Mother Mary’s Garden

mother marys garden

An invitation

to hear the cousins play at a tiny church festival in San Luis, prompted a leisurely drive back. We took Highway 159 toward Taos, NM, to County Road P, toward Manassa. Mother Mary’s Garden is tucked away on the left. We parked outside the gate and walked in.

mmg rock and flowers

Mother Mary’s Garden

is a non-denominational, spiritual oasis. Susan and Milt Sanderford were inspired to create it after a trip to Medjugorje, Bosnia. Because of its location, in the middle of the high desert of the San Luis Valley, it is peaceful and serene.

statue mother mary

I enjoyed wandering the gardens. Yet I wondered where they got water. I found it noteworthy that this off-grid shrine has a well, with solar-powered timers for watering.

ceremonial firepit

Pathways

radiate from the iconic statue of Mary in the middle of the garden, to each of the 7 gardens surrounding it. Plenty of scattered benches provide room to rest. In addition to 2 labyrinths, the gardens include a stone circle, a fire pit circle, a medicine wheel, a healing grotto, and a star child circle.

labyrinth

Walking the labyrinths

and strolling the paths is refreshing. The wide expanse of Alpine Valley surrounding Mother Mary’s Garden is soothing to the spirit. Vast, silent mountains provide the perfect setting for meditation and centering.

Afterward, I breathe deeply of the fresh, mountain air and soak in the warm sun as I enjoy the covered swing. Such a lovely, secret garden in what can sometimes be a harsh, unforgiving land.

Plan your pilgrimage:

http://www.mothermarysgarden.org/visit.html

 

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Arroyo Seco, New Mexico via Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

arroyo seco, new mexico

From our spot in southern Colorado, we cut across US Highway 64 to enjoy a scenic drive past Earthship Biotecture communities. Spectacular is the only way to describe the view from the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. Our destination for the day, Arroyo Seco, New Mexico.

rio grande gorge bridge

We didn’t stop to photograph the Earthship homes but they are private residences anyway, so that might have been rude. We did stop to take pictures on the bridge, however.

rio grande gorge steel bridge

Awarded “Most Beautiful Steel Bridge” in the Long Span category in 1966, it was dubbed the “bridge to nowhere” during construction because there were no funds to finish the road on the other side. The Rio Grande river runs from southern Colorado to Mexico. About 10 miles outside of Taos, it flows through a 50 mile long, 800-foot deep canyon created by earthquakes millions of years ago. From the top, it is hard to imagine that the gorge is home to a rich and diverse ecosystem. Petroglyphs are evidence of early human habitation. There are also supposed to be hidden hot springs and ruins. Consequently, I will need to return in warmer weather to investigate.

la santisima church arroyo seco nm

The town of Arroyo Seco, New Mexico was originally settled on a Spanish land grant, in 1745. The historic church, La Santisima Trinidad, occupies a prominent place in the town. Arroyo Seco currently caters to tourists and retirees. Only 7 miles from Taos, it is a convenient stop for skiers and hikers. Get home cooked burritos and burgers at tiny convenience stores and food stands along the main drag. Boutique shops feature local artisans and upscale gifts.

arroyo seco, new mexico mercantile     asnm mercantile pottery      asnm mercantile antiques

Arroyo Seco Mercantile

carries everything from antiques to handcrafted soaps to toys. Seems like the shelves are bursting with color.

asnm mercantile candles     arroyo seco nm mercantile storefront

A tiny garden

next to the Mercantile offers a picnic table, benches, and waterfalls, in addition to a reconstructed log cabin dating to the 1860’s. Our visit fell during the Christmas season, and the garden was decked out with a nativity scene and Christmas bells.

arroyo seco, new mexico mercantile garden nativity

Francesca’s Clothing Boutique

carries reasonably priced and southwestern flavored apparel.

asnm francescas clothing boutique     francescas clothing boutique

We didn’t browse half the shops but there is certainly something for everybody in Arroyo Seco, New Mexico. Handwoven rugs, pottery, fine art, and jewelry are just a few that we missed. For more info, you can visit the Arroyo Seco website.

 

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The Miraculous Staircase of Loretto Chapel, Santa Fe, New Mexico

 Amid our walking tour of downtown Santa Fe, we detoured to take in Loretto Chapel. The last time we were here, I foolishly left my camera in the car. This time, I made sure I had it.
 
Loretto Chapel is famous for its circular stairway which is believed by many to have been constructed by St. Joseph, himself. Regardless of the validity of the claim, there is no disputing that the stairway is a marvel, not only for its time, but even now.
 
According to legend, the architect and builder of the chapel both overlooked the access to the choir loft until the chapel was nearly complete. None of the options to correct this were acceptable to the nuns who had commissioned the chapel, so they began a novena to St. Joseph, asking for a solution to this problem.
 
On the final day of the novena, a mysterious stranger appeared out of the desert and built the beautiful staircase, then disappeared without even collecting his pay.
 
 
The 1998 movie, “The Staircase”, starring Barbara Hershey and William L. Peterson offers an entertaining version of this legend and is available through the chapel gift shop, as well as other retailers.

 

 
The Miraculous Staircase, now over 130 years old, has been closed off for many years. The wear and tear of so many tourists ascending and descending its steps would surely destroy it if it wasn’t.
 
Fanciful windmills grace the gardens of the chapel, while the sandstone and volcanic rock of its construction allow the beautiful stained glass windows to stand out. The interior of the chapel is simple and serene. Although the Blessed Sacrament is no longer housed here, it retains an atmosphere of holiness. Voices are hushed and photographers are almost stealthy.
Sitting still in the quiet of the chapel, I relax and breathe in the prayers of those holy women who, less than 50 years ago, still knelt here, received the sacraments and instructed the daughters of Santa Fe in the joy of the Catholic faith. I wonder what it would have been like to be privileged to climb that staircase and sing in the choir. I believe, whoever he was, the hand of God worked through the hands of the man who built the Staircase.
 
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Downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico

One of our favorite day trips from our current location in Southern Colorado, is historic downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico. While we haven’t yet partaken of the Opera, we have enjoyed ogling the classic southwestern adobe architecture. 

 



Browsing upscale boutiques, then crossing the street to explore quirky shops filled with folkart and local handcrafts.



Loretto Chapel needs its own post, there are just too many pictures and details to include here.


     


A stroll past the park reveals a stone turtle and a checkerboard, ready to play.


The Deck at 221 looked interesting, with sculpted horses, rearing with pride. Maybe next trip we’ll sit up there under the umbrellas, sipping iced tea or espresso and watching the action below.

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Colorado Gators, Mosca, Colorado

Almost halfway between Great Sand Dunes National Park and Alamosa, Colorado Gators is a fun spot to stop and stretch your legs and gawk at something you don’t expect to see in the Rocky Mountain state: alligators.  Begun in 1977 as a fish (tilapia) farm, the gators were brought in to eat the dead fish. Within a few years, the farm became a tourist attraction, as people started stopping by to see the alligators.


The first part of the tour, holding the baby alligator, taking pictures and learning a little about the farm and gators, is held inside, in the dark reptile room. Very much like other reptile rooms we’ve visited (dark and smelly). I must admit, I was happy to move into the fish tank area. Substantially less smelly and brightly lit. I was fascinated with the hydroponic setup there. The fish-waste-to-plant-food-to-fish-habitat recycling system looked very efficient and all the plants I could see looked to be thriving.

water returning to fish tanks

hydroponic sprouts

fish tanks with hydroponic garden above

Finally outside in the fresh air we got to see dozens of alligators lazing in the sun. Even a movie star, Morris, of Happy Gilmore fame, as well as numerous other movie credits, including Dr. Doolittle, Jay Leno, and of course, Steve Irwin (the late, great “Crocodile Hunter”).


Other critters on the property include a couple ostriches, emus, and geese. The farm also offers educational programs for schools, churches and other groups. Alligator wrestling classes are available for the crazy! more adventurous. Gatorfest, held this year on August 2nd and 3rd, features gator roping and wrestling, children’s games and barrel races.


For more info, click on one of the links above, or contact Colorado Gators Reptile Park, 9162 CR 9 N, Mosca, CO 81146, 719-378-2612.

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