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Mabel in Taos: A woman of profound contradictions

A couple of weeks ago, my son-in-law said to me, “You need new material, you keep writing the same things over and over again. People will not want to read your articles.”

I quickly responded, “There’s only so much stuff that goes on in Pagosa. There’s one thing that is heating up the news print and I’m not touching the Big W with a ten-foot pole.”

Sweet Al says everyone is tired of hearing about his brother, David. I need to lay off writing about him.

My daughter said she had a friend who reads the Reader’s Digest so she would be interesting at parties. She suggested that I go back to some of my old articles before anyone was reading my column.

She said, “Even Oprah takes summers off with reruns.”

I took my daughter’s advice. I filed through 180 articles, (three years of material). Surely, I’ve written something interesting along the way.

I found this article about a woman of profound contradiction. I related then, and I still do. From my family’s point of view, I am that woman. From my point of view, I am living life and writing about it as it comes to me.

“A Woman of Profound Contradictions: Generous, Petty, Domineering and Endearing!”

In the early eighties, while Al and I were visiting Taos, New Mexico, I heard of a woman who opened her home to artists, influencing some of the greatest minds of the 20th century: Georgia O’Keefe, Ansel Adams, Martha Graham, Carl Jung, Alfred Stieglitz, John Reed and others of the political and artistic avant-garde. D.H. Lawrence even wrote about the days in the Mabel Dodge Luhan House. This prompted me to open my own retreat center for artists and writers.

A good friend who has known me for years and has seen me fumbling around in the arts, said, “I see with all your talent, diligence, determination and drive, you have wasted your potential. You could have run a large company or been a CEO.”

Wow! That was a sting. I was totally caught off guard. I thought my good friend had read my life wrong. Given my education and lack of it, I was feeling pretty good about my accomplishments. I really thought I had seized every opportunity that came to me. I had been diligent to give life my best shot.

Apparently I didn’t measure up to his standard of a life well lived.

Mabel Dodge Lujan didn’t do it either.

She was known as a woman of profound contradictions. She was born to a wealthy family in New York, a prominent figure in the arts and society of New York City and Europe. She moved to Taos, New Mexico, met and married a full-blooded Taos Pueblo man by the name of Tony Luhan.

She became a salon hostess, art patroness, writer and self-appointed savior of humanity.

You can imagine the profound contradiction and gossip surrounding her while the whole world was watching. In the 1930s, The New Yorker Magazine cartoons quipped about Mabel in Taos.

Yes, she was a contradiction, but Mabel Dodge didn’t bother herself with that; she was too busy entertaining people from all over the world. Having informal gatherings, people joined to dine and to discuss important things of the day and artists were invited to stay and paint there.

This is a quote from the Mabel Dodge Luhan House website:“Carl Jung’s visits to the Taos Pueblo would influence mainstream conceptions of the ‘native mind,’ while political wheels, set in motion by certain of Mabel’s friends like John Collier, would affect legislation to benefit Native American communities for generations to come. All of these events and many more can be traced at some point to Mabel and Tony’s commitment to one another and to the life they built in Taos.”

Author Lois Rudnick, in “Utopian Vistas,” writes, “Many who came to the Luhan House were at a critical point in their lives, physically, psychologically, or vocationally. For them the house functioned as a kind of life-crisis center breaking down and healing, making — and sometimes unmaking — love affairs and marriages. Because several visitors often stayed with the Luhans simultaneously, the opportunities for mentoring, cross fertilization, and feuding were enormously rich…”

We all have the “shoulda’s and coulda’s,” and are we all living out of some kind of contradiction?

If we live our lives with conviction and passion, we will always go against the grain and what society deems success.

It’s not about being contrary to how people think we should be, but what is right for us. Others will not understand. How can they? It’s our life! But, they sure will tell us how to live it.

Final brushstroke: Dare to live your convictions and be willing to be misunderstood. You might be influencing someone to take courage and be who they are meant to be. Mabel in Taos did that for me.’

Artist’s quote

“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get back up.” — Vince Lombardi.


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