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Chasing Down The Muse: Following the muse over to New Mexico

Under the graceful branches of the large elm in the yard, a Nuttall’s woodpecker flits in to feed.

His arrival creates a small furor as smaller birds flutter their wings and sing out in protest, fleeing to the elm’s branches to wait their turn.

A cool breeze caresses my skin as I stand watching and musing. Where has this woodpecker been? He was here (or one just like him) last year at this time. What wanderlust strikes him and where does he go?

The urge to wander struck me too as autumn came on, and I was fortunate to join friends on a trip to New Mexico, with its wide open spaces and lush colors. I was off on another of the physical chases after my muse.


We flew into Albuquerque. As we departed the plane the fresh, cool air hit us instantly as refreshing — not just after the stuffiness of the plane, but also the heat we had escaped here in California.

After a leisurely drive to Santa Fe, we arrived at our motel, the classic Route 66 El Rey Inn.

Built in 1936, I could easily imagine my grandparents driving up in their beige 1949 Cadillac Eldorado to spend a few nights on their long ago travels through the southwest. Immediately entranced, I did not waver in this feeling over the course of the week.

We checked in and then got back in the car to take a driving tour of the area and plan our next day’s activities accordingly.


As we drove, the sky darkened and soon released a light rain. After stopping to purchase a few small items, we headed back down Cerrillos to dinner and then back to El Rey to settle in. As we rounded the corner of St. Francis we were greeted by the stunning sight of an immense rainbow. A good omen — this was going to be a splendid trip.

The next day we walked Canyon Road and did art, art and more art, leaving us exhausted and exhilarated. In fact, over breakfast on the third day, we all discussed how much “creative work” we had done in the night.

Too bad we did not have a single piece to show for our nighttime hours of creating. Still, it was all very invigorating and each of us found a way to take notes for future use.

The trip continued in this vein. A day trip to Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch allowed for the spaciousness and grandeur of this southwest country to be fully absorbed in the silence that only this much space can provide.

I will not soon forget the breeze through the cottonwoods — sight, sound and touch.

The long meadow view of the Pedernal and the fruit dangling heavy on trees; Bode’s general store and the Tin Moon art gallery in Abiquiu itself were all special treats — so very different from the bustle of Southern California living or even the slow pace of Santa Fe.

I was beginning to feel the replenishment of spiritual resources spent over the long summer festival season. Life was good.

New days. New beginnings. Was it the chase after my muse or the arrival of autumn or merely a change? I could not clearly say at any time as we traversed miles and miles of New Mexico.


Side trips to Taos and Madrid were taken and filled the bowl of my spirit still more.

Warm sun and cool mountain breezes felt autumnal and cleansing. Crystal clear sounds — soft guitar, clank of dishes, rustling leaves, muted voices — filled my ears with pleasure.

All of the senses seemed alive and tingling as we continued on, filling the bowls of our selves. The struggle with sleep continued as the stimulation kept each of us wide awake long into the night. Even our dreams were spent creating, it seemed.

The days there were full and rich as autumn days should be. As I watched the birds in the yard here at home my mind went back over all the sights and sounds and tastes and touches of the past week with delight. The look back feels much like harvesting and I think to myself that it need not be crops of wheat or corn that are harvested to make one give thanks.

Senses are filled. Possibilities abound. Gratitude swells. What more could I ask from a chase after the muse? Special thanks are extended to Susan and Karen for sharing their journey. Plump with happiness, I am again home with senses revived and basking in the splendors of our own little town.

CHERRIL DOTY is a chaser after the many mysteries and joys of life. She can be reached at (714) 745-9973 or