Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Zia flag of New Mexico

When I moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1970, I was immediately captivated by the flag of New Mexico. It was just so different from any other state flag I had seen. It seemed to be the perfect banner for the Land of Enchantment.

The colors were so bright and cheery and I loved the symbol on the flag. Someone told me it was the Zia sun symbol. I wanted to know more about it. Back in those ancient days, you could not just hop on the internet and do a search. I had to go to the library and find an encyclopedia and read what little information I could find available.

Today you can research anything, and I have learned more about the flag of the State of New Mexico. The yellow and red colors come from the country of Spain; the first yellow and red Spanish flag was brought to New Mexico by the Spanish explorers in 1540.

After New Mexico was admitted to statehood in 1912, it was 8 years before a flag was designed for the state. Dr. Harry Mera of Santa Fe won a contest to design the flag, and he picked the sun symbol of the Zia Indians for the flag.

The symbol has four sets of four rays. The Zias believed their Great Spirit gave them good gifts in groups of four:

Four directions - north, east, south and west.
Four seasons - spring, summer, fall and winter.
The day - sunrise, noon, evening and night.
Life itself - childhood, youth, middle years and old age.

The circle in the center binds all the rays together. It represents life and love, without a beginning or end. I like that.

The North American Vexillological Association chose the New Mexico state flag as best state flag. I agree with their choice!

I have always considered the number four a lucky number for me (there are 3 fours in my birthdate) and perhaps I was drawn to the groups of four sun rays in the flag. Today I use the NM flag as my avatar on the political website I administrate, and that brilliant striking flag got some notice when I first chose it. You can spot my posts a mile away with that avatar!

When I move to NM, I shall get a large NM state flag to fly along with my American flag at my new home.

Flag of New Mexico, Wikipedia
New Mexico tops state flags survey


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Death Comes for the Archbishop

Death comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather is a classic novel about New Mexican history and religion. I have wanted to read it for years, and finally got around to it this past week. It is a neat book because it is based on true events and the work of Jean Baptiste Lamy, the first Archbishop of Santa Fe, who was sent by the Pope in 1850 to restore the Catholic Church in the American southwest.

In the novel, the fictional Father Jean Marie Latour (who is based on Archbishop Lamy) arrives in New Mexico in 1851 with his friend and fellow priest Father Joseph Vaillant. The novel is the story of their work to build the Church and the resistance they meet, as well as the deep friendship the two share. What I enjoyed was the various settings throughout early New Mexico, such as Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Taos, Mora, Pecos, Acoma. Father Vallant works in various places in the southwest (New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado) while Father Latour builds the church at Santa Fe, including the building of Saint Francis Cathedral.

There were some great quotes in the book which I liked:

“Where there is great love, there are always miracles.”

“Elsewhere the sky is the roof of the world; but here the earth was the floor of the sky….the world one actually lived in, was the sky, the sky!”

“To fulfil the dreams of one’s youth; that is the best that can happen to a man.”


Saint Francis Cathedral is built in the Romanesque style that Archbishop Lamy brought from his native France. He began construction on the cathedral in 1869, using yellow limestone blocks quarried near the present site of Lamy. The cathedral was built around and over the old adobe church of La Parroquia. The cathedral was finished in 1884. All that remains of the old adobe church is the Conquistadora Chapel. Saint Francis Cathedral is the Mother Church of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, and was elevated to a basilica in 2005. The Romanesque style of the cathedral stands in stark contrast to the pueblo adobe architecture of the rest of the city.


Willa Cather was born in Virginia in 1873. In 1883 she moved with her family to Nebraska, and many of her novels depict pioneer life in that state. She graduated from the University of Nebraska, was a high school English teacher and wrote for several magazines prior to her career as a novelist. She was a Baptist but converted to Episcopalianism. She was politically conservative. She was noted for her friendships with women, and rumors persisted about her sexual orientation. She was a very private person who destroyed many of her old drafts, personal papers, and letters. She died in New York in 1947 and is buried in New Hampshire.

As far as I can tell, Death Comes for the Archbishop is her only novel set in New Mexico.


I am glad I read the book. It adds to my knowledge of New Mexico, but also to my intrigue about the spiritualism, the mystique, the enchantment of this land. The soul of New Mexico shines all through Death comes for the Archbishop.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Nambe is a small town in New Mexico north of Santa Fe. It is also the name of one of my favorite products from New Mexico: the metal alloy bowls and vases from Nambé Mills.

I think I got my first piece of Nambé from the store out on the highway to Española in the 1970s. Since then, every trip to New Mexico has meant an opportunity to check out the products at the Nambé store, which is now located on Paseo de Peralta in downtown Santa Fe.

Nambé Mills was founded in 1951 in the small town of Nambé north of Santa Fe, near Nambé Pueblo. Nambé metal products are cast from a metal alloy, and the pieces themselves have a beauty and simplicity that very much gives a New Mexico mystique to the metal ware.

Nambé is an eight-metal alloy, which is chiefly aluminum. It was created at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the 1940s. The alloy is said to have the luster of silver but the strength of iron. It is safe for cooking and resists tarnishing. However, acidic foods can discolor it. The pieces of Nambé ware are often sandcasted and highly polished. It is also expensive, but I think of it as an investment, becuse it will last for years and years.

My small collection consists of several bowls, a covered casserole dish and a tall modern styled vase. We have also purchased Nambé for wedding and anniversary gifts for our children, who now have their own growing collections.

My dream? Acquire more pieces of Nambé for my future home in New Mexico.

The Nambé company calls their products “timeless, simple and elegant”. Indeed they are.


Much of the information for this post (as well as the photos) comes from the Nambé website at and also from

Friday, November 9, 2007

Georgia O'Keeffe and me

In 1949, at the age of 62, Georgia O’Keeffe moved to New Mexico. She had visited the state numerous times in the years prior to that permanent move.

In 2008, at the age of 62, if everything goes according to schedule, I will move to New Mexico. I have visited the state numerous times prior to this permanent move.

Because of the above coincidences, I have been feeling especially close to Georgia O’Keeffe lately…and finding that I have a curiosity about her.

Did she long to live in New Mexico for years before she moved there at the age of 62?

Did she feel a spiritual connection to the land, the vistas, the sky, the light in NM?

Did the warm sun and the low humidity give comfort to her bones as she aged?

I am sure I know the answer to this one: Did she sit for hours and hours just looking at the breathtaking scenery of Abiquiu around her….feeling a small part of it all?

Up until she was 62, she could be called a worldly person, a renowned painter of abstract art, living in New York City and Chicago. What touched her about the northern New Mexico atmosphere and surroundings to leave the big cities behind to live the simple isolated life she lived for her remaining 37 years?

I am interested in her art and her talent, I love her paintings of huge flowers, and her impressionist landscapes of Abiquiu. I want to buy some prints of her paintings for my new house in New Mexico.

But mostly, I am intrigued by Georgia O’Keeffe’s interesting life. I have become interested in her personally: her love for New Mexico and her life as an aging woman spending her days in the place she loved.

One of the things I will do is look for some books that will tell me more about her. I want to get to know her.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

El Santuario de Chimayo

I have many “favorite” places in New Mexico, but were I to choose my number one top of the list favorite place it would have to be El Santuario de Chimayo.

The little church sits in the scenic picturesque northern New Mexico town of Chimayo in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains; it is a perfect setting. But this place is so much more.

The story of the church is so compelling. As the legend goes, on Good Friday in 1810 a man named Don Bernardo Abeyta, a member of the Penitentes, was performing penance in the hills of El Potrero near Chimayo. Suddenly he saw a light coming from one of the slopes near the Santa Cruz River, and the light was originating in the ground. He began digging with his bare hands and found a crucifix, which he left in place, but told his friends about. A group of men went to notify the local priest, Father Sebastián Álvarez at Santa Cruz. The priest went to Chimayo, and when he arrived at the crucifix, he carried it back to the church in Santa Cruz, and placed in on the main altar.

The next morning the crucifix was gone … and it was found in the place in Chimayo where it was originally discovered. It was carried back to Santa Cruz, but disappeared again - to Chimayo. Three times the crucifix was taken to the church in Santa Cruz, and three times it disappeared and was found back in Chimayo. The people realized it was meant to stay there, and El Santuario de Chimayo was built between 1814 and 1816. It was a private chapel until 1929, when it was bought by some people from Santa Fe and turned over to the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. Today it is a National Historic Landmark.

Right from the beginning, stories arose of the cures pilgrims to the church were claiming to have experienced. It was said that dirt from the floor of the chapel had healing powers bestowed by God. Nearly two hundred years later, pilgrims - 300,000 a year - come to El Santuario de Chimayo for healing. In El Posito, the sand pit, adjacent to the sanctuary, people pray and gather a handful of dirt, and in the Prayer Room.they leave crutches, braces, walkers, icons, letters, pictures, prayer requests. In the fenced yard behind the church, pilgrims have left dozens of crosses on the fence…crosses of twigs, of paper, of ribbon, etc. The first time I saw all those crosses, I literally caught my breath, the array was so stunning.

Some people called El Santuario de Chimayo the “Lourdes of America.” They call it one of the holy places of America. (Called Tsimayo-pokwi by Native Americans, the entire valley was believed to be holy. ) I am not Catholic and I don’t know of such things. I just know that for me, El Santuario de Chimayo is a special place, a holy place, a place where I have personally felt the presence and peace of God in this tiny remote village north of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

I anticipate many visits to El Santuario de Chimayo in the coming years, and I fully expect I will feel the same thing I have always felt there - the spirit and the presence of God. It is a wonderful place of meditation and prayer and peace.