Monday, August 16, 2021

Serendipity Run

Sometimes I go out for photography with no specific objective or destination, just to (a) get out of the house and (b) open myself up to new visual possibilities.  Earlier this month I made such a trip with my friend, Bruce.

At dawn we headed south from Albuquerque on the surface/frontage roads along I-25 (NM 45/314; NM 47; NM 116), paralleling the Rio Grande, and ended up six hours later in Socorro about 80 miles away.

We would stop whenever we saw something interesting . . . no timetable, no deadline.  Here are some of the things that caught our eyes.

An abandoned restaurant . . .

Signs for a Native American pueblo smoke shop . . .

An irrigation channel bringing water from the Rio Grande to a cornfield in the valley . . .

A pre-Covid "Work from Home" opportunity . . .

A "re-tire-ment" home . . .

An old Camelback truss bridge over the Rio Puerco near Bernardo, NM . . .

An interesting sign . . .

and a few Roman Catholic churches still in use in the villages along the way:

Cristo Rey Church, Bosque, NM

San Antonio Church (north), Bosque, NM

San Antonio Church (south), Abeytas, NM

Bruce also spotted an abandoned church building hidden among the trees in San Acacia, NM:

Interior of San Acacia church

Of course there were also cemeteries in the villages . . . some associated with a church, others standing alone.  I looked for unique or unusual grave decorations, statues, etc.  Here are some examples.

From San Antonio Church (north) cemetery:

(I haven't figured out what Superhero logo this guy is wearing.)

San Acacia Cemetery (not connected to the abandoned church, but with a miniature version of it):

San Lorenzo Catholic Cemetery:

La Sagrada Familia Catholic Cemetery (Lemitar, NM):

San Miguel Catholic Cemetery (Socorro, NM):

And in virtually all the cemeteries there were statues or images of the Virgin of Guadalupe, a venerated symbol for Mexican Catholics, representing the miraculous appearances of the Virgin Mary near Mexico City in December, 1531.  The Virgin is typically depicted as a young woman standing on a crescent moon upheld by a cherub, looking down to her right, hands together in contemplative prayer, surrounded by a body-length sunburst.

Here's a more stylized version, with a playful cherub beneath the Virgin:

And a more ominous setting for the Virgin:

But my favorite serendipitous find of the day was this angel in a box:

Here's a closer look:

By mid-afternoon Bruce and I were "shot out" so we headed back home.  A good day!

If you would like to see these images (and more) in a larger format, please visit my photography website, Todos Juntos Photography, by clicking here.


Monday, July 12, 2021

Fort Union, New Mexico


                                                                                   Something that is probably quite ineffable:

                                                                   The backward look behind the assurance

                                                                   Of recorded history . . .

                                                                                       -- T. S. Eliot, "The Dry Salvages," Four Quartets

Last week my friend, Bruce, and I took a day trip to Fort Union National Monument in northeastern New Mexico, about 150 miles from Albuquerque.  Fort Union was a key U.S. military outpost on the Santa Fe Trail in the 19th century.

The now-historic Santa Fe Trail was a major but dangerous conduit for commerce between the United States and Mexico from about 1822 to about 1879, when the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe railroad reached Santa Fe.  

The trail stretched 900 miles from Missouri to New Mexico, with two branches -- the Mountain Route (northern branch) and the Cimarron Cutoff (southern branch).  The Cimarron Cutoff was the shorter route, but was more hazardous because it had few sources of food and very little water.

The two branches reconnected in northeastern New Mexico about 90 miles from Santa Fe, and in 1851 -- three years after the end of the Mexican-American War -- the United States constructed the first of three incarnations of a military post called Fort Union to protect commerce and settlers.

The second version of Fort Union was built in 1861-2 as a defensive outpost during the Civil War, and was the only obstacle between the Confederates -- who had moved up the Rio Grande and captured Santa Fe in March, 1862 -- and the gold fields of Colorado.  U.S. soldiers from Fort Union, augmented by volunteers from Colorado, met the Confederates at the Battle of Glorieta Pass, about halfway between Fort Union and Santa Fe.  The U.S. troops prevailed; the Confederates retreated back to Texas; and the western reaches remained secure for the rest of the Civil War.

The third Fort Union was built in 1862, and served not only as security for the Santa Fe Trail, but also as a supply depot for military posts in New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, and Arizona.  Fort Union received, off-loaded, inventoried, stored, and redistributed tons of supplies from 2,000 to 3,000 wagons a year . . . not to mention repairing many wagons in the "Mechanics' Corral" (see photo below) after their arduous trips on the Santa Fe Trail and beyond.

The fort was constructed in the traditional "territorial" architectural style with native stone (for foundations), lumber (for framing and trim), and clay (for bricks and adobe).

Mechanics' Corral
(photo courtesy National Park Service)

Officers Row
(photo courtesy National Park Service)

In 1891 the fort was abandoned and was left to decay.  It became a national monument in 1954.  But over 130 years, time has taken its toll.  All that's left are roofless, crumbling adobe walls . . .

. . . often supported by steel bars or guy wires . . .

The National Park Service works continuously to preserve what they can . . .

. . . but it's a losing battle.  The only things that have fared somewhat better are fireplaces and chimneys . . . 

and the buildings with walls of stone (rather than adobe), like the jail . . .

and the supply depot . . .

To give you a sense of the scale of the fort, and the devastation of time, here's the earlier image of Officers' Row residences . . .

and what it looks like now:

For me, Fort Union has the look and feel of an American Stonehenge:  ancient monoliths on a vast open plain whose original purpose, though in this case known, has been transformed by time and the elements into something mythical and mysterious.

If you would like to see these images (and more) in a larger format, please visit my photography website, Todos Juntos Photography, by clicking here.