Donna Clair

Southwest Contemporary Artist

How I Came to New Mexico and learned about Art and Life



26 May 2020 – Llano Quemado, N.M. – Sat in the sun on the old railroad bench in front of the house this morning.  A wide band of low clouds forming in the northeast over Taos Mountain and the Pecos foothills.  A matching bank of clouds slowly building over the low mountains to the southeast, beginning to form a circle – only a few hundred sky miles from meeting in the middle.  Some dark and rumbly-looking patches among the whiter billows.   As I look out the window now, they are still growing and building. Fingers crossed that we will have a big, juicy rainstorm this afternoon.  Weeks of drought – fire danger warnings for campers and hikers in the surrounding forests.

Life in the time of a Pandemic…..tomorrow is my day for a homemade haircut.  Read about the two symptomatic hairdressers somewhere infecting over 140 clients!  Wonky left hand due to arthritis will make this another “self care” adventure.  Bought most of my supplies for bread making.  Machine won’t be delivered until August – a silicone bag for the ingredients and kneading the dough.  The exercise might do my old hands some good.  Remembering the days when I baked four loaves at a time – a great recipe for challah dough.  Challenging myself with old habits which need to become new again – did I just get lazy? Looking for some good soup recipes….

Wednesday marks my 35th year of sobriety. Struggling with the idea of sharing my story.  Truth is the memories are fast and furious as The Day approaches. Had my answer yesterday when I thought of what it would be like for anyone trying to overcome addiction during a pandemic.  Recovery programs are groups of people (at any stage of addiction) meeting in rooms large and small – newcomers and old timers sharing their stories.  Hospitals are not available for detox.  The foundation of the AA program is the sharing of one’s experience, strength and hope.  It is possible that people will find ways to recovery with viral meetings and Zoom.  Once a person gets sick and tired of being sick and tired, a strong will to live – the life force kicks in – and there is an  willingness to go to any lengths to get healthy. 

My story is not unusual just made more complicated due to my stubbornness and denial….the good, bad and the not so pretty.  One day there was a 6’oclock news segment with Betty Ford and her family discussing their intervention.  Her husband and children told how they felt to watch her and all the ways her drinking affected their lives. With their help and support she  entered a treatment program for her addiction to alcohol and prescription pills.  Her body language showed no signs bravado,  just a quiet courage; an admission of powerlessness and great strength of spirit.  She touched my soul!   

Some years later Betty, her daughter Susan, and a slew of Secret Service men would visit my studio on Santistevan Lane in Taos and I had the honor of serving lunch for this amazing heroic woman . Over many years Betty’s openness about her alcoholism and breast cancer saved thousands of women’s lives.  Before this time women would go down the long lonely road of alcoholism without any roadmap to a better life.  The words “breast cancer” were only whispered and the diagnosis kept a dark family secret.  Betty opened doors to healing through alcohol treatment programs and mammograms.  She is one of the greatest women of our time!   This is the story of how her bravery and courage saved my life….I can never repay her. It is my hope that I can tell my story with the same courage and honesty.  It is definitely a long and winding road…..