Excursions: Jemez Springs

Last February I was introduced to a magical place called Jemez Springs when I received a letter from an artist asking me whether I'd be interested in exhibiting his deconstructed guitars. The artist turned out to be Roger Sweet, and his works were featured in the exhibit Guitars from Club Muse. I've already told you about the guitars, but I didn't tell you about where they live, Jemez Springs.

Jemez Springs is a little village of about 400 located an hour or so north of Albuquerque, and four hours from Roswell. Replete with hot springs, this place has long attracted spiritually-minded people, from Catholic missionaries and congregations (specifically one dealing with priests experiencing, er, personal difficulties) to more recent Zen Buddhists. A place of outstanding physical beauty, it looks like Sedona, but without the tourists, making it a very peaceful, comforting place to visit. It's also overflowing with history, as it's believed to have been inhabited for about 4,500 years. If you drive a little ways down the highway, you'll find the ruins of pueblos and a missionary church at the Jemez State Monument:

Jemez Springs is also home to several natural wonders, including the Soda Dam. Formed by the water flow of underground hot springs, this site is a veritable geological marvel rich in texture, sound, and even smell from the sulfuric water flowing through it.

During the course of preparing for the guitar exhibit I traveled to Jemez Springs several times, but now that the show is over, I still enjoy going up there, not only because of the beauty of the area, but because of the accommodations.

In addition to his work as an artist, Roger and his wife Linda maintain a couple of guest houses on their property. Linda is also a marvelous ceramist, and maintains her shop and studio here as well, Jemez Mountain Pottery and Sculpture. Her functional pieces are beautifully thrown, and a lot of her sculptural work is inspired by the Mesopotamian goddess Inanna, exuding a refined yet earthy quality. 

My Registrar and I stayed at the two-bedroom Casa Blanca when we were packing up the guitars for exhibition, and a few months ago I brought my parents here as well. Dating back to the 19th century, this shotgun-style house might appear rather unassuming from the highway...

Casa Blanca, the guest house. Linda's shop is located on the right.
...but once you pass through the gate...
...you cross over into a realm that is nothing less than magical.

Roger has meticulously renovated and enhanced the property over a three-decade period, and it really shows. Casa Blanca is full of craftsmanship and attention to detail, from the fragments of stone and pottery embedded into the walls, to the choice of artwork hanging around the home. It's a house that has been restored and decorated with mindfulness, a place that is both inviting and deliberate in its presence. I especially love the turquoise ceiling in the main living room area. 

Even more enchanting, however, is the backyard, which you can view from the large back porch. Situated on a sloping hill, the site is nourished by a freshwater stream, so on top of the physical beauty of the landscape you have the aural massage of the flowing water to further relax you. It's especially beautiful in the springtime, when the massive wisteria vines and iris are in bloom. I've done a lot of sketching up here, and I've featured several of these drawings on the Sketch of the Week:

Standing out in the backyard, looking up at Casa Blanca.

The river and acequia running through the property nourishes these massive cottonwoods.
In addition to Casa Blanca, there is also a smaller, one-bedroom dwelling called the Garden Cottage. I want to stay here in the near future, as the bed is on level with the garden, and I imagine it would be absolutely wonderful to wake up to the sight of flowers.

If I seem to be gushing about this place, you're right. One of the perks of my job as a museum curator is that I get to explore new places, and Jemez Springs has by far been one of my favorites. If you're looking for a weekend getaway, I heartily recommend reserving either Casa Blanca or the Garden Cottage. The prices are reasonable, the town itself is wonderful, and Roger and Linda are two of the most gracious and affable hosts you'll ever meet. So go on, reserve yourself a night or two. You won't regret it!