Eiseley at SMU-in-Taos

Eiseley is a senior majoring in art history from St. Petersburg, Florida. She is helping restore the Catholic church of San Jose de Gracia in Las Trampas, New Mexico, this August at SMU-in-Taos as part of Professor Adam Herring’s course, Art and Architecture of Hispanic New Mexico.

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A hard week’s work

Day 4: Today was our last hoorah at Las Trampas. And fortunately, we knew how to take advantage of the situation. The group kept up a great level of enthusiasm throughout the workday, which rubbed off on everyone around us.

I started the day by chopping hay (straw) with Sarah and Kelly. This task was more time-consuming than I’d previously assumed! We turned an entire bale of hay into finely chopped pieces using a gardening tool with mechanical difficulties.

Early in the morning, members of the Architecture Graduate program from UT San Antonio dropped by to join the effort. There were only a handful on this team, and they mostly kept to themselves. Mr. Lopez pointed their team members in different directions, and their presence at Las Trampas didn’t really affect any of our activities.

Mud baseball
Our class pitched in to fill the space behind the halfway-completed side wall with freshly mixed adobe mud. Next, the majority of us moved to work on the entranceway arch. After the removal of the chicken wire and outer layer of mud, it was ready for re-mudding. Jordan, Jolie and Stephanie worked on the outer side of the structure, and the rest of the group mudded the inner side. At one point, Sam hastily saved Preston from falling off the tall scaffolding. It’s just proof that we work well as a team!

Everyone dabbled in different methods of making the mud stick in place. Throwing a handful of mud like a baseball (although underhand pitches were probably more effective) worked best for me. But as you can imagine, the range on the splatter from throwing large globs of mud against a wall of existing mud is pretty far. As a result, a number of mini disputes arose.

Chilling out
After lunch, Dr. Adler from the Taos campus stopped by to offer some assistance. He jumped right in and added mud to the outer side of the entranceway. He also brought the class a chilled 12 pack of Dr. Pepper. Nothing reaches to the core of a college kid like cold beverages. We sat back in the sun covered in mud and leisurely drinking Dr. Pepper. It reminded me of the scene in the film The Shawshank Redemption when Andy barters for beers from the prison guard in exchange for working his finances, and his buddies drink away on the hot roof they’ve just finished re-tarring.

Shortly after, the Executive Director of Cornerstones, Mr. Jim Hare, dropped in to thank us and gave a Southwestern-style porcelain church replica to the SMU-in-Taos program. He congratulated us on our hard work, and encouraged the team to stay involved with restoration efforts in the future.

Warm welcome
After breaking apart the scaffoldings and cleaning up for the final time, Mr. Lopez invited the group to his home, right across the street! He explained that he had some inventions and art that he wished to share with us. His backyard was a haven of green amid the arid desert. It included a century-old tree that sprawled across the sky above the house. It was the most appropriate tree for climbing that I’ve ever seen in my life! Then we saw a small watermill that Mr. Lopez constructed from bike tires and cans for the flowing stream water. This was his artistic invention.

It was an incredibly kind gesture for Mr. Lopez to invite the class into his home, and it showed us that we had worked diligently enough to win his favor. After all, it takes a great deal of effort and understanding to be accepted into any community when you start as an outsider.

– Eiseley

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