Santa Fe, New Mexico: Sacred Spaces.

I spent four days, May 31 to June 4, 2016, in Santa Fe to attend a scientific conference on DNA sequencing at La Fonda on the Plaza.  During lunch breaks or whenever the lectures were not applicable to my work in microbiology, I took to walking the streets of Santa Fe.

SanMiguel_2014

San Miguel, the oldest church building in the United States.  The original walls and altar built in 1610 are still standing.

Residents of Santa Fe claim to host the largest population of professional artists in the United States outside of New York City and San Francisco. Such boasting becomes believable given the staggering number of art galleries and street bazaars along East Alameda Street, Water Street, East Palace Avenue, or Canyon Road.

Typical "touristy" street bazaar along Old Santa Fe Trail across from Loretto Chapel

Typical “touristy” street bazaar along Old Santa Fe Trail across from Loretto Chapel

On June 2, having presented my research poster the evening before, I had lost my voice and was running a low-grade fever. I figured that spending my time touring the streets under the bright, warm southwestern sun was better than the dimly lit, air-conditioner-chilled conference room.

Yellow columbines in front of the art galleries at the corner of Paseo de Peralta and Canyon Road.

Yellow columbines in front of the art galleries at the corner of Paseo de Peralta and Canyon Road.

Whenever I’m feeling physically or emotionally under the weather, my mind shifts away from the concrete scientific and more towards the tenuous spiritual.  Santa Fe’s rich brown, yellow, and green landscape, proportioned buildings, and bright blue sky together make the otherworldly seem close at hand.

Saint Francis Cathedral and Basilica, as it appears from down East San Francisco Street.

Saint Francis Cathedral and Basilica, as it appears from down East San Francisco Street.

Saint Francis Cathedral stands central to the immediate neighborhood where my scientific conference was held.  The oldest part of the Cathedral dates back to 1714, but most of the sanctuary was built in 1886.  From the front steps up to the cross at the peak of it’s gable, the cathedral’s front facade almost delineates a Golden Rectangle ratio (1:1.71).

Cathedral_Altar

Sanctuary of Saint Francis Cathedral Basilica backed by the altar screen. The center statue, second row, represents St. Francis of Assisi.  The other 14 icons, surrounding St. Francis, are representations of Roman Catholic Saints from North and South America.

Inside the Cathedral sanctuary, the imposing, hand-carved altar screen, completed in 1986, actually achieves the Golden Rectangle ratio, considered sacred by the ancient Greeks.

Butterfly_Spirit

A pinewood and oil-paint representation of “Butterfly”, a Navajo Creator-Spirit, by Sheldon B. Harvey.

As much as I admire Roman Catholic art and architecture, living things and natural curves more strongly inspire my own sense of the sacred.  The Creator Butterfly Spirit inside the Fonda Hotel spoke to my own experience of Transgender “shape-shifting”.

Pueblo_Dances_by_Lumpkins

Paintings of Pueblo dancers, by William Lumpkins, in the main conference room of La Fonda Hotel.

In addition, the paintings of Pueblo tribal dances reminded me how movement is essential to my own connection with the Deities and Spirit World.  I have no Native American heritage, yet I drum, dance, and sing to the Eurasian Goddess Cybele, Matron of my Transgender “tribe”.   Given the sacredness I find in motion, I was utterly transfixed by the garden of bronze windmills next to Loretto Chapel along Old Santa Fe Trail.

The beauty I find in Nature, or at least in art forms which approximate Her, functions as one of my strongest antidotes to a world rampant with violence and ugliness.  At the same time, traditional Western churches, Protestant as well as Catholic, expand and enrich my polytheistic sense of spiritual wonder.

SangreDeChristo_Mtns

The Sangre de Christo Mountains, which dominate the eastern horizon above Santa Fe.  Viewed from Fort Marcy Park just outside downtown Santa Fe.

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