Donna Clair

Southwest Contemporary Artist

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


Word Paintings #133 (How I Came to New Mexico and learned about Art and Life) – WILDERNESS GATE

3 June 2023 – A peaceful sunny Saturday morning. Waking up from one of my “fugues” again, preparing to start early today.  Always feel a little guilty once I come out of this form of hibernation.  Some might say it is time wasted, but a lot of interior work and healing happens – memories are relived, solutions to problems appear like magic.  Am a little slower to emerge now, but here I am – one more beautiful day to enjoy! 

Working on a large painting called “Cloud People”, a phrase I heard many years ago from a Native American friend at Picuris Pueblo. The other word I was “given” for stormy clouds was “Thunderspirits”.  After 57 years in these mountains I am still crazy in love with this place.  Of all the houses where I have lived during this time, one stands out loudly. The little Hobbit cottage on the horse ranch in Truchas where I separated from the fast paced social scene of Santa Fe and began my journey to become “real” (still becoming).  Deciding to turn my back on the only world I knew allowed me to change. Remembering a painting I did after my neighbor Mr. Fernandez showed me the summer pasture where he kept his herd of cows.  The little dirt road is called “Wilderness Gate” and leads into the forest. High above the trees are the mountains called Truchas Peaks. Yes, that afternoon I walked into the wilderness, the Unknown, and was forever changed.

Group hike to Truchas Peaks – it sounded like a good idea, but…and there is always that momentary hesitation…..After sitting at an easel for years, I
certainly was in no shape to take this trek to the top of Truchas Peak but got caught up in all the excitement of preparation for the hike – I was ready to Trek!!!.
We all began the journey together at Wilderness Gate, but the fast pace of my group just
left me farther and farther behind. Finally, I knew I couldn’t catch up –
out of breath and feeling I was definitely ready for that Big Easel in
the Sky, I found myself in a clearing surrounded by deep forest beside a small stream very much bewildered and alone!.  Sat down
on a log and gave into panic – I did not know how to find my way back to
Carmelita’s house!

survival skills were sharply honed in other areas due to crazy family,
tumultuous relationships and trying to raise three hungry munchkins.  Finding my way out of the wilderness was not on my dance card. Remembered meeting a longtime Truchas resident then in her 80’s.  Her name was Eve Featheringill. Sometime in her 20’s she bought a burro in Santa Fe. Packed it up with supplies and trekked through the wilderness alone, following the old mining trails. Finally she reached Truchas and stayed.  Thought of her often during my ever increasing bewilderment.  Imagined she reached some stage of enlightenment during her journey – sadly Nirvana escaped me and I was afraid!

The sun was setting – it was getting cold and I faced the coming night
waiting for a bear to swallow me whole!  My shoes were still soaked and
my feet were getting numb. Decided to walk downhill beside the stream –
logic told me that was the way out – what the hell did I know? As I was headed toward the stream, I heard loud voices and much laughter.  An ebullient group of hikers had reached the top of Truchas Peak and all were in a high state of exhilaration.  Surprise, surprise – there I stood, utterly weak with relief! 

One kind man separated from his group and listened to my story.   I was invited to join them in the walk to the parking area. We all climbed into their car. They dropped me  off at Carmelita’s door and the welcoming aroma of enchiladas!

Sent my new “buddies” off with big hugs and kisses — and much, much gratitude. The kind man who listened to my story sent me off with some profound  parting words  ….”Remember, Donna, find people who walk at your own speed!” Another angel on the long Road of Life!