“I found out that the sunshine in New Mexico could do almost anything with one: make one well if one felt ill, or change a dark mood and lighten it. It entered into one’s deepest places and melted the thick, slow densities. It made one feel good. That is, alive.”
― Mabel Dodge Luhan
Birthday Blessings, Mabel Luhan Dodge, — writer, arts patron, social progressive, accidental feminist, and Taos, NM visionary, b. February 26, 1879 (one week before Russian mystic, Peter Ouspenksy)
25 years ago, I was wandering around Taos, NM in my first trip to the state and ambled down a winding road/driveway just on the edge of the small-ish main district
I like to knock around town in a new inviting location and follow the wisdom of my feet which often know more than I do.
That driveway took me to a retreat complex that had a very distinct "vibe" I liked — casual, creative, subtly Bohemian, well-maintained but kind of rambling — a kind of place that knew its charms well enough not to advertise.
I swear I felt spirits there. As I explored, I started to learn more about this Mabel Dodge Luhan Retreat and Guest Center.
I discovered that indeed compelling spirits had inhabited the place, such as of D.H. Lawrence, Ansel Adams, Willa Cather, Robinson Jeffers, Georgia O’Keeffe, Mary Hunter Austin, Jean Toomer (Gurdieff pupil), Aldous Huxley, and a number of other influential artists and poets had been hosted by Mabel Dodge Luhan. Indeed, they were there.
My kinda joint.
Mabel was a socialite who became an art patron in Italy to endure a loveless marriage.
Upon leaving that marriage, with the specific encouragements of Gertrude Stein and her husband, she took it upon herself to reinvent herself and her life, leaving behind the dereliction of a loveless childhood and marriages.
A third husband told her to strike out for New Mexico, which she did, and then fell in love with Tony Luhan, a Native American, whom she eventually married — remaining so for the duration of her life.
It was on Tony’s advice that she bought the 12-acre property, and together they created a working sanctuary for the artistic "mover-shakers" and "Bohemians" of the times. The rest is proverbial history.
MDL was characterized exuberantly in the film, Georgia O’Keeffe, starring Joan Allen and Jeremy Irons. She had a tremendous influence on O’Keeffe’s being able to re-invent herself away from the clutches of Alfred Stieglitz.
She had Pisces Sun conjunct Mercury — good for inspired writing, and those planets were in a harmonious relationship (by sextile) to a Neptune/Moon conjunction in Taurus — perfect for the inspired, sensual enclave under the New Mexico sky.
Though not a stated feminist, she broke nearly every mold that Victorian Society would have placed on her, and she did it consciously.