watched. Glancing back, I turned to discover a curious horse peering over my shoulder. A friendly enough sort, I stroked its long snout before rushing off excitedly to retrieve Mrs. Dada to take a picture of me with my new found friend.
There is no picture of Dada and the horse, for as I was stroking its snout for the shot, the horse suddenly twirled its massive head around and snapped at Dada's forearm. Fortunately, while quick, I was a tad quicker. It missed. I decided the horse, seeing Mrs. Dada, preferred her, so I took the picture instead. I didn't know horses bit! It was probably a stallion, gelding, or whatever the male of horse gender is called. (I didn't check.)
We then drove a mile or so down the road for a late lunch at the Rancho de Chimayo Restaurante. Besides the delicious northern New Mexican fare, I especially love it there this time of year because of the eaves outside hung with bright red chile ristras.
After snapping a couple of photos, as I was crossing the parking lot a car with Nevada plates pulled in. I remarked to the woman who emerged, "You look familiar. Why, you were in that car that almost ran me down just now!" She smiled, laughed off my accusation and said, "Oh, that was my husband."
We visited with them outside a bit. Turned out they weren't two of the 1,537 permanent residents who really live in Nevada. They were just in a car rental with Nevada plates. They were really from Calgary, Canada. I wanted to inquire of their immigration requirements for Americans seeking asylum, but on this rare occasion my better judgment prevailed. As we entered the restaurant together, I think we both wanted to share a table but each of us was too timid to risk asking.
Once seated inside, we waved to the Canadian "Nevadans" from opposite ends of our dining room. I felt a little badly for them. Having spent several days in the area, they had alloted but this one afternoon to drive the high road, visit Taos and return that evening to Santa Fe. In what may be their only trip to the area ever, they were going to miss experiencing Taos. But life's like that. Often limited time forces us to make choices and sometimes we miss, but come so close. Mostly I think it's best we never know. But this day, in Taos, this couple was about to get a hint of what they had forgone.
Our delicious meals arrived. Shortly thereafter, we fell into conversation with a young woman and her mother at the next table who, incredibly, were from my hometown in Oregon. The woman was dressed like wealth. Or judging from her attire, a realtor perhaps, but she was on vacation so I nixed that. (I surmised these were the people who belonged to the Z4 Roadster outside, even though it had Nevada plates.) Having never seen each other all our lives, we had so much to catch up on. My lunch got cold. Such things seem to happen in the "Land of Enchantment."
Again it was time to go. Besides, in Northern New Mexico, there is always something to look forward to just up the road. This day, it would be the little village of "Milagro" next as seen in the movie "Milagro Beanfield War" or, as it's known in real life, Truchas.