My Ohio home, lush as it is, looks faded in comparison, dully monochromatic. I feel like I’ve been colorblind until now, and am suddenly cured. New Mexico is red-orange and bright sienna and a million greens— dark pine, gray sage, springy alfalfa and the soft green cottonwood clouds seaming the arroyo behind Staff House and the dining hall.
And blues: robin’s egg morning skies that burst into turquoise afternoons that deepen to cobalt above far-off mountains that range from wet denim to teal to slate. Blues so deep you want to dive in and float. Blues that make me forget for a moment my love of oceans.
Perched on the Welcome Center porch, I have a clear view of Pedernal, the mountain Georgia O’Keefe claimed from God for her very own.
Cerro Pedernal is his full name —I’ve decided this mountain must be male— which in Spanish means Flint Hill. Like everything here, Pedernal changes by the hour, but right now he is crowned with clouds and scrimmed by rain, a looming, watery, flat-topped shadow in the near distance.
Closer in, the sandstone and gypsum cliffs form a backdrop to kids on bikes and the changing kaleidoscope of residents and workers that zigzag between the buildings. The cliffs are a multi-toned tapestry of gold, peach and terracotta red dotted with dark juniper knots and etched with shadows forming a thousand faces.
There are spirits here, in the shadowy mountains and cliffs. I feel them, silently watching those of us who come and go, seducing people like me from flatter, grayer places.