Every day I see something in New Mexico that surprises and delights me. Like the lush thick pinkish red blooms on my honeysuckle vine wrapping around the front porch. Like the three deer that came up out of the ravine on Crow Circle overlooking Ute Lake this morning. The mosaic design over the fireplace at the Range Cage in Bernalillo. The stonework at the Gran Quivera Ruins on south hwy 14 in the Manzanos. We live in the midst of unexpected beauty every day.
I’ve said it before – when you least expect it, you’ll come around a corner in New Mexico and have your breath taken away by something you’ve looked at your entire life but failed to really see. Inspiration is always right there, out of the corner of your eye, waiting for you to look at it head on and take notice.
That said, I’ve made it a point that the first thing I see every morning, hanging over my chest of drawers in my bedroom, is Ansel Adams’ photograph: Moonrise, Hernandez. For the past 15 or 20 years, or maybe longer, I’ve kept that photo somewhere in my house where I see it every day. – it is by far my favorite piece of art in existence. And the story of its origin is just another example that art can happen anywhere – you just have to be paying attention and keep your heart and mind open.
The photo was taken on October 31, 1941. Adams had spent the day trying to capture the perfect image in the Chama Valley, north of Santa Fe. The story is that he just couldn’t quite create what he was seeing in his mind’s eye, and he said in later interviews,“I decided it was time to return to Santa and accept defeat. . .”
Driving back to Santa Fe that evening in his old Pontiac station wagon through the northern New Mexico countryside on a lonely highway, he saw the moon rising over a cemetery. (Ah – how I love a cemetery!). “Nearly ditching the car.. .”, he pulled off to the side of the road, grabbed his equipment, and set up his camera. But he failed to find his light meter. Using his gut, he guessed at the proper light settings and shot the picture
As with so many things in life, and especially in New Mexico, the results were beautiful and nothing short of amazing. In just a moment, Adams created what some experts say is perhaps the best known and sought after piece of art photography in existence. A 1948 print of the photo sold for over $600,000 at a Sotheby’s auction in 2006.
Obviously my framed print was not nearly that expensive. But to me it’s priceless. I see it every morning and it reminds me that beauty exists in unexpected places. You just have to keep your eyes open.