Slow gentle-kissed Tall golden grasses idly bow to and fro To sweet desert breezes they have come to know
© 2015 Merriam Kathaleen
Slow gentle-kissed Tall golden grasses idly bow to and fro To sweet desert breezes they have come to know
© 2015 Merriam Kathaleen
Here in Las Cruces the morning dawned wide and silver bright. The sun was hidden behind clouds trying to peer through. The sun’s rays instead of a golden yellow were platinum silver and were spreading this majestic hue everywhere I looked. Soon the clouds began to build dark as though sketched in charcoal. All of a sudden the sky opened up pouring out a delightful light shower of rain drops to quench the parched earth. With a week of mild to warmish temperatures here in our waterless southwest this moisture repast was gladly received by our desert landscape. The rain though gentle and not the torrential downpour that comes in the springtime did not last very long but was joyfully taken in by every bush, the dry grasses and of course the ever present weeds. When day after day of bright sunshine is what we are given here in our desert home and the dry vegetation wonders where the next drink is coming from this wonderful silver morning of rain was a welcome gift.
This morning as I stared in awe and wonder I watched the landscape out the window turn into a beautiful fully developed winter wonderland. For someone like me who grew up on the golden beaches of Santa Cruz, California a winter scene such as I saw today here in Las Cruces, New Mexico was a glorious repast for my eyes as well as my imagination. As I watched, this poem began dancing in my mind.
As I watched unfold before me
A Winter Wonderland of awe
took place through clear glass windows
My Imagination grew wildly!
My eyes fully began to see!
Fairy princesses dressed in
gossamer white lace finery
Floating in the air dancing
while a full orchestra boldly played
with exquisite detail and flair
Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Serenade
Glissades lead into Pirouettes of brilliance
as snowflake shape after snowflake
became beloved Sugar Plum Fairies
with twirls and spins dipping now and again
Nary a one left behind
they crisscrossed each path vividly
Then joined in place streaming, gliding
they softly began their sliding!
Faster and faster moving joyfully to fall!
One by one performed their Arabesques
so smoothly as they all
gently landed on the ground below
with their much deserved bow
© 2015 Merriam Kathaleen
I woke up and knew I was going to go to Old Mesilla. I knew there were shops there that specialize in Native American jewelry which translates to experts who know about Navajo silver and turquoise necklaces like mine. My excitement about what I will learn from these experts was rising as my bus ride brought me to my destination.
Old Mesilla is a beautiful historical town of specialty shops, galleries and restaurants located about a few miles west of Las Cruces and about a 10 – 15 minute ride on the Roadrunner Transit bus. I sat in my bus seat with anticipation as I gazed out the window at the views available to me along the route to the town of Old Mesilla. I had been there once before and fondly recalled the old plaza and the high elevation of the sidewalks built along the streets that crisscrossed around the centrally placed plaza. The vintage sidewalks are built much higher than your standard every day contemporary sidewalks. The fact that you have to step up about two feet to get onto the old brick and adobe walkways just adds to the charm of the town from my point of view.
I arrived at my destination on Avenida de Mesilla across the street from Calle de Santiago where the short route to the Old Town Plaza begins. As I got off the bus I could see the Town of Old Mesilla beckoning to me. The old adobe buildings that house the unique shops and restaurants speak of the memories that took place in this part of the historical Mesilla Valley. The original town site still has the flavor of the rich culture it has long been known for: The ancient influences of prehistoric life; The Spanish explorers, conquistadores and settlers all staking their claim in the new world; The Apache raiding parties trying to stop wagon trains and settlements from encroaching across their lands; The era of the Butterfield Stage Coach bringing the changes brought by the passengers and settlers who travelled the Trail; The civil war which impacted New Mexico for about eight months during 1861-1862; The wooly wild west of Billy the Kid (the Kid was on trial for his life at the Old Mesilla Courthouse and sentenced to hang); And Pancho Villa who went from beloved folk hero to a hunted desperado.
I think the website of the town of Mesilla says it best, ” The Town of Old Mesilla is part of a living history.” This living history is Mesilla’s story which unfolded as the Town became part of the Spanish Kingdom, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the Confederacy, and last but not least the United States of America.
And now here I was in this mecca of Southwestern history ready to uncover the secrets of my Navajo silver and turquoise necklace. In my earlier post I shared the story of how my Navajo necklace came to me and that this vintage necklace I am a steward of whispers to me. This necklace is guiding me to find who the silversmith/artist is and where he or she is from. In other words, my vintage Navajo necklace wants me to discover its roots and where it came from.
I leisurely strolled down Calle de Santiago toward the Plaza searching for the shops my intuition and my necklace guided me to. The first shop I spied was La Zia Native Arts, located on Old Mesilla Plaza (across the street from the Plaza and near St. Albino Church). I walked through the door of La Zia Native Arts and discovered I had entered a wonder world of both vintage and contemporary Native American Jewelry. As I stepped into this silver and turquoise jewelry gallery I was immediately greeted by Katie and Beth, the well-informed, smiling keepers of this wonderland of Native American Arts. Katie and Beth were so friendly I just knew that I could share with them about my necklace. I began telling them the story of my necklace. I told them how it came into my life and how it is guiding me to find it’s roots. I took out the necklace from my purse to show it to Katie and Beth as I related my story to them.
I have found that when someone views my necklace In person and holds it in their hands then they too are captured by its charm and its intriguing design. Captured by the design of the silver leaves embracing the pendants, the beauty of the large turquoise cabochons, the exquisite stamped silver flower appliques and the entire overall look of the necklace.
Katie, Beth and I spent the next hour talking about my necklace and vintage Navajo jewelry as well as contemporary native artwork. They were both very helpful in giving me suggestions of who I could talk to and where I could go to gain more knowledge about my necklace. They suggested that I contact New Mexico State University here in Las Cruces and talk to someone in the Anthropology Department as well as contact the Native American Arts & Crafts Association which is located in Albuquerque. The suggestion was also made that I go to Silver Assets, another shop in Mesilla that specializes in Native American jewelry and most importantly to me, Navajo jewelry. I left La Zia Native Arts with so much more enthusiasm about finding the roots of my necklace thanks to Katie’s and Beth’s help and guidance. I already have a great deal of enthusiasm about my necklace and my visit with Katie and Beth just ratcheted the enthusiasm scale a bunch of notches. I left La Zia Native Arts with a promise to Katie and Beth that I would let them know what I learn along my Navajo necklace trail of discovery and headed toward the shop, Silver Assets.
I walked across the Plaza and headed down Calle de Santiago, the street where earlier in the afternoon I first started my exploration of Old Mesilla. I walked along the street taking in all the sights around me and turned my feet toward Silver Assets.
Silver Assets is located at 1948 Calle de Santiago just down, or up, depending if you face east or west, the street from the Plaza. Silver Assets is owned by Lori and Ken Dahlstrom and Ken was the friendly greeter I met as I stepped into their store. I was once more inside a Native American jewelry wonderland.
Every glass case I looked in held vintage as well as contemporary Native American silver jewelry inlaid or adorned in turquoise, topaz, amethyst, etc. Ken’s friendliness coaxed me into once again telling the story of my necklace. One more time I gently lifted my necklace out from the special fabric bag where it safely nestles in my purse and eagerly handed it into another set of appreciative hands. As Ken gently held my necklace in his hands he began to impart his vast knowledge of Navajo jewelry.
Ken told me the silver beads the pendants were strung on were Bench Beads. He told me bench beads are silver beads that are made in volume by a native silversmith who then in turn sells their finished product to another artist/silversmith, such as the one who designed and crafted my necklace. This bit of information was fascinating to me since I had always thought the artist who crafted my necklace had also made the silver beads. I now knew that was not the case. Apparently, the beads on my necklace were part of a large volume of beads that had been made en masse in a workshop by silversmiths working with machine made bead halves. In order to make the whole beads they solder the bead halves together by hand. The beads are partly machine made and partly hand made. Ken told me you can tell beads are bench beads from the soldering line that has a rough finish. In contrast, he said, to the beads that are 100% hand made by the jewelry designer/artist who cuts, stamps, daps, solders, files, drills, strings the beads and files and sands the soldering line to a smooth finish. As he held my necklace Ken pointed out to me the rough soldering lines on the beads. I could see that indeed the soldering lines on each of the beads were not smooth and when I ran my finger over the beads I could feel the rough line where the bead halves were put together to make the whole round bead.
Ken explained how the machine made bead halves were put together by the bench silversmith(s). These silversmiths specialty was making beads using the machine made half pieces while sitting at benches. Hence, the name bench beads. They mass produced these beads and then sold them to the native silversmiths who strung them on their finely crafted turquoise and silver necklaces the Navajo are known for.
I also learned that the design marks specific to the silver leaves that embrace each of the three turquoise cabochon pendants on my necklace are characteristic marks of the silversmith/artist who created my necklace. Ken told me these markings are like the signature of that Navajo silversmith. He said the dot stampings on each silver leaf are definitely unique to this silversmith who crafted my necklace. Ken also told me the designs of the silver flower appliques or rosettes soldered at the top of each pendant are also unique to the particular Navajo silversmith who designed and crafted my necklace and this uniqueness is also considered the signature of the artist. I was existatic, even though there is no hallmark on my necklace the unique design of the pendants could prove to be the missing link in finding WHO the silversmith/artist was who crafted my necklace.
Ken told me that the large turquoise cabochons in the necklace’s pendants are Turquoise Mountain turquoise. He told me that Turquoise Mountain is a mine located near Kingman, Arizona. Ken then pulled out a box he had that is full of turquoise pieces from various mines in New Mexico and Arizona. This sample box Ken has is an excellent tool in which to determine where a turquoise piece is mined from. Once I saw the sample turquoise from Turquoise Mountain it was very clear to me that the cabochons on the pendants of my necklace were Turquoise Mountain turquoise. The silver pyrite matrix of my turquoise was the same matrix in Ken’s Turquoise Mountain sample. I had thought my turquoise was Morenci turquoise. However, Ken’s sample box showed me clearly this was not the case. I looked at the Morenci turquoise samples Ken had and it was very clear that my turquoise could not be Morenci because my cabochons looked nothing like the Morenci samples.
Ken next focused on the crafting of my necklace. He told me the design of my necklace showed that it was crafted before 1965. Ken then turned my pendants over and pointed out their backings. He told me the backings were rolled silver and that this form of backing was commonly made up until 1965.
I then told Ken that I had wondered if my necklace was “old pawn.” Ken told me how jewelry that is “old pawn” is distinguished from jewelry that was not pawned. Apparently, each time a piece was pawned a hatch mark was scratched on the back. This was the system the trading post owners had for keeping track of pawned jewelry. Since there were no such markings on the backs of the pendants of my necklace it could not be “old pawn” jewelry.
Learning all of this about my necklace was like discovering a buried treasure right in my own backyard and Ken was definitely my treasure hunting guide. His knowledge was such a gift to me. I leaned up against the top of the glass case Ken had used to place his turquoise sample box on for us to peruse. While I stood there my mind was ticking trough all that I had learned from Ken. As more customers came in I knew that he now needed to devote his time to them and that my time with him had come to a close. I told him how much I appreciated his guidance and knowledge about Navajo silversmiths and how much he helped me to learn more about my own necklace. I left Lori and Ken Dahlstrom’s Silver Assets with a promise to keep him informed on the progress of the journey of my necklace.
I took my new found information about my necklace and left Silver Assets heading back to the heart of Old Mesilla, the Plaza. Now that my necklace journey search was over for the time being I could enjoy a leisure stroll around the Plaza and explore some of the other unique shops and eat some yummy treats. As I walked around I entered one beckoning shop after another. Though I was drawn to everything the shops had to offer, my mind was constantly ticking off what I had learned from Katie and Beth at La Zia Native Arts and from Ken at Silver Assets.
Soon it was time to catch the bus back to Las Cruces. I walked to the bus stop and as I waited for the bus to pick me up and transport me back home I began planning my next moves along the journey of discovering the roots of my Navajo necklace. I now had more information to point me in the next direction I was to go.
Next up for the journey of my Navajo necklace will be to contact the Anthropology Department of New Mexico State University in Las Cruces and to contact the Indian Arts and Crafts Association located in Albuquerque. After all, I now knew the signature of the silversmith/artist who crafted my necklace. According to Ken Dahlstrom of Silver Assets the entire design of my necklace was like the silversmith’s signature. With this information I wondered how hard will it now be to learn who crafted my necklace.
I carry my shade with me? What do I mean by that? Well, simply put, as I walk around Las Cruces during my daily rounds I walk under the shade of my pink umbrella. We are still in the throes of summer here in the southwest borderland and daily temps can get to the high 90’s. The sun can be so hot that you could fry an egg on the sidewalk within seconds of the gooey mess landing. What a visual! Since I have that visual in my mind every day that I venture forth around town I realize I don’t want my skin to look like that fried egg. Sunscreen is not real good for my sinuses. My nose stuffs up every time I use sunscreen on my face, so, that means sunscreen is not a solution for me to keep my skin protected.
I was puzzled about what to do when one day I spied my umbrella. I know, you might also agree with my first inclination which was to promptly speak out to myself and say. “Are you kidding?” “An umbrella is used when it rains!” “Not when it is sunshiny and in the 90’s.” Then it hit me like a bolt of lightening. After all, this is monsoon season and we do get lightening strikes and sometimes on a daily basis. Therefore an idea hitting me like a bolt of lightening is quite appropriate. There I was in my room having this discussion with myself when the “aha” moment hit me. Of course I can use my rain umbrella for a sun umbrella. I remember seeing the Asian women where I lived in San Jose, California carrying an umbrella for shade during the summers. The summer temperatures in San Jose rarely rose above the mid- eighties so I myself never felt the need for a sun umbrella. But here in Las Cruces, New Mexico it is a completely different story. Now every day, as I walk around town, I thank the women I saw in California for giving me the brilliant idea of my sun umbrella. By the way, as I walk under the shade of my pink umbrella I am also prepared for the summer rain storm that can hit without warning. We are in the monsoon season after all and now, I not only carry my shade with me I also carry my protection against any and all possible rain plops that may come my way. Since I have been using my sun umbrella I have seen other brilliant women carrying their shade with them as well. Hooray for our brilliance!!
I love metaphors and I just can’t let this metaphor go by the wayside. I’ve been thinking that when we consciously live our lives on our Spiritual path then that is like carrying our shade with us during the hot summer days and carrying our rain plop protection during the rainy season.
Ok, there really is no beast. In fact, the hungry beast is me. You probably guessed that, right? I left the library after I worked on Tags for my blog posts. I was famished. I started walking down Main St., the main street of downtown Las Cruces, in search of a place to eat. This was quite a feat. It was around 6:30 pm and by now all the stores downtown that even exist were closed. Yep, what few stores there are in the downtown were closed for the day. With hardly any stores around that also means next to no restaurants, coffee shops or just charming eateries. Which means the hungry beast I was would have a difficult time foraging for a place to satisfy my need for food within my budget. I was in luck! Our local hamburger diner, Days Hamburgers, was open til 7:00 pm and I stopped in for a quick burger and fries. What would our downtown do if Days was not here? What would I have done if Days Hamburgers had gone the way of the dodo bird and just gone out of existence like the other restaurants have? Thank goodness this was not the case and I enjoyed a fast food re-pass that I wolfed down before they closed. Days has been a downtown staple feeding famished people like me since 1932. https://www.facebook.com/days.hamburgers
Unfortunately, our downtown is not a shinning example of Main Street U.S.A. Check out this website to learn more about revitalizing downtowns throughout the country. http://www.preservationnation.org/main-street/about-main-street/ No matter how much our city council and the newspapers tout our beautiful downtown this still does not cause the much needed stores or restaurants to magically appear. Our downtown has a dirth of empty buildings leaving citizens like me to dream of a beautiful, busy, fun thriving people friendly happening place. Alas, I can only dream because no matter how much I click my ruby slippers together I still remain standing in what I call a shadow of a downtown. Until saavy and intrepid boutique store and restaurant owners decide to take the leap of business faith our downtown will remain a nothing zone. Even though downtown Las Cruces has beautiful metal benches on which to rest our weary bones, artistic lights lighting our way, thriving flowers and trees to enjoy this still does not make up for no places to browse in or actually buy from. Since moving to Las Cruces I have shared my thoughts about the emptiness of our downtown. I have shared with people I know and with people I meet my concern about not only the emptiness, but, the non-existence of a downtown. Does this help our downtown problem? I honestly don’t know. I do know that most of the people I talk with about the lack of our downtown agree with the fact that we have a problem while sharing comments of their own about the situation. Do we have solutions to our problem? Not really, because everyone is like me, no money to put where our mouths are. If I had the money I would open a coffee shop where everyone could drink their favorite caffeinated beverage while munching yummy pastries or overflowing sandwiches as they turn the pages of a good book. I would open a native American silver and turquoise jewelry store. We are in the southwest after all, the home of native Americans and turquoise. I would open a stunning wine tasting bar that features the great wines of New Mexico. Last but not least, I would open a great shoe boutique. As a woman, I can never have too many unique shoes. Right now I can dream about my entrepreneurial ideas and of course when I win the lottery I will have all the money I need to bring these big dreams to reality. In the mean time there is a real store in our downtown called Run Culture. Not only is this the only retail store that is open for business in our downtown it may be the only store in the entire county that is dedicated to a running culture. Run Culture is owned by Carlos Rivas who I think is a great business owner and cheerleader for bringing people together in our downtown. Carlos is brilliant. He has started group runs events. Every Wednesday evening runners can join each other in 1 mile, 2 mile and 3 mile loops through downtown Las Cruces. Check out http://www.runculture.com for information about the store’s events. Thank you Carlos for being the first store owner to help build interest in our downtown. By the way, these Wednesday runs are growing every week. More and more people are coming downtown to run the loops. Yay for Carlos and his Run Culture.
The next big news for our downtown is that we will finally have a downtown plaza. Yes indeed. Finally after 20 years of waiting for a downtown revitalization plan to be fulfilled Las Cruces hopefully will be breaking ground in January 2015 for a downtown plaza. I have learned to be a skeptic about these sort of things. Over the last year I have seen signs posted about this business and that business coming soon. Guess what? As I happily waited for the coming of these new businesses I found out that the words COMING SOON have a very different meaning here in Las Cruces than they did in San Jose, California where I moved from. These two words in San Jose were synonomous with immediately as in probably happening next week. Here in Las Cruces they must have a completely different dictionary because I have found that COMING SOON is synonomous with maybe or maybe not or please wait until we decide to make it happen. Any way, as I learn the new definitions of common terms I will be waiting patiently for the Downtown Plaza to be built. Well, maybe or maybe not. There is an article about the proposed Plaza in the Las Cruces Bulletin dated 6/27/14. The article can be found at http://www.lascrucesbulletin.com.
I have found that patience is my challenge to learn as I walk my daily path. I just wish the path was not so BLEAPING long.
Yesterday my friend Rosy and I went to the Mesilla Valley Mall. Now as far as malls go this place can’t compare to the MALL in San Jose, California where I moved from or the MALLS in Jersey City, New Jersey where Rosy is from. By the way Rosy lived across the bridge (yes, that bridge) from New York City, the city of stores, MALLS and SHOPPING!. I am so sorry to say that the Messilla Valley Mall can’t hold a candle to San Jose’s two-story MALL with its 100s of stores and certainly shows no comparison at all to the shopping one has available in Jersey City and New York City. The Mesilla Valley Mall is a shadow of the San Jose MALL and just a speck compared to what is found in New York City.
On my first visit to our Mesilla Valley Mall I kept looking for the second story. No second story was to be found. After meeting Rosy and her boyfriend Glenn I found out that they also looked for a second story and found none. I guess you can take the person out of California or New Jersey but you can’t take the California or New Jersey MALLS out of the person.
Rosy and I both know that local Cruceans just think their mall is terrific. Rosy and I think it leaves a lot to be desired, but, we still go there and check out the stores. Though neither of us can really call it a mall we are grateful it is here, especially on these very hot summer days when the mall provides us a cooling place to hang out. Besides, since there IS no downtown in Las Cruces to speak of (I will be saying more about NO downtown in a future post) Rosy and I have no choice but to go to the Mesilla Valley Mall when we get an urge to go shopping and to spend time where the temperature is cooler.
There we were taking our typical stroll through the mall when Rosy decided she wanted to stop in a hair salon to see about getting a conditioning treatment for her curly hair. As we walked toward the salon we were stopped by a kiosk person who was giving out hair straightening treatments for free as long as you were willing to hear a speal about their $300.00 hair straightener. Actually, the young woman definitely caught our attention and Rosy said yes. For 20 minutes she was treated to not only a hair straightening treatment, the iron the young woman used conditioned Rosy’s hair as well. As I stood watching Rosy enjoying the treatment I was marveling at what happened. Rosy and I were walking toward a salon where she would probably end up spending a lot of her hard-earned money on a conditioning treatment when this young woman appeared out of nowhere to offer Rosy not only a hair straightening treatment but a conditioning treatment along with a relaxing time, all for free. The Universe had definitely given Rosy a wonderful gift. I could see how Rosy showed her gratitude by accepting this gift. I had the opportunity to see all of this happen right in front of me and Rosy and I had the blessing of sharing this beautiful experience with each other. We continued walking through the mall and shared quite a conversation about this blessing. I shared with Rosy my perspective and she shared with me her perspective as we talked about the way the Universe opens up to our needs when we are open to receive what the Universe gifts us.
I thank the Universe for the gift I have received of Rosy and Glenn’s friendship.