Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Chimayó: a sactuary for fall foliage

with 25 comments


The little town of Chimayó, about 25 miles north of Santa Fe, is famous for its Catholic shrine, El Santuario de Chimayó [The Santuary of Chimayó]. Now a National Historic Landmark, it receives some 300,000 visitors per year, and we two were among them on October 18th. We did enter the small church but spent almost all our time outside, where the trees on the property were putting on a great display of fall foliage. The tallest tree in the top picture is a cottonwood (Populus deltoides subsp. wislizenii), and the ones below it seem to be willows (Salix sp.). A stream, apparently called the Potrero [pasture, paddock] Ditch, which forms a border of the property, may account for the trees’ vigor. You see the yellow-bordered stream in the second photograph.



Even the nearby hills added a bit of pastel warmth to the autumn show:



© 2022 Steven Schwartzman





Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 4, 2022 at 4:23 AM

25 Responses

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  1. I much preferred the Ranchos de Taos Church, despite the interesting history of this one. In the same way, the simplicity of gold and yellow against this blue sky is deeply appealing. The contrast with the hillsides in the last photo suggests the role water plays in creating that beauty.


    December 4, 2022 at 7:09 AM

    • And what photographer hasn’t had a crack at the photogenic Ranchos de Taos church? This time I fell an hour short of there, with fall foliage at Chimayó compensating. Speaking of which, the gold-against-blue combination has come my way a lot this season, as recently as Wednesday with cedar elms, and days before that with bigtooth maples. Now gloomy skies here are winning their weeklong bid to hang around, so gold-against-blue has gone on vacation.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 4, 2022 at 7:46 AM

      • As a matter of fact, the only one of my photos that I had printed and framed is one I took of the Ranchos church. I don’t even remember what kind of camera I had at the time, or whether I took other photos. But there was ‘something’ about that church. It was only later that I came across O’Keeffe’s paintings of it.


        December 4, 2022 at 7:49 AM

  2. The blue sky goes together well with the golden autumn colours.

    Peter Klopp

    December 4, 2022 at 9:40 AM

  3. Like you two, my husband and I have been among the 300,000 visitors to Chimayo–on two different occasions. We would probably count ourselves among the secular pilgrims.


    December 4, 2022 at 6:25 PM

    • I suspect most “pilgrims” there these days are secular visitors. I wonder if anyone has done a survey about that.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 4, 2022 at 6:50 PM

      • I don’t know about a survey. But I imagine that even a secular visitor with skepticism (or scepticism, if they are from the UK) might be interested in pondering some of the purported episodes of healing or revelation people have experienced there.


        December 4, 2022 at 6:57 PM

        • Religious faith seems to have accomplished as much as placebos in modern medicine.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 4, 2022 at 7:03 PM

          • One shouldn’t discount or look down on the effects of either. They can be very beneficial.


            December 4, 2022 at 7:29 PM

            • Amen (and whatever the secular equivalent is).

              Steve Schwartzman

              December 4, 2022 at 7:42 PM

              • The secular equivalent nowadays might be Ditto! or I Hear That!
                I don’t hear kids here say “de acuerdo” or “claro” (as we learned in high school Spanish) but once in a while “sin duda,” “no hay duda,” or “eso que ni que.”
                At the renaissance faire in Sterling, NY I always hear “Verily!” which is fun.

                Robert Parker

                December 5, 2022 at 1:09 PM

                • Those first two seem likely. I guess the “right on” of the late 1960s is long gone with the wind. Spanish “eso que ni que” is new to me; I’ve heard all the others and normally say “claro” myself.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  December 5, 2022 at 5:13 PM

                • Crystal clear. ¡Claro que sí! My dad is fond of saying “Clear as mud.”

                  Robert Parker

                  December 5, 2022 at 5:25 PM

                • I think my father may have said that too.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  December 5, 2022 at 5:30 PM

  4. I would prefer the cottonwood trees in Christchurch to be golden- leaved instead of producers of cotton fluff, but I guess we can’t have the golden leaves without first having the fluff, at least for the female of the species. According to Wikipedia the largest recorded cottonwood in the world is the “Frimley Park tree located in Hastings, New Zealand and measures 42 m (138 ft) tall, 34 m (111 ft) wide and 10.2 m (33.4 ft) in girth.[18] This cottonwood was planted in the 1870s.”


    December 4, 2022 at 11:40 PM

    • That’s a giant of a cottonwood tree. I found out more about it:

      “The necklace poplar is generally thought to have originated in France in the 1770’s as a (female) sport from cuttings planted from Populus deltoides, the American cottonwood. The arrival of the species in New Zealand is, however, not well documented. It has been held that the French brought it with them to Akaroa but, against this possibility, there are no specimens of the tree of requisite age in that area. The earliest known introduction to New Zealand was a young plant sent to James Deans of Homebush Station near Darfield Canterbury, from Britain in a Wardian Case in 1852. The (Dean) tree growing less than 100 m from the old homestead is the progenitor of the thousands of species throughout New Zealand including the Frimley Park) tree.”


      Steve Schwartzman

      December 5, 2022 at 6:40 AM

      • That’s very interesting. If I manage to visit Homebush I will check if there are still cottonwoods there. I don’t think there are any around the homestead at Deans Bush in Christchurch. I need to check that, too.


        December 5, 2022 at 9:45 PM

    • Now I’m wondering if we might have inadvertently seen that cottonwood. We spent a night in Napier, and I see that Hastings isn’t far away on Highway 2 coming up from Wellington.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 5, 2022 at 6:46 AM

  5. […] the time we’d visited the Santuario de Chimayó and eaten at the Rancho de Chimayó restaurant to celebrate the Lady Eve’s birthday on […]

  6. There’s a lovely warm to these images, something we could do with feeling here!

    Ann Mackay

    December 12, 2022 at 5:42 AM

    • That’s understandable. Austin’s fall foliage, though not as colorful as that in colder climates, continued into early December and is only now largely gone.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 12, 2022 at 7:00 AM

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