Donna Clair

Southwest Contemporary Artist

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


COSME’S OAKS – Friend Cosme Romero Mayordomo of Truchas for many years

LLANO QUEMADO – TRUCHAS, N.M. – September 3, 1984….We had a party! My 44th birthday celebration. Made pots of green chile and posole, nachos, tortillas – and many, many margaritas.  Pedro Ribera Ortega the local geneologist and historian sat under the portal for most of the afternoon and regaled us with his colorful stories of village life in Santa Fe and Truchas.  Friend Beth Couse visited from Taos.   A nurse at the Embudo Treatment Center she would later play an essential part in my recovery.  Eventually over 20 friends and relatives helped me celebrate a truly happy day!  When the cake arrived with 44 candles, I made a wish – a hope – a request that I could have another forty-four years of this new life! 

The Romeros – Cosme and Carmelita their daughters Susie, Nora, Cecelia and Mary Helen, including their son Henry eventually became my adopted family.  Closest in age with Susie, (only a month apart) we became good friends.  Even though we were in our mid-forties, Carmelita hovered over and protected us from any “unwanted advances”. I was so comfortable and at ease with my new friends that it felt as though I had been born and raised in this village.  Being raised in a close-knit Polish neighborhood it felt as though I had “come home”.

The garden grew, the horses foaled…Radiant Wind’s little boy was sleek and beyond handsome.  My son visited regularly visited from Santa Fe; this was the summer he learned to drive.  Pedro stopped in every so often for a cafecita.  On Sundays we would drive to Santa Fe to attend the little church where we first met.  Everyone joining hands and singing that last song “Let there be Peace on Earth” was the best feel good moment of the week.  Good visits with old friends during the coffee and cake after the service sealed the deal.  Life was Good! 

That summer a huge financial surprise appeared when a lovely old lady named Doris passed away and left me a very welcome bequest in her will.  She had been a client at the law office and once owned the first Santa Fe Art School on Canyon Road.  Her partner had died tragically and all I did was listen to her loneliness while she waited in the reception area.  In that document she mentioned how much she appreciated the kindness.  Beyond grateful.   

Bills had piled up and the money went fast. Rather than revel in domesticity and our daily happy hours, it was time for me to work!  Having the bills paid made a huge difference – clarity and focus were my new best friends. A
growing familiarity with my surroundings inspired these new canvases.
So exciting to discover and nurture my relationship with this vast
and powerful landscape!

Finally I had some breathing room.  After some adjustments, my paintings became my first priority.  Never had I given myself permission to put my work ahead of everything else.  It was intense.  

Coffee cup in hand I would head to my “studio” at the mobile home early every morning. My significant other resented the time I was spending in front of the easel. Although the words were left unspoken, the yellow brick road was gradually disappearing into the wilderness.  Began to notice worrisome changes in my partner.  He would take off for Santa Fe with the stated intention of going to an AA meeting.  That was okay with me.  Our differences were becoming obvious and very uncomfortable and I very much appreciated my time alone to work. Often when he returned from a day trip his eyes were unfocused and he would be very combative.  

Our sunset cocktails were no longer happy hour but fueled some intense arguments.  We were on the edge of losing Paradise.  Apologies all around and life would quiet down for a week or two and then his restlessness took over and he was gone again  My first reaction was panic at being left.      Although I had experienced a lot of drama, I had never really lived alone!!!  It was also becoming obvious that alcohol was no longer my best friend as little signs of chaos were popping up everywhere.  Deep and powerful life changes can be quite scary…..