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Camping on the Rio Grande

I love to go camping. Sleeping in a tent with the sound of a river and the light of a full moon makes me feel alive and in tune with the natural world. There’s a favorite place I like to camp along the Rio Grande River near Taos, NM. My sister and I camped there last week during a brief painting trip.

After a quiet Thursday night under the stars, Friday night brought cars and people, with noise, music and the sound of voices into the wee hours. Thankful for earplugs! But what began that night as slightly annoying sounds of strangers wrecking our tranquility with nature transformed into a morning of newfound friends and fun.

We shared coffee with Geo who, with his dog Cosmo and girlfriend Veronica, lived in a van and collected crystal treasures. He was so excited about them and so grateful for the coffee on that cold morning that he gave me a handful of crystals, which we brought back for Lorie’s girls.

There were two friendly women sitting at the river reading about cacti. I enjoyed their conversation as I set my easel in the shade, since by 8 am, it was already too hot to be up on the road any longer. Painting by the river opened a dialog with our resident college students, who were very much enjoying their summer break.

There were 4 of them – engineering students at UNM Albuquerque. The interesting thing about them was that they spoke with distinctly different accents. I could hear South African, Puerto Rican, Jamaican. They were fishing, swimming and enjoying the river with an openness that invited others on the bank to laugh along at their antics. They were polite, smart and happy. They had life stories that were eye opening, including Leon’s story of growing up in Apartheid S. Africa. At 35, he’s a contemporary of Trevor Noah, who’s book, Born a Crime, I had just finished reading. Leon had a similar background, the son of a father who was Dutch and a mother from Cape Town. While police squads would routinely come to his town and shoot people at random with automatic rifles. Yet his smile was broad and his demeanor pleasant. I asked him how he keeps his optimism and openness toward people. He said anger didn’t serve him. It was better to be happy and draw more of the same.

And he did attract smiles, as he and his friend Mark went around sharing food with us and our other camp neighbors. I’m grateful to Leon for reminding me about keeping an open heart and meeting new friends along my journey. And for the people who enhanced our enjoyment of that natural place. We are all part of our world.

Special prayers for the people of northern NM and firefighters battling the Ute Park fire and other fires burning in the Southwest.


The trip wouldn’t be complete without a stop to visit my friend and talented artist Denice Weinberg at her home with her photo bomber dog Lucky.

River Cactus 18×18″ Oil on Canvas