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Immersed in O’Keeffe Country

by Lesley Peterson

We cross the Rio Grande west of Taos, New Mexico, and drive south, heading for the legendary landscape that inspired American artist Georgia O’Keeffe. An hour of sagebrush and red rock later, we know we’ve reached O’Keeffe country when we spot Pedernal, the monumental mesa that obsessed her.

As we pull over and step out into the wind, it occurs to me that when O’Keeffe asked to have her ashes scattered there, she became part of the landscape she loved. I take dozens of photos, climbing back into the car only when my husband reminds me we have an appointment to keep: a tour of the Georgia O’Keeffe Home and Studio at Abiquiu.

Ojo Caliente, a historic site that’s now a resort and spa, we shower off red dust and soak our road-cramped muscles in the steaming cliffside pools. The hot springs at Ojo have been held sacred by Northern Pueblo tribal communities for nearly 3, 000 years and we feel the water’s history and restorative power as we bathe.

A sudden dust storm drives us in to dinner but when we emerge, the night air is crystalline as it can only be in the high desert. The kiva pool glows irresistibly so we grab our robes again. Floating in the womblike waters of the red land that Pueblo people believe gave birth to them, I contemplate the cliffs and sky.