My first visit to Santa Fe, New Mexico was riddled with unexpected contrasts, ranging from earth to sky and everything in between.
Day one was sparkling and crisp, punctuated by gusty winds and bright blue skies. The natural beauty of the desert, indigenous people, and adobe architecture steered my senses into a hypnotic trance, and led me through a dreamlike tour of the downtown plaza of galleries, tourists, artists, and shops belonging to another world and time.
As I settled into my saunter about town, passing the Palace of Governors and turning a corner, there suddenly appeared a great cathedral which sat peacefully behind the heart of the plaza. I had no sooner stepped towards this lovely structure than the church bell rang, summoning the flock to gather. Camera in tow and still in a daze, I made my way up the front steps to the outside portico of the cathedral, snapping photos from every angle.
Standing near the entrance of the cathedral was an exquisite bronze sculpture of an Indian woman which diverted my attention and lured me over to partake of her charm. Her face reflected a soft glowing light, and a smooth, deep, tranquil expression that belied the anguish, hardship, and pain she endured during her short lifetime. Her hands embraced four sacred eagle feathers, pressed close to her heart, while clutching a string a rosary beads. Adorned in colorful native attire, she stood strong, yet humbly in front of the towering basilica. At her feet was a stone monument inscribed: "Kateri Takakwitha, 1656-1680, First Indian of North America to be Promoted a Saint". I looked up at her face once again in wonder and pondered how and why she died at such a young age. After photographing Kateri, I moved on to explore the inside of the cathedral, then headed back to the hotel.
LILY OF THE MOHAWKS photo by CBREEZE 2010
Day two was cloudy and cool. Howling winds prevailed most of the day with a sprinkling of ice showers. A foreboding darkness tempered the mood and movement in the city, bringing out a wretched population not seen the day before. A gloomy mist filled the downtown plaza as shadowy figures trodded along murky streets. My dream was slowly turning into a nightmare and I wanted to wake up.
Feeling a bit down, that night I uploaded the photographs of my tour of Santa Fe. Of all my photos, the ones taken of Kateri stood out. Seeing her again in the brilliant light against the electric blue sky lifted my spirit. As the haziness of the past two days lifted, I felt alert and motivated to learn more about this fascinating "Mohawk Maiden" and the artist who created this beautiful sculpture. As I researched Kateri, I discovered that her short life was marked by striking contrasts and abrupt changes characterized by moments of great zeal and years of much grief. In so many ways, I can see how her experience is reflected in the people, landscape, conditions, and weather in Santa Fe.
Santa Fe, New Mexico photo by CBREEZE 2010
On day three, I left Santa Fe inspired and more aware of our North American history. The snow showers ended and sunny skies bid me farewell that afternoon. As the plane lifted off the runway and I caught the last glimpse of the "City Different", I mulled over the lesson I had learned from my experience there: how the struggle of opposite forces can produce magnificence, beauty, and peace.
Kateri Takakwitha is the first North American Indian beatified in the Roman Catholic Church. She is of Mohawk-Algonquian heritage but was rejected by Mohawk society because of her devotion to Christianity. Kateri died young, in her twenty-fourth year on earth. The Artist:Estella Loretto is currently the only Native American woman working in monumental bronze sculpting. She is recognized internationally as one of the finest sculptors living today. Estell's genuine spiritual nature defines her commitment to integrity and authenticity in her art and in her life.
The Artist:Estella Loretto is currently the only Native American woman working in monumental bronze sculpting. She is recognized internationally as one of the finest sculptors living today. Estell's genuine spiritual nature defines her commitment to integrity and authenticity in her art and in her life.