Ghost Ranch

I’ve wanted to visit Ghost Ranch forever. I’ve heard it’s a wonderful retreat. I’ve wondered if they need writers in residence. I could report on what goes on there.

Here are a couple of things I would report on from this weekend:

A Men’s Wellness Group

There was an Iron John feeling when we pulled into the retreat center. Maybe 10 men sat in about six circles talking. And it looked, from a distance, although it’s hard to tell, that they were talking about their feelings. Love it! Men talking about feelings. Go figure. So cool and sexy.

The group meets annually, one of the women told us. A previous topic had been Fathers (capital F). This weekend’s session was on Women (capital W). So, for the first time, the men had invited the women to the Men’s Wellness Group to discuss relationships, sexuality and expectations. I would’ve liked to be a part of those conversations.

A Funeral

Another group was leaving. They were dressed in western wear. Yes, this was New Mexico but it was dressy western wear. There was a lot of hugging too. They seemed more familial than the Men’s Wellness group.

It turns out the dozens of dressy/casual folks were attending a memorial.

“I’m sorry,” I told the woman who was loading a saddle into her car.

“No,” she said. “It was his time. He’s in a better place. We’re going now to spread his ashes on the bluffs.”

The Meditative Path

My sister in law and brother in law and I talked about death as we walked down a sandy path.

We walked the labyrinth. At the center of the labyrinth, you can leave a talisman or a symbol. There was a feather, a pin, a tea bag, a rock. I searched my pockets, thinking I had nothing on me.

But then from my back pocket, I pulled out a scrap I had ripped out of the New York Times a few days earlier. I’d been carrying this quote around with me.

If there is any positive message at all in the narrative it is that life is a tragedy filled with suffering and despair and yet some people do manage to avoid jury duty. – Woody Allen

I left Woody Allen in the center of the labyrinth at Ghost Ranch.


The sky was brilliant blue in Abiquiu, New Mexico. The one narrow cloud might have been the cloud stream from a high-flying jet. One of my daughters calls that white line in the sky, a skyscraper. I don’t have the heart to correct her. That trail of white cloud looked exactly like it’d been scraped into the sky.

6 thoughts on “Ghost Ranch

  1. I am a good friend of Susan Elster-Jones. I was at GR from Oct. 8 – 15th for a writers course. I walked the labyrinth on Friday afternoon. Were you there then? I didn’t see your NYT quote, but did see the feather and tea bag. I have walked the labyrinth many times and always come away with something meaningful — “One step at a time,” which led me to do the prep course to become a Catholic and Susan was my sponsor. I have been to GR many times for spiritual and creative (photography, silversmithing, fused glass, watercolor) workshops. It is a “thin place” where heaven and earth come close. I also saw a cloud formation that went from one horizon to the other — a cloud rainbow!
    Hope we meet some day and can share our experiences at the Ranch.

  2. Wow, Anne! Great to meet you! No, I went on Saturday! I love your quote that Ghost Ranch a thin place. I was only there for the day, but would love to go back to write or paint or photograph or silversmith. Good for you for growing and learning and following your faith and art in so many directions. Thanks for commenting! Maybe someday we can meet — with Susan — at the ranch!

  3. Julie, I love labyrinths too! I would like to travel the world, walking one labyrinth a day for a year and then writing about where I am and what I’m thinking as I walk.. So many ideas… I will someday, go back to Ghost Ranch for more than an afternoon.

  4. In three weeks I’ll be making my 17th excursion to Ghost Ranch–the center of my spiritual existence.

    Labyrinth at ghost Ranch

    La luna llena de Febrero
    the full moon of February,
    shines down on mesas named Kitchen
    Huerfano and Matrimonial ,
    walks its circular journey around the Earth,
    changing its path each night,
    but always returning to its beginning.

    I walk below in this generous light
    through a labyrinth of stone and sand,
    my path turning in unexpected places
    as I spiral away from the moon=s glow,
    then feel its light again on my face.
    I watch where my feet fall
    lest I lose the path,
    though I walk this maze
    in hope of losing myself–
    my ego, even my name for awhile,
    searching for the moment
    I no longer notice my shadow dance,
    even in this silvery light.

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