Last week, driving down to Albuquerque from Denver, my car wanted to veer west. I take road trips to New Mexico fairly frequently, and we generally go west. Sometimes Santa Fe, sometimes Taos, sometimes Ojo Caliente, but the place I feel the most connection with is Ghost Ranch. Located about 15 miles from Abiqui, Ghost Ranch encompasses 21,000 acres of some of the most magnificent and majestic landscape in the southwest.
The landscape seems so quintessentially New Mexico, the sky so huge and perfectly blue, and the legendary light almost unreal. Ghost Ranch owes its fame to Georgia O’Keeffe, who created many famous and spectacular works of art there. A few Februaries ago, for my birthday, I was blessed to be able to attend a spiritual retreat at Ghost Ranch. (My sister Lori, an artist herself, went with me–her presence was a wonderful birthday present!)
We stayed at the ranch’s remote Casa del Sol, two miles down a private (dirt) road, just around the bend from Georgia O’Keeffe’s Ghost Ranch studio and home. Squinting into the winter sun, we can almost see her bouncing along the dirt road, driving her Model A Ford filled with her painting supplies. I imagine her dressed in her signature black, her hair pulled severely back.
The bedrooms of Casa del Sol, an adobe 1930’s house, open up to a shared plaza looking out toward the majestic Cerro Pedernal. Sitting out there in the chilly evenings, we feel transported back in time, back to a time when Georgia traveled from her New York life to discover a different vision for her art.
Ghost Ranch isn’t fancy, certainly not luxurious, but it’s magical, serene, and restorative. Cellphone reception is almost nonexistent, as is the internet connection. The rooms on the ranch don’t have phones, you make your own bed, and the only place to eat is the central dining building. But the food is plentiful, with a lot of variety, and the company is good: artists of all types, families on a old-fashioned vacation, nature enthusiasts, and travelers looking for peace.
The ranch pretty much shuts down after dinner, but the quiet, dark nights are one of the place’s charms. There’s no nightlife, no clubs or bars, but the absence of outside lighting allows the stars to be seen in a way they can’t be in Denver. Tired from a day of hiking, meditating, yoga, writing, or making art, we don’t generally stay up late. But if we do, and if we feel like getting out, we take our flashlights and go to the ranch’s library, a standalone adobe building that’s open all night. We pick out a book, sit back in one of the old, comfortable chairs, and read.
In the morning, the desert comes alive again.