Rachel in Taos

Rachel is spending the June 2009 term in SMU-in-Taos, where the photography courses she is taking will complement her journalism degree.

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Sanctuario de Chimayo: a tribute to the dead

rachel-240-sm.jpg Being surrounded by shrines, lit candles in dark passages and monuments decorated with mementos honoring those who have died, brings to memory that verse, written by an anonymous author, “Only one life, will soon be past. Only what is done for Christ will last.”

Saturday, June 6

We are now heading home from a full day in Santa Fe. We have one more stop to make: Sanctuario de Chimayo. I wish we could stay longer and linger over the handmade jewelry, crafted so delicately by the Indians in the plaza, as well as the unique shops. There is so much color here in Santa Fe! Color brings me such joy. My eyes almost hurt as I soak in my surroundings.

Professor Hunter sets off at the fastest trot I’ve ever seen in the history of my 21 years! I’m the one who usually leaves people in the dust. My classmates and I are hard-pressed to keep up with her. It didn’t help that we just consumed a huge meal at the Blue Corn Cafe.

Jordan spins around at the head of our group (minus our professor, who is still full speed ahead), walks backward, acting as our tour guide, and says the most outrageous, hilarious remarks.

We all head to different cars than what we arrived in. I end up rushing to Clay’s car with Christina (my roommate) and Jordan in tow. Instead of going around to the entrance of the parking lot, they all decide to hop the short adobe wall; quite lithely, I must say. I am embarrassed to admit, even though I have done my fair share of hopping fences, as if I was in a Mission Impossible movie, I am not so graceful this time and end up scrapping the back of my leg. Awkward and ooh la la!

rachel-171-sm.jpg Yay! A bit weary, we have arrived at our destination. Walking through Sanctuario de Chimayo immediately put me in a curious, yet solemn, reverent mood. They say there is “holy” dirt here.

rachel-181-sm.jpg Where to begin taking pictures? There is so much to see here, so many little details that I am afraid to miss. People have taken the time to pay homage to their deceased loved ones as well as place trinkets here. I see and feel such love and grief here. There is heaviness, weightiness here and a sense of hopelessness. It pierces my soul.

rachel-188-sm.jpg I come upon a small clearing filled with rows of worn, stone benches. It appears to be an outside chapel. I squint my eyes as something white catches my eye at the very front of this “chapel.” As I walk toward it, I see it’s a lone, white cap. There is a wilted yellow rose next to it.

I wonder to myself if a loved one had brought this cap here. Maybe their deceased friend had always worn it. Maybe they had placed a yellow rose (signifying friendship) along with it to honor their memory. Such a simple thing, yet it held great depth. Tears well in my eyes and threaten to pour down my cheeks. I am keenly reminded of the recent loss of my own loved one – my grandmother.

rachel-206-sm.jpg I wander around and come to a building with a short, dark, porch-like passageway. There is a shelf filled with tall jars of lighted candles. Psalm 27:1 immediately pops into my head, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

rachel-255-sm.jpg The rest of my classmates have arrived. I spot an abandoned building on a hill behind the church and climb up with Stuart to get a closer look. The inside was very dank and dirty with lots of trash scattered everywhere. There is an old rusted electric stove to the front door’s immediate left. A table is in the center of the room. There are just two rooms.

I walk to the doorway of the next room and see how the light casts my silhouette eerily on the window at the back of the room. A fire must have made this building uninhabitable.

Everyone has finished taking pictures and it’s time to head back to Taos. We arrive back at our casitas around 10 p.m. This has been one long day, yet the experiences and memories will last a lifetime.

Peace out, my friends!

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