I spent the afternoon docenting at the art gallery across the road. Each year, in addition to quarterly exhibits by member artists, the El Morro Area Arts Council sponsors an exhibit at the Old School Gallery of the elementary, middle, and high school students from the area. Tomorrow is the awards ceremony, and I was inspired and sometimes blown away by the talent expressed through various visual arts and poetry on the walls.

The art gallery is one of the gathering places in this tiny, vibrant community. We had locals stop by to check out the students’ art as well as travelers who were here visiting friends, passing through, or staying at the cabins across the road. One couple who were traveling home and decided to take the sleepy two lane highway stopped in and purchased 3 pieces from 3 different elementary students. Two of the local folks folks purchased 2 more pieces from the middle school kids. Many of the best art had already been sold for prices ranging from $150 to $10.

Later in the afternoon, a group of older community members gathered for the pure enjoyment of reading a play aloud, each person taking a part (or two) and adding in sound effects and making up musical themes for the characters they were playing.

Hanging a show at the Gallery (2013) by Brian Leddy

Playing is an ongoing activity here. We have two evenings of contra dances coming up in two weeks; belly dancing, tai chi and yoga and conversational Spanish classes each week; festivals, open mics, and movie nights each quarter, and storytelling & stargazing with the national park rangers and local tribal storytellers.

All this in a community of about 300 people. It means more when there are so few of us – at some point, most everyone has to contribute to keep it all going with time, energy, or money. Acquaintances become friends which become community and, if we’re lucky, become family. Squabbling and hugging and knowing that someone will always be there if you need them.


I sit quietly in the back corner
close to the warmth of the old wood stove
conversations flow around me
… He makes great jalapeño muffins
… I’m so tired
… I have a new piece in my studio
… You coulda got me that …
this is the beauty of the common place.

How quickly does familiar become family?

I’ve been searching for my ancestors
all my life, wondering
do they define family?
Is it blood and bone and tiny strands
of encoded instructions
that define our kin,
or is it kindness?

How quickly does familiar become family?

My small dog shifts from excited
to confused, his emotions are palpable;
trees are able to send messages to
nearby companions through underground
networks and scents floating through the air;
bees give directions to others through creating
complex aerial movements;
same intentions, different methods.

How quickly familiar becomes family.

Emma MacKenzie ~ March 2019