It’s women who seem to have had the biggest impact on the southwest and in Taos, it wasn’t just the most famous, Mabel Dodge Lujan. The impact of socialite and style icon Meredith Rogers was a surprise, and went far beyond her amazing art collection. Her former home is now a museum and sits tucked back on a country road off the main drag in Taos, NM. The granddaughter of a Standard Oil tycoon, she arrived in Taos in 1947 fresh off a breakup with heartthrob Clark Gable. She’d always been sickly, having had rheumatic fever as a child, but it’s said her health responded to the the dry, high desert of Taos, So she stayed. And taught others how to appreciate life.
An artist herself, she collected Southwestern-style art and jewelry, much of which is on display in the museum named after her. She died in 1953 after only a few years in Taos. Still, her legacy included advocacy for native american civil rights as well as successfully lobbying for native American art to be protected as historical.
Her art collection is stunning But what really struck me at the museum wasn’t as much the art as it was a letter she’d written to her son shortly before she died at only 51 years of age. From the letter:
“Suddenly passing Taos Mountain I felt that I was part of the Earth…I felt the Stars and the growth of the Moon, under me, rivers ran. And against me were the tides. The waters of rain sank into me. And I thought if I stretched out my hands they would be Earth and green would grow from me. And I knew that there was no reason to be lonely, that one WAS everything and Death was as easy as the rising sun and as calm and natural–that to be enfolded in Earth was not an end but part of oneself, part of every day and night that we lived, so that Being part of the Earth one was never alone. And all fear went out of me–with a great, good stillness and strength.
“All the experiences good and bad I have enjoyed….”
“If anything should happen to me now, ever, just remember all this. I want to be buried in Taos with the wide sky–Life has been marvelous, all the experiences good and bad I have enjoyed, even pain and illness because out of it so many things were discovered. One has so little time to be still to lie still and look at the Earth and the changing colors and the Forest– and the voices of people and clouds and light on water, smells and sound and music and the taste of wood smoke in the air.
“Life is absolutely beautiful if one will disassociate oneself from noise and talk and live it according to one’s inner light. Don’t fool yourself more than you can help. Do what you want–do what you want knowingly. Anger is a curtain that people pull down over life so that they only see through it dimly–missing all the savor, the instincts–the delight–they feel safe only when they can down someone. And if one does that they end by being too many, more than one person, and life is dimmed–blotted and blurred! — I’ve had a most lovely life to myself–I’ve enjoyed it as thoroughly as it could be enjoyed.
“And when my time comes, no one is to feel that I have lost anything…or be too sorry…
I’ve been in all of you–and will go on Being.”
And when my time comes, no one is to feel that I have lost anything of it–or be too sorry–I’ve been in all of you–and will go on Being. So remember it peacefully–take all the good things that your life put there in your eyes–and they, your family, children, will see through your eyes.”
If ever there was a paean to appreciating every moment of life, both the good and bad, this is it. What a beautiful legacy to leave one’s children and the world—the advice to appreciate life and not fear death.