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Through the woods

The calendar presses on our shoulders and breathes down our necks, as hard to evade as a lap-seeking, too-hairy cat who won’t take no for an answer. Progress escapes us in our habitual surroundings. But a change of scene can help, letting concentration in and familiar domestic distraction out through the scathole. So, pursued by deadlines, E and I fled uphill towards a working getaway for the weekend.

On the way we sped through the state’s last fifteen minutes of winter (above, snow and pines above the Rim). And we eyed the sacred, cloud-shawled San Francisco peaks above golden grasslands << before landing in our digs, a comfy set-up in a hotel with a good restaurant in a plain-faced old Arizona town.

We were bound to get something done: it was raining and there were few distractions. It’s not that there’s nothing to see around here — there’s a big hole in the ground made by a hurtling chunk of space rock, ancient homes whose stones stud the hills and whose builders’ descendants still live nearby, and an entire forest that petrified where it fell.

<< Homol’ovi State Park, Pueblo #2 with a painted pot sherd superimposed on the stormy sky.

But for tourists interested in more than just “standin’ on the corner”, the main attraction of the old town is the grand hotel we’re staying in: La Posada sits on the rail line, so there are intermittent trains to ogle on the BNSF’s Seligman sub (supposedly up to 70 a day!), and occasionally they whistle or croak as they pass, like the ravens lodged in the high tops of leafless cottonwoods on the hotel grounds. The gardens must be beautiful in warm months, but on Saturday its sodden hay-bale labyrinth looked dreary in drizzle and mud.

The building itself is a labyrinth, but not at all dreary. It is a labor of love layered by laboring love — two stories of imagination, design, and money lavished on the last Fred Harvey Company railway hotel: the first time from the ground up by architect Mary Colter during the original construction — stuffed full of furniture and curios as if the resident ravens had plundered the continents in their forays; and the second time from the inside out by its current owners who are still restoring it in the spirit of Colter’s ambitious fantasy. It’s a daunting effort, cleaning up and re-constructing the huge building after a couple of decades of use and abuse as the Santa Fe railroad division offices, when it was gutted, divided into cubicles and otherwise desecrated. Here’s a historic photo of the “Ball Room” during the office days above a photo of its current manifestation.>> The ceilings tell the whole story: one, a hideous lowered acoustic tiled, fluorescent-fixtured horror, the other a lofty arched and painted heaven.

There’s plenty of distraction in exploring the details and contents of the building, a work-in-progress for the restorers, but the calendar still lurks in the corner of our eyes, waiting to pounce, and E and I return to the room between walkabouts to push forward our own work in progress.

a detail of the ballroom’s turquoise corbels and copper designs on the rafters>>

Posted by Allison on Jan 28th 2013 08:57 pm | No Comments yet
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