If you are familiar with Georgia O’Keeffe, you’ve probably heard of Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, north of Abiquiu, where she painted. If you aren’t… you’re probably sitting there wondering how the hell to pronounce Abiquiu.
Ab-bi-cue… it is a Spanish pronunciation of a Tewa Indian word.
I’ve wanted to return to Ghost Ranch ever since attending a Santa Fe Photographic workshop there in 1995. Although I’ve driven past it at least eight (yes, eight!) times in the ensuing years, it wasn’t until this trip to New Mexico that I planned a whole day to just go up there and revisit.
It is pretty much as I remember it, except that a few of the cottonwood trees in front of the dining hall have died and been felled, and there is an exquisite new adobe building there; The Agape Worship Center. The 21,000 acre ranch is now run as an education and retreat center by the Presbyterian church, open to all who worship ‘the grandeur and beauty of nature.’ I’m paraphrasing here, because I can’t remember their exact words, but you get the gist.
The O’Keeffe Cottage still stands, a tiny place that she rented to come paint each summer, before buying her own place down the road in the village of Abiquiu. The Ghost House, for which the ranch was named, still stands next to O’Keeffe’s cottage, with it’s tale of outlaws, and a hanging tree, and ghosts that left the villagers frightened to come here.
Looking in any direction you can see the subjects that became so familiar to us though O’Keeffe’s artwork: the pedernal, bones bleaching in the sun on a stucco wall, the bands of yellow running through red rock cliffs, and a huge sky so brilliantly blue it takes your breath away.
We arrived in time for a buffet-style lunch of fresh, healthy food. Afterwards we strolled the property, taking it all in. We lingered at the worship center, admiring the construction, the color, and the serenity of the place as a whole. Then we did a quick tour of the stables, the campground – best suited for tents and smaller trailers.
We had one other stop to make before heading back to home base, and since dark clouds were building up, we decided to head for Lake Abiquiu and check out the campground for a future trip. We saw plenty of tent-sites with both water and restrooms very conveniently located. Lots of sites with both water and electric, and a separate area of about 15 sites that were full hook-up, which is just what we need. Most with a great view of the lake!
On the way back to Santa Fe we stopped in Abiquiu village to visit our favorite little store. Actually, it’s the only store, but they have everything you could ever want – from aprons to ammo – and everything in-between, so we decided to do a bit of souvenir shopping.
I was happy with my purchases, and thrilled that I’d finally gotten to return to a place that has been calling to me for so long: O’Keeffe country.