Adventures in the Land of Enchantment
This summer, I was fortunate enough to spend two months working at Ghost Ranch conference center in northern New Mexico. Presbyterians will recognize it as a PC(USA) education and retreat center, geologists and paleontologists will recognize it as the discovery place of the coelophysis (the New Mexico state dinosaur), and art enthusiasts will recognize it as the home of painter Georgia O’Keeffe. Everyone else will… probably not recognize it. As a part of their college staff program, I lived in community with about twenty other college-age students from all over the United States. Even though we had our fair share of drama, it was a wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime experience and we all formed an incredibly deep bond as a group of young people.
My job in particular was as part of the youth programming staff – I worked with kids, ages 3-18, as their parents took week-long seminars in art, spirituality, music, geography, hiking, etc. We took them hiking, did arts and crafts, taught them to canoe and paddleboard, played games, and performed skits for their families at the end of the week. It was an especially meaningful experience for me because I grew up coming to the Ranch with my family and participated in youth programming as a child.
Coming to the Ranch is different experience every time, and I’m sure the next one will be especially hard and empty-feeling, not having the same community of support there with me that I did while on college staff. I loved getting to be there so long. I watched the lush, vibrant green of late-spring fade into the dusty tan of summer. I watched guests who come to the Ranch the same week year after year reunite with their friends and loved ones. I watched new friends fall in love with this place for the very first time. I got to see everything that the Ranch has to offer. And best of all, I got to savor it. I spent long afternoons relaxing instead of trying to cram everything in; I spent weekends exploring other parts of northern New Mexico; I spent evenings staring at the stars while sleeping on the roof. Two months seemed like an eternity at first, but as I left my time there felt heartbreakingly short.
A Note About the Music
Hope you enjoy the music in this video especially – I recorded it live at the Ranch this summer. The first song, “April Nights,” was written and performed by my friend Cait Mongon, who was also on college staff. She’s gonna be famous one day, and you bet that as soon as she releases her first album I’ll be pestering y’all to listen to it. The second song, “Hey Jude,” is sung by Bennett Edwards (another college staffer) and Dillon Zehnder (who wasn’t on college staff this year, but has been coming to the Ranch for forever – also, his dad and uncle have a band you should check out called Zehnder). The third and final song is “Homegrown Tomatoes” by Connie Burkhart, another Ranch regular. All three were filmed/recorded at the weekly Ghost Ranch talent show, aka coffee house.