Saturday, October 11, 2014

My new favorite place

[Edited 10/12 to correct some dreadful writing.]

I'm always on the lookout for a place I might want to settle when I'm ready to hang up the keys. Flagstaff has been at the top of my list even though it's about 7,000 feet, gets winter, and real estate prices are high; on the plus side it's beautiful country and there's lots to do.

Then I came to southern Arizona. It doesn't get a lot more southern than Tumacácori, about 30 minutes from Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. Its big, gigantic minus is the summer heat, but at this time of year it's stunningly beautiful with wonderful weather.

There was nowhere for us to park at Tumacácori (a National Historic Park) so the woman I work for, the Chief of Interpretation, has paid for a spot for us at a private park about 15 or so minutes up the road. I love it all, the RV park, the national park, the whole area. The people here are friendly, outgoing, and made me feel welcome from the first. 

Another of the rangers is a friend of our friend Richard from Petrified Forest, which is how we ended up here. Their families were visiting one day and ranger Melanie from Tumacácori just happened to say she wished she could find someone to organize their files. She's been here a year or so and has tried to tackle the mess but there are only so many hours in the day. Richard joked later that when she said that, he started looking around for a hidden camera, and then told her, Do I have someone for you! I soon heard from the Chief here, asking if I could come, even for a few weeks. I was able to shoehorn in a couple of months between the North Rim and Death Valley. I'm already so glad I did.

This is the best little park no one has ever heard of. 

Construction of the Franciscan mission church at Tumacácori took place from about 1800 through the early 1820s. Due to lack of funds, the plans for the structure not only had to be modified, the building was never finished. I'm still learning about the place and don't have a lot of its history down yet, so I hope my initial photos speak for themselves.

The Civilian Conservation Corps, whose work I like to see still in place, and just as I have found in many other places in the Southwest, completed work here. According to The Living New Deal,

“The grounds [of the Spanish Colonial Revival style Tumacácori visitor center, museum, offices and enclosed garden built in 1936] were...developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps enrollees. The visitor center doors were built by CCC enrollees at Bandelier National Monument. Furniture was constructed by CCC enrollees from Chiracahua and Chaco Canyon National Monuments.”

The entrance to the Visitor Center, a building on the National Register, is below. I said to HH that I wish the sandbags weren't there next to the door, but I understand why they are, because I recently saw some photos from a couple of years ago that showed this entire area underwater. Just this week we caught the remains of a tropical storm that inundated us with rain for two days, more than I've seen in a long, long time. 

Below is the mission church. It was never completed due to a lack of funds and was abandoned in the mid-1800s. 

The sanctuary of the church, below, still shows some decorative painting. During its years of disuse, treasure hunters and vandals, as well as time and weather, took their toll. Restoration and preservation are persistent, ongoing projects. This page from the park's website talks of the ongoing work done here and at two other missions that fall under its jurisdiction, Los Santos Ángeles de Guevavi and San Cayetano de Calabazas. Tomorrow HH and I are going on a tour of those two places that, outside of a few days a year, are not otherwise open to the public.

The sound of Gregorian chanting, rising and falling, fills the nave. The recorded music is quite a powerful tool to give a sense of place and time. I told HH after I visited for the first time that it's a sacred place. It has a presence. As I've said before, I've been in magnificent cathedrals that have had no more impact on me than places of physical beauty and then there are these precious pockets of spiritual life.

There is also a nicely done museum here, with this diorama showing the interior of the church as it used to be. A push of a button to the side plays more of the Gregorian chant.

The dome over the sanctuary does not show from the front. I've seen photos of its restoration, maybe ten years ago.

Behind the church is the mortuary and cemetery, no longer active. The last burial was of a one-year-old girl in 1916.

This is the view from the far end of the cemetery looking south toward the mortuary and sanctuary end of the church.

There is a most delightful courtyard and garden between the visitor center and office area where I work. Fortunately the loo is through this garden so I always can manufacture an excuse to be out there. One morning more than a dozen volunteer gardeners were weeding and planting and connecting drip watering systems, just before the sky opened with its natural watering system.

This is a view from a corner of the garden, looking northwest. The visitor center is at left, the covered walk leads to the office at the right, and behind it is the way to the church grounds. A trip to the loo requires a circumnavigation of the garden. Just to keep an eye on it, you know.

I'm scheduled to leave at the end of November but hope to stay one more week for Fiesta. The time will fly; it always does when I don't want to go.

Thought of the day:
When the image is new, the world is new. - Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space