A milestone birthday for me loomed on the horizon about a year ago. Two of my sisters and I had traveled to see Frida Kahlo’s home two years ago in a suburb of Mexico City. We spoke then of seeing O’Keeffe’s home in Abiquiu, New Mexico. She, like Frida, became a celebrated artist in her lifetime. She is one of the first female artists to be celebrated in the United States. The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe is the only one in the country dedicated to a woman. Though Abiquiu is only an hour and half away from my city, I had yet to explore this famous home, even though it was in my backyard. 

That had been spring 2017. Then we learned my mom had terminal cancer. Yet, despite this news, all were committed to making a Georgia O’Keeffe trip happen. We reserved rooms at Abiquiu Inn and arranged flights. Last but most critical, we needed to purchase tickets to tour O’Keeffe’s home. This proved to be a bit of a stumbling block as at certain point as we were emotionally immersed in the final stages of my mother’s cancer. Our focus was on how to best support her and to coordinate visits to see her among ourselves. 

With prodding by me and help from my youngest sister, we got the tickets purchased. This part was critical as the tour directors only allow about 12 people per grouping and it only happens a few days a week from early spring to early fall. A drive by drop in visit is not possible! 

Three sisters and my oldest niece arrived to Albuquerque on a hot Friday in June to begin the birthday celebration. I was so very excited to have them in my home as I just had moved into it about one year ago. All but my youngest sister stayed with me. The conversation never stopped as we all were trying to catch up. Excitement for one niece was shared as she just was engaged and off to work that very weekend to the American Virgin Island. She is to help rebuild as a community planner with a sustainable focus. This is due to the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. We missed her but so happy for her!

An artist and her evolution

Stopping in Santa Fe to see the O’Keeffe museum on the way up to Abiquiu, we were fortunate to receive a spontaneous tour by a docent with time on her hands. She shared ways that O’Keeffe painted that reflected other artists of her time, yet she would go on to develop her own style that was ever evolving. Much like any great artist, growth is a natural part of the process of creating!

Then, of course, lunch at the La Choza in Santa Fe for traditional New Mexican food followed. Red chile was preferred by all with occasional margarita. This theme of New Mexican food persisted during the visit. 

We migrated north to Abiquiu to check in at the Inn. The tour now happens at a new visitor center next door to the inn. We caught the bus there to go to O’Keeffe’s home, which is authentic down to the kitchen equipment. Certain floors were made of adobe, sealed with flour. No stepping on those floors as they are fragile! Sharing selfie moments with our phones was fun. One photo attempt was trying to replicate an iconic photo with O’Keeffe near entrance to her home next to an elk skull!

Once back to the hotel and house we rented, we discovered we were next door to a ranch for rescued horses. They were well-fed and cared for. These horses proved to be an inspiration for my middle sister. She took pictures of one gray dapple horse as she is an inspiring painter! 

Another discovery was a jimson plant about to bloom. We were able to track the opening of three blooms, with one looking very much like the one that Georgia captured! 

Then we went to Ojo Caliente for a day spa experience. It was a first for some of my sisters. Despite the heat, we enjoyed ourselves and found more New Mexican food at their local restaurant. 

That evening we shared about our feelings and grief of our mother’s loss. It was a bittersweet sharing. My youngest sister was relieved she did not have to announce the death of Ma to each of us. My middle sister called me with the news instead. This is never an easy task. 

A ukulele serenade

My three sisters, my oldest niece and my daughter surprised me with a ukulele serenade for my birthday followed by “You are my Sunshine”. It was a very touching and precious moment for me! I felt very blessed with all the love I experienced that weekend. 

More exploring of New Mexico followed as some of us went to the International Folk art Museum. What fun and so much to see!

There was one hiccup….

In my excitement and desire to please, I forgot to ask for help in ways that could have been more supportive for me. In my haste, I injured myself. I am nursing a bone contusion. Taking care of me still needs to be front and center. Much still to learn as I navigate through life with my siblings and those close to me. Setting boundaries and not trying to be the end all to everyone in the way I see needs to be….this requires constant vigilance for the support of my own health and well being! 

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