Valley of Shining Stone: The Story of Abiquiu

Overview

North by northwest from old Santa Fe is the winding road to Abiquiu (ah-be-cue'), Ghost Ranch, and el Valle de la Piedra Lumbre, the Valley of Shining Stone: mythical names in a near-mythical place, captured for the ages in the famous paintings of Georgia O'Keeffe. O'Keeffe saw the magic of sandstone cliffs and turquoise skies, but her life and death here are only part of the story. Reading almost like a novel, this book spills over with other legends buried deep in time, just as some of North America's oldest ...

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Overview

North by northwest from old Santa Fe is the winding road to Abiquiu (ah-be-cue'), Ghost Ranch, and el Valle de la Piedra Lumbre, the Valley of Shining Stone: mythical names in a near-mythical place, captured for the ages in the famous paintings of Georgia O'Keeffe. O'Keeffe saw the magic of sandstone cliffs and turquoise skies, but her life and death here are only part of the story. Reading almost like a novel, this book spills over with other legends buried deep in time, just as some of North America's oldest dinosaur bones lie hidden beneath the valley floor. Here are the stories of Pueblo Indians who have claimed this land for generations. Here, too, are Utes, Navajos, Jicarilla Apaches, Hispanos, and Anglos-many lives tangled together, yet also separate and distinct. Underlying these stories is the saga of Ghost Ranch itself, a last living vestige of the Old West ideal of horses, cowboys, and wide-open spaces. Readers will meet a virtual Who's Who of visitors from "dude ranch" days, ranging from such luminaries as Willa Cather, Ansel Adams, and Charles Lindbergh to World War II scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer and his colleagues, who were working on the top-secret atomic bomb in nearby Los Alamos. Moving on through the twentieth century, the book describes struggles to preserve the valley's wild beauty in the face of land development and increased tourism. Just as the Piedra Lumbre landscape has captivated countless wayfarers over hundreds of years, so its stories cast their own spell. Indispensable for travelers, pure pleasure for history buffs and general readers, these pages are a magic carpet to a magic land: Abiquiu, Ghost Ranch, the Valley of Shining Stone.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This setting northwest of Santa Fe for numerous of Georgia O'Keeffe's paintings was her part-time home for years. O'Keeffe found the spectacular rock formations and rugged solitude a welcome contrast to life with photographer Alfred Stieglitz in New York City. Poling-Kempes, author of Southwest-related fiction (Canyon of Remembering, Texas Tech Univ., 1996) and nonfiction (The Harvey Girls, Paragon House, 1989), presents a detailed account of the region from prehistory through the present, a large portion of which concerns skirmishes among Native, Hispanic, and Anglo cultures. The story picks up in the 1900s when conservationist and forester Arthur Pack established the Ghost Ranch, a dude ranch visited by a variety of worthies including O'Keeffe. Most interesting are the accounts by several of the guests and workers gathered as oral histories that illustrate this highly romanticized Western lifestyle. The first half of the book will likely appeal to historians and others interested in the Southwest because of the level of detail, while the second half should prove popular to fans of O'Keeffe and those around her.Tim J. Markus, Evergreen State Coll. Lib., Olympia, Wash.
Kirkus Reviews
A freelance writer's acute, compelling history of one of America's more endangered landscapes.

The austere beauty of northern New Mexico's Piedra Lumbre basin has been seared into the American imagination by the paintings of its most famous resident, Georgia O'Keeffe. Her stark images of cow skulls and sensuous landscapes contributed greatly to the Southwest's "transition from a country of hardship and struggle to a land of mythic beauty and serenity," Poling-Kempes maintains. The hardship was caused by the land's isolation and barrenness and complicated by a convergence of Native American, Spanish, and Anglo cultures. Dubbed "the land of war" by the conquistadors, the area became a flashpoint for violence during centuries of expansion by Spain, Mexico, and the US. The transformation to "the good land" accelerated with the discovery of New Mexico by Depression-era East Coast intelligentsia, O'Keeffe chief among them. Ultimately, the story of the region is the record of locals losing control of their land. Beginning with the prehistoric Indians who built the area's first pueblo, Poling-Kempes chronicles the ongoing cultural displacement in the village of Abiquiu by tracing its ever-shifting citizenry: Anasazi, Tewa, Ute, Navajo, Hopi, Apache, Hispanic, and Anglo. The book's second half, which deals with the growth of the O'Keeffe mystique and its contribution to the area's overdevelopment, makes it clear that locals are still losing the battle for the land. A lake floods much of the region's old grasslands, and movie stars are pricing their farming neighbors off the land. Poling-Kempes proves that the greed of developers, far from new, is merely an extension of ancient trends in this much-disputed region.

Digging deeply into the history of a place, Poling-Kempes mines a rich vein of lore and myth that sadly suggests that natural majesty is no match for human folly.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780816514465
  • Publisher: University of Arizona Press
  • Publication date: 7/1/1997
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Lesley Poling-Kempes has been associated with the Ghost Ranch Conference Center since the mid 1970s. Her other books include The Harvey Girls: Women Who Opened the West; and a novel, The Canyon of Remembering.

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