Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Two Graces Christmas Carol or It's a Wonderful Life in Taos, updated for 2017

Photograph of the Deer sculpture that once stood at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, it was stolen!

On Christmas Eve the family tradition was to go to my Grandmother’s house for dinner. A house full of family, cousins, aunts, uncles and everyone else that we would bring with us. Occasionally we went to a Chinese Restaurant with my dad's Boss, Alfred Marshall and the rest of the bigwigs of the original Marshall's Department Store. When I was around 11 or 12 years of age, we arrived home after Christmas eve, out at wherever it was, to find the door of our two-story Salt Box house wide open. Thieves had broken in and stolen Christmas, they stole the presents, they stole the kitchen appliances and the TV, (this was pre-VCR & DVD players). An empty home at Christmas, I don't remember anything other than absolute shock. Yes Cindy-Loo-Hoo, the Grinch who stole Christmas was very real and living in Beverly, MA. On this particular year, ‘The Grinch’ chose my family to loot and scoot it all out the front door. Somehow my Mom & Dad rallied and pulled off Christmas with presents, food and festivities. How they did it and what they did, isn’t what I remember, it’s that they provided us with Christmas no matter what the circumstances. This may have been the year we started going to the movies on Christmas day. Going off to the movie theater was not a great expense those days but a treat nonetheless. 
The horror of arriving home and finding everything stolen stays with you, even now, many years later.

The forest in snow with Aspen Trees

A lack of snow (and a lack of shoppers) in Taos makes it seem less like Christmas time. This year of 2017 thus far has been a slow season for businesses here. I ask people whether or not they have a Christmas Tree, and sadly many just don’t. In Taos with an inexpensive permit from the forest service you are allowed to go up to the forest all around us and cut your own tree down. As fresh as a cut tree can be and a memorable adventure every year. 
As I drove down the main boulevard of Taos the other day, shopowners were engaged in their outdoor Holiday decorating in front of their stores wearing shorts and t-shirts.

Out on a Winter trek north of Taos, NM

I don’t really need gifts at Christmas time, I have a tendency to buy what I want for myself. I don’t really think about Christmas gifts all that much, if and when I buy something with someone else in mind, I tend to give it to them when I see them, rather than hang on to it, hide it, and wrap it up for them as a “Christmas Gift”. Yet some of my favorite Christmas presents have been Christmas tree ornaments, they remind me of who gave them to us, or where and when we bought them for ourselves.

Another aspect of this year’s Christmas is that my wife and I have planned to visit our Moms at the same time a week before Christmas. She'll go to see her Mum just outside St. Louis and I'll visit my Mum north of Boston. We'll leave Taos at the same time for our destinations and arrive back at the same time. I've created a full schedule of visiting friends and family, along with days at museums, a bit of shopping and fabulous restaurants. I can't wait to see my nephew & niece, cousins and uncles to meet them and sit down for lunch or dinner. There'll be a chance to take my mom to the Peabody-Essex Museum to see the new exhibition there of Georgia O'Keeffe 'style, her wardrobe, paintings and photos of her will be on display. O'Keeffe was the first artist my mom taught us about and the PEM museum was where I played hide and seek on rainy days.
We've got a lot of catching up to do.

For the Holidays, my wife & I will be together and have a chance to share with each other our adventures visiting our families. We'd love to attend the local production of a Taos Nutcracker Ballet production (I did just purchase tickets for this earlier today) and have Christmas dinner at the new hotel in the Ski Valley, hopefully we will.

Sometime around early 1990, Holly & I began dating at Christmas-time. One mid-December day I was telling her that I planned to go and get a tree the following day at a tree farm. She told me that she and her roommates were having a tree trimming party at her place and that she’d love it if I could make it. It was to be a dinner party and they would be making home-made ornaments. That evening she went home to tell her friends that they were now having a tree trimming party and that she had invited me over to the apartment on this ruse. For my own deceit in this, I designed and practiced making an ornament so that when I arrived it would be a matter of effortless ornament making on my part. Until very recently I had no idea about this whole plot. Yet, that was the Best Christmas and nothing else can match that.

I’m asked what was the best Christmas dinner that I remember? 
My response is an array of fresh fish on Christmas eve at my Mom’s Aunt Phyllis’ house with her husband Uncle Vincent and lots of family I hadn't seen in years. This included baked stuffed lobster, fried smelts, fried calamari and of course all the cookies I could eat. This type of meal is a Sicilian/American tradition known as 'The Feast of the Seven Fishes' lots of fresh fish for Christmas eve. 
In reality the best Christmas dinner is not what there was to eat, it’s who was there and the memories of family and friends. 
To this day, floating around my head are some great memories.

Christmas tree lights in Taos

Lately, friends have come by with a present for Holly & I, or mailed us a card, which has really meant a lot to me, so thank you one and all. Maybe Christmas cards and gift giving is a way of saying thank you, I’ve been thinking of you, you mean a lot to me, let’s stay connected and stay in touch. So, Merry Christmas one and all…

This is an updated 2017 version of a 2010 post.
Thank you for reading.
Photo Credits: All Photographs are by Robert Cafazzo

Sunday, December 5, 2010

"Don't Worry Be Hopi"

December 2, 2010 we sponsored a lecture on Hopi Kachina Dolls and Hopi Baskets here at Two Graces. The turnout was great and I believe everyone came and learned something from it.
The premise was for Joseph & Janice Day of Tsakurshovi Trading Post on Second Mesa in Hopiland, Arizona to have an exhibit of Kachina Dolls and baskets at Orr's Trading Post along with a lecture. Since Del Orr's shop is a bit small for a seated presentation we had the lecture here, (thanks to Martina for the loan of the comfortable chairs). On arrival the Day's began hurriedly unpacking and organizing what they had brought. Helping to unpack and arrange is always a good idea it eventually leads to you getting first pick! Which is how I wound up purchasing this wonderful doll above.
Janice Day is a member of the Third Mesa Basket Society, and she is in charge of purchasing baskets at their shop. Above is a collection of 'sifter' baskets, which are incredibly durable and useful for anything you can think of, even as a strainer for your veggies.
Kachinas as they were unpacked are laid out on a table. All the kachinas dolls presented were traditional or 'Old Style', at times based on early depictions found in books.
Joe, Janice & Dell above checking over a particularly complicated doll making certain it was in tip top shape upon unpacking it.
A group of baskets and dolls.
At the lecture Joe & Janice explained the uniqueness of baskets and dolls and how they are used at the Hopi villages today.
In the audience Bill Baron thinking up some sort of editorial cartoon on Hopi Kachinas?
Two of the more talked about dolls, the Cow to the left was purchased before it was even delivered to the shop, (perhaps one of the ugliest dolls I've ever seen was the one everyone wanted!). To the far right is a depiction of the Dragonfly kachina, there was a whole lot of discussion as to whether this was true or not...
These 7 dolls are a depiction of the Zuni Shalako dance which began Saturday evening over at the Pueblo of Zuni. We banged heads a bit on whether or not to close up early Saturday and all drive over to Zuni for this dance.
Local Taosenos deciding which baskets and which Kachina dolls to purchase. The prices for all of the merchandise were closer to wholesale prices, there was no markup. Del & I were more the vehicle for an incredible presentation and sale of wonderful Hopi crafts, we did not make any profit on this exhibit. What we did get out of this was an education, and sometimes that's worth a whole lot more, (and yes, I probably ate 10 rolls of Hopi Blue Corn Piki, which I LOVE).
Janice also brought her corn of the 4 directions and hung the bundles from the ceiling vigas along with baskets.
A couple of sifter baskets filled with the flat Cradle Dolls. As Joe pointed out the bodies are all the same, with variations on the head. These are the first dolls given to babies both boys and girls.
A lovely arrangement on the mantle of the fireplace.
Joe teaching Taja of Treasures a thing or two about real kachina dolls.
Another wall arrangement. The exhibit was an incredible success, business was brisk and more than half the inventory that was on display was purchased by local Taosenos and a few visitors.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Shopping at Two Graces Vol. 6

This column is dedicated to my Mom's Aunties: Nini, RoRo, Poppie, and my Mom's Mom Lena. One day my Mom purchased a pair of LEE Jeans, (she called them Dungarees), when I saw the name on them I asked why she had my Grandmothers' jeans. My Mom LOL had to explain to me that they were the name of the brand, not my Grandmother's name sewn onto them! Please continue...
Everyone needs a Guardian Angel, this one is hand carved wooden with Glass Eyes, probably Italian, possibly from Portugal? 12" wing span, SOLD as beautiful an angel as can possibly be. Placed over a door to bid you good journey each time you leave your home, or over your bed to bring sweet dreams as you close your weary eyes.
Starting on the left this plastic light up Infant of Prague is priced at SOLD stands at 12", the red robed Infant is 12 1/2" and comes with a set of extra Robes SOLD, the next one is a 'planter' with a small compartment at it's back for flowers or gifts 10 1/2" tall priced at SOLD, the last one on the right is 12" tall and comes with vintage medallions pinned to it's robes SOLD.
Two Graces is fortunate to have these lovely statues available at this time.
This is something very special to me, on the bureau or on top of a cabinet, The Infant of Prague was to have a proper place in the homes of my Mom's Aunts where they could see this depiction of the Christ Child and ask for favors. When the wish was not forthcoming in a timely manor the tradition was to break off the hand of the statue, but to glue it back in place once the favor was complete. Then out of guilt you were to adorn the statue with new handmade robes and/or to pin medallions onto the robes. Except for the light up plastic one to the left, the examples above all have broken and re-glued fingers.
Placing the Infant outdoors the day before an event such as a wedding will ensure good weather, ahh the possibilities!
Part of the story of "The Infant of Prague" which makes my hair stand on end...
The Carmelite Friary was plundered by the Lutheran Swedes, and the image of the Infant of Prague was thrown into a pile of rubbish behind the Altar. Here it lay forgotten, its hands broken off, for seven years, until it was found again in 1637 by Father Cyrillus and placed in the church's oratory. One day, while praying before the statue, Father Cyrillus claimed to have heard a voice say, "Have pity on me, and I will have pity on you. Give me my hands, and I will give you peace. The more you honor me, the more I will bless you."
The Buddha 9" tall seated black stone pumice SOLD, what I call the Venus de Milo type 8 1/2" figure with stand is SOLD, and the metal head 9" of Buddha with nice patina and stand is SOLD
The Buddha taught non-violence, respect for all life, the merit of giving generously and of a simple lifestyle, serving for many people as a model of the highest standards of humane behavior, how nice is that and how can you not have one!
When the Great Potter Mary Witkop was taking a trip to Indonesia she asked if I'd like her to bring anything back for me, I asked her for a Buddha, she returned with the Smiling Buddha, and that makes me smile to this day.
On a recent Shopping Two Graces Blog someone asked about Holy Water Bottles, so here they are, in the front is a vintage glass bottle with dispenser top from Mexico 3 1/2" tall SOLD to the left a vintage 8" plastic Our Lady bottle SOLD, the tallest one is a 12" vintage plastic Our Lady of Lourdes and contains Holy Water collected from the grotto up to about her tummy priced at SOLD ( I can't guaranty that miracles will happen but this seems a very small price to pay), the pink and white plastic bottles are contemporary 8" tall from Mexico SOLD
In New Mexico it seems to be the phrase "Our Lady" is used to describe what in other areas are called a "Madonna", to me both seem interchangeable. Perhaps with the connotations that the Pop Star Madonna negative and/or positive can conjure up, the term Madonna has fallen out of favor. Above is a selection of vintage statuettes starting at the left is a delicate 'head vase' 6" tall SOLD (a nice addition for anyone with a head vase collection), next is a metal statue with silver plate remnants 6" tall priced at SOLD, next in the back with starry blue robes just over 10" tall standing on a serpent SOLD, in the front she glows in the dark 6" tall priced at SOLD, behind her the thin white figure is SOLD and her companion in Blue robes SOLD, these are each just over 7" tall, in front is a light up torso her hands holding a pink flower and a crown of pink flowers on her head SOLD, to the far right the off white one with glaze just beginning to crackle is 9" tall SOLD, the tallest one 13" to the back with blue robes, (a finger on her right hand is broken off) SOLD. As you can see gathered together, these make a worthwhile and spectacular arrangement, start collecting now.
Lastly, these 4 photographs are from the collection of Violetta Barela which was brought to me by her family. Rather than toss it all into the dumpster they brought it to me. This collection includes some of the most beautiful vintage Holy Cards I've ever seen, (and that includes the ones I've seen in books). Vintage Bibles, Scapulas, Rosaries, Statuettes, can you imagine all going into the trash, because IF I didn't want it, who would??? I understand this and the disposability of our belongings once we are gone, but it still bothers me and I wish it didn't have to be that way. Blessings to you on your journey Viola...

Monday, November 8, 2010

What I do on a day off with friends...

South of Taos the village of Pilar lies along a bend of the Rio Grande, a view from the hillside in Autumn colors. We took a loop drive to Talpa, Penasco, Dixon, Pilar and back to Taos, and here is our adventure...
This past week we had friends visiting from out of town, on Friday we took the day off from our shops to go with them and wander around. Here's what we did, a little tour for Maggie & Alex...
Just up the road from Ranchos de Taos St. Francis Plaza is the intersection of 518, it's here where you'll begin a journey on what is known as the "High Road", which is full of little villages and their respective beautiful Churches, each different each amazing. As usual the Churches are kept locked up, but are wonderful to see nonetheless. This photograph is from a quick visit to a small Church/Capilla in Talpa, sitting back from the road behind a chain link fence.
Before you travel into the mountains from Taos you will pass the Fort Burgwin Archeological site on the left and Southern Methodist University summer school campus on your right.
Above, an assortment of crosses leaning against a Church wall in Trampas. I've included these here to show the extraordinary variety. After you wind your way up into the mountains the road takes you down to an extreme switchback which you'll be turning right at, if you were to go straight this would take you on to Sipapu, Mora where you'll find a wonderful raspberry farm & Las Vegas, NM. At this junction you will be turning onto 75 and heading for Penasco.
We drove through the village of Penasco and headed for the Harding Mine near Dixon. Passing by the Picuris Pueblo, which usually has 2 entrances one of which was closed, causing us to unintentionally miss visiting there. You'll need to download and print a release form before visiting the mine unless you know where the caretaker's house in Dixon is which is tricky to find. The mine has deposits of various rocks and minerals the Lepidolite here is spectacular, a semi-precious violet stone with a similar consistency to Turquoise. The Calcite deposits are some of the best in the world, I'm told during WW2 this was used in bomber plane missile sightings making use of it's purity as a a type of lens and that the largest deposit is in the collection of the Smithsonian Museum. You are allowed to carry out 5 pounds of stone, please keep to this allotment if not much less. Adendum: One of my friends here tells me that Lithium Gas leaches from the mine walls, which he says will cause a person to feel very Happy. Wow!
Wandering around the mine you'll find where miners sat and had their lunches, leaving rusty tin cans behind, perhaps enticing you to bring your own picnic next time. The views of the surrounding mountains are clear allowing you to see all the way to Abiquiu and the Pedernal.
Holly with Maggie & Alex in the mouth of the Lepidolite mine. Looking at how the violet rock walls are reflecting light in my photos here I think this would make an extraordinary place for a photo shoot. Fashion models in Designer gowns or Wedding dresses would be amazing, just a thought.
Out of the mine and on to lunch back in Penasco to "Sugar Nymphs Bistro", one of those places 'off the beaten path' you only hear about and never quite find. Well find it here smack in the middle of this village 505-587-0311, call for hours. Winters they are open Thursday, Friday, Saturday & Sunday for Lunch & Dinner, the proprietors are Ki & Kai who are always busy in the kitchen. These ladies know ho to serve up tasty meals using locally grown product whenever possible.
A couple of refugees from Halloween greet you at the side entrance.
We had soup & sandwiches, here's the BLT on a focaccia roll they bake, nice tasty bacon and fresh farm grown tomato, delicious with a bowl of tasty pumpkin soup, this was $8.95 Maggie enjoyed the Green Chile Cheese Burger which she told Kai was the best she'd tasted. It's a nice idea to tell the chefs how much you enjoyed the dinner they cooked for you, I think chefs are under appreciated, and can use a nice compliment.
Tablecloths are paper for you to draw on with crayons provided, I wonder if I could have traded my drawing here for lunch...
For me it's about dessert which you won't want to miss, Chocolate Cake, Pumpkin Spice Cake, giant Chocolate Chip Cookies and Carrot Cake. Desserts run out quickly so order your choice before you order dinner, or you'll be sorry.

Upon entering Penasco the road turns right, (straight is not an option), yet a left will take you to a tiny village which may or may not be Rodarte. The cemetery surrounding this Church is old and picturesque. My photographs here are of, once again, the variations of crosses and grave markers.

A few years ago, I drove up to this Church in my VW Beetle with friends B & D, only to find myself face to face with a runaway bull, which quickly turned towards my car. As the bull was thinking about charging the car 2 guys came running towards it, seemingly out of nowhere. They told me afterwards they'd been chasing this bull since 7PM the previous evening. As far as I know those guys are still chasing that bull to this day, it makes me laugh just thinking about it!

Concrete Crosses embedded with glass covered photographs, or mini Christos of plastic or pot metal, below a faded Sacred Heart of Christ depiction, perhaps I should print this one for postcards.
Leaving Penasco on 75 we went back through Dixon passing the La Chiripada Winery and the Vivac Winery. These and the Black Mountain Winery which is south to Valerde, are places to stop at, take a break, and a sip of wine. These days we tend to prefer Vivac, my Dad enjoyed the wines of La Chiripada, and Holly's Dad likes the wine at Black Mesa. To each his own preference, reason enough to point out all of these fine wineries in our midst. On to 68 heading north and back to Taos.
In Taos off Kit Carson Road there are a whole lot of side streets, (some of which are worth exploring) a left onto Morada Lane will take you to Mabel Dodge Luhan House. Always a worthwhile part of Taos history, above is an old abandoned house just northwest of the Mabel house, don't try to find it to explore there are many neighborhood dogs that are there to keep the curious away.
What I did want to show my wife and our friends was the old Morada, Morada de Fernando de Taos de la Fraternidad Piadosa de Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno, to find this it's about 3 streets east from Morada Lane left onto Las Cruces Road, and a left onto Penitente Lane past the old cemetery. Here's where you'll find the Black Cross which Georgia O'Keeffe captured in paintings a number of times. The cross is still standing, recently adorned with flowers and a crown of thorns. I know what you're thinking that this all sounds backwards and that shouldn't the Morada be on Morada Lane, but trust me and follow my directions to Penitente Lane.
Directly past the cross from O'Keeffe's perspective towards the mountain there is a right of way lane between barbed wire fences. The land on either side of this lane is private Taos Pueblo Land, so please don't try climbing the fence. If you take the time to travel this lane on foot or mountain bike you'll find a few more large crosses on the path, do it, it's beautiful and worthwhile.

After viewing the Morada we headed into Taos visiting the brand new Lenny Foster Living Light Gallery in the former Gallery A space on Kit Carson Road, next door is Greg Moon Fine Art Gallery, both these gallery owners are wonderful human beings who will be happy to show you around their galleries. We headed across the street to Taos' oldest Trading Post El Rincon Trading Post and Museum, this is not to be missed on a visit to Taos. We also shopped a bit at my favorite Taos store Dwellings Revisited owned by Cam Martin for about 30 years on Bent Street where I purchased a very cool Day of the Dead skull t-Shirt, and we made a quick stop into Starr Interiors formerly La Unica Cosa, owned by Susanna Starr for 36 years to look at a collection of Mary Witkop pottery that has just gone on display. There are many shops and galleries worth visiting in the downtown area too many to list here, (we tend to avoid the Plaza, but even the Taos Plaza has some hidden jewels worth visiting) sometimes you've just got to go back...
After all that I know I needed to take a nap...