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Pilgrimage: Cerro Pedernal


Lustrous blue gem precipice

that shelters fountain

that rains showers of blessing

expendable nest with ample room for all of us

who are expendable.

Sage Mansfield

It’s Cerro Pedernal, locally known as “Pedernal,” a narrow mesa in northern New Mexico or, in English, “flint hill.” It’s the site of fossil bones found there as early as 1885. It’s a spiritual place, blessing the lives of those who visit. It’s a trading post, a ranch, an education facility, a retreat center. It’s the location of films, such as Red Dawn, Wyatt Earp, No Country for Old Men, Lone Ranger, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, shot there over the past eighty years. It’s the home and studio of Georgia O’Keeffe. It’s a conference center with lodgings that are run by the Presbyterian Church. It’s Ghost Ranch, located near Abiquiu in north central New Mexico.

When I visited Ghost Ranch in the fall a few years ago, it was about as perfect an experience as could be imagined . . . that is, for a first visit. My husband and I took advantage of much of what the casual tourist would encounter. We did the much-too-short tour of Georgia O’Keeffe’s home. We walked through several parts of the Ranch; we observed individuals creating landscape paintings and other artists art work; poked around empty studios; we engaged staff in conversation about the history of Ghost Ranch and it’s current uses and activities; we walked the labyrinth; we visited the gift shop and could not resist making more than a few purchases; and we found cool refreshments in one of the lodges.


Perdernal fount of blessing

Mount of Wisdom

Sophia know-ledge

So high beyond my reach

Perdernal the edge of reason.

Sage Mansfield

On looking forward to a more substantive visit to Ghost Ranch —-which has been on my bucket list since the mid-eighties—- I would like to accomplish three main objectives.

First, I would like to have an opportunity to develop the habit of meditating and to do it for extended periods of time. Imagine delving into the concept of mindfulness . . . learning how to put it in practice? It seems at face value a common-sense, relatively uncomplicated, way of living. And it seems to me that “to be present” is such an authentic way of being, there should be no need to teach it. Similarly, how fulfilling it would be understand and engage in listening in a way that brings about deeper awareness. A logical or worthy outcome might be the creation of inner awareness and possibly a deeper awareness of self and those with whom I interact. Ultimately, the blessings and prayers that buttress all that I seek would give meaning to such a meditative experience.

Second, I would like to take advantage of some of the recurring program offerings. The programs at Ghost Ranch are highly recommended.   Ones that I am currently aware of include worship at the Agage Center; participating in yoga; and study in fellowship with others who seek the same source of comfort and strength; focus on body, mind, and spirit. Of particular interest to me would be the worship experience; the expectation of listening, examining different viewpoints of biblical passages, and making connections between God’s plan and my daily activities would all be central to taking advantage of these offerings. Another important part of all of these would be attempting in all things to discern God’s will. My hope would be that overall, focusing on body, mind, and spirit would not be a solitary pursuit but would be in concert with others.

Third, what I consider a bonus is having access to Georgia O’Keeffe’s home and studio. I would look forward to spending more time there . . . . just soaking in the ambiance of the place and learning more about her life and work. In my mind, Ms. O’Keeffe is in the pantheon of artists of all time. Her love for the geography of Cerro Pedernal, her low tolerance for people, and her summer explorations of Ghost Ranch are all inexplicably linked to what became the canvases for which she is known. Her courage, independence, determination, are only outpaced by her creativity. Clearly, she was a feminist trailblazer whose ninety-nine years affected positively lives particularly in New York and New Mexico.

Ghost Ranch Ocean Scene

Pedernal is misty blue

sea fog covering her like long-ago water

covered this land.

This thirsty land, arid and parched.

No trace of sea breeze here.

The somber sky is pewter gray

a nor’wester starting to blow

clouds building up for a squall.

Dishes on the picnic table

corded down. My coffee down the hatch.

Tent ropes taut but with some give.

Sometimes we find trees

tented after a storm.

Pedernal a lighthouse sentinel

thar she heaves into view.

Clouds on Pedernal at daring

campers take warning.

Sage Mansfield

Margaret Lucas Jacobs, Ruling Elder, is an incoming Session member.

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