Thank you to my team! At Irie books: Gerry, Nancy and Lorry. Mari and Kristen at Mari Angulo Marketing and Design.
Coming soon: the audio book: Laurie Bower, Audiobook Narrator and Producer
A BLOGPOST COMPANION TO “UP HERMIT’S PEAK, CHAPTER Xlll,” STRAWBERRY ROAN, GROWING UP IN THE SHADOW OF HERMIT’S PEAK
Hermit’s Peak is a landmark visible for miles to the east and southeast of its location 16 miles from Las Vegas, New Mexico. Hermit’s Peak Trail to the summit is #225 in the hikingproject.com database. The starting elevation at El Porvenir Campground is 7537 ft and the summit is 10,182 in elevation. The trail is intermediate/difficult and rated at 5 stars.
The peak is a batholith (core rock intrusion) of gneiss and eponymous Hermits Peak granite intruded 1.7 billion years ago, capped by younger sedimentary rocks (300 million years) and forested by bristlecone pine. The granite is rich in crystals which leave it prone to fractures from freezing in winter. Our experiences of the falling boulders and sandy soil are results of the natural exfoliation. (“Like a giant with dandruff.”)
The mountain is named after Italian-born Juan Maria D’Agostini who lived on the peak for 5 years in the 1860’s in the solitude and piety of a hermit. He was revered for being generally helpful to the Hispanic farmers in the area, healing the sick and helping children learn the catechism. He was not ordained.
Local people watched over him. Sam Watrous, a pioneer rancher and founder of Watrous N.M, monitored the fires the hermit built every few days that signaled he was o.k. Others took him food and improved his shelter including the Brotherhood of the Penitentes. The trail up the mountain became a pilgrimage route. A society was formed in his name and a Way of the Cross constructed of hand-hewn crosses. I noticed the crosses in my earlier ascents of the mountain and recognized they had religious significance.
The miracles attributed to D’Agostini were never running out of atole, his staple food, and the initiation of a spring near his cave where he struck the ground with a stick. In spite of his good works and miracles, I could find no evidence of his canonization to sainthood.
When I lived in the canyon he was still remembered my many: Maria Martinez, an older woman who did housework and catering for Mother, told her with reverence that her mother had met the hermit. I’m surprised he hasn’t been canonized. In the shadow of Hermit’s Peak, he definitely radiated sanctity to the local people.
Reference: Jennifer Lindline, “The Mountain and Legend of the Hermit,” in Geology of the Las Vegas Region, NM Geological Society, 2015
ONLINE ZOOM EVENT AT SANTA FE LIBRARY
Wednesday, February 17th 2021
Christmas music. Ancient carols, Vince Guaraldi’s Snoopy suite, and most of all White Christmas pushed the sentimental boom box buttons of my brain in the 2020 Christmas season. Otherwise, cancelled Thanksgiving already past, Christmas was the most solitary event of the Covid Pandemic year.
With every Christmas Card I Write. Instead of my usual lavish collage or family group photo for this year’s Christmas card, I selected a screenshot of the on-line book launch of Strawberry Roan, my new memoir. It was one the few photos I had from 2020. There had been no family photo shoot. This picture was the best I could do. It included myself, Ellen and Lyman, two of my three adult children, and several writing friends, all boxed in virtual space. I had 50 Christmas cards made by Shutterfly, which offered a bevy of options including adding my name and additional text. I typed a few lines with my scant news on the back. I wrote a personal word or two, a line at best, and sent them out.
The experience was nothing like the lyric from White Christmas, the Irving Berlin song penned in the 1930s.
Judy participated in a virtual book tour where readers from around the world were able to read and enjoy her book, Strawberry Roan.
Judith Vaughan (Judy), born in New Orleans in 1944, is the author of Strawberry Roan, Growing up in the Shadow of Hermit Peak. A True New Mexico Coming of Age Story. It is her first published work.
Judy was the youngest of three daughters, born in the desperate closing months of the second World War. Her grandmother, sure she was born to be her Daddy’s boy, asserted that Wallace would be a fine first name regardless of the baby’s gender. Her mother, Elizabeth Lee Beil, a graduate of the University of Missouri and kindergarten teacher, did not agree. Her father, Wallace C. Beil, a graduate of Northwestern University Medical School, specialized in ophthalmology. His growing interest in horses led the family to New Mexico in 1950 and sparked Judy’s obsession with horses and medicine. Her youth in New Mexico is detailed in Strawberry Roan as is her education and young adult life.
Judy began to hone the craft of writing in retirement after forty years of practicing neurology and rehabilitation medicine. She lives in Elk Grove California.
She attended Sacramento City College to start her writing venture and found inspiration from Jan Haag, who insisted that her life story was the only important subject. She has written with Elk Grove Writers and Artists with Gini Grossenbacher’s unerringly supportive guidance for several years. She has attended presentations by Writing by Writers led by Pamela Houston, a gifted teacher and acclaimed writer of stories and memoir. Through Alice Winston Kearny, she connected with Gerald and Lorry Houseman, editors of Irie Books in Santa Fe, N.M. and publisher of Strawberry Roan. She plans a second book of memoir and stories.
As I write Strawberry Roan my memoir about growing up in the Gallinas Canyon near Las Vegas, New Mexico, I recall a conversation I had with countless visitors.
When newcomers encountered the name of my home river canyon, they were apt to pronounce it “Gal-EE-nas” or even “Galin-ASS.” They would scowl. “Isn’t that “chicken” in Spanish?”
Gallon ass? I gave a little lecture on the dignity and historical importance of the Gallinas River, whose water made possible the meadows for which Las Vegas was named.
“It’s pronounced ‘guy-EE-nas,’ I’d say, “and one translation is indeed ‘chicken’.”
“Why would anyone name a pretty creek Chicken Canyon?”
I’d explain. The name referred to wild turkeys, still common in the canyon. “Gallina” was a more general term for fowl in the language of the Spanish colonial settlers of the nineteenth century. “Gallina de la tierra” meant the wild fowl, literally fowl of the earth, the ground. They may have picked the name for the same reason that Colorado had so many Deer Creeks and Clear Creeks; it was important to convey where a pioneer could find food or clean water.
They’d ask about Hermit’s Peak, the mountain that dominates the scenery for miles around Las Vegas, New Mexico.
Hermit Peak’s had several names. Its current name honored a man of faith, who lived in a cave near its summit during the nineteenth century.
Pursuit of the Worthless or Pursuit of a Dream?
I added up the expenses for the Morgan National Championship Horseshow in 1999 --- thousands of dollars in entry-fees, stall rental, motel accommodations for me and my children, Lyman, a college freshman, and Betsy, a vet student.
I signed the check for the show secretary and folded everything, the horses’ registration papers, our membership numbers, and the entry form into the manila envelope. I slapped three stamps on the outside and weighed the envelope on a food scale. I mailed the entry.
About 2008, as I gradually withdrew from a forty-year career as a doctor practicing neurology and rehabilitation. I started my journey of writing in a course at Sacramento City College called Writing as a Healing Art, taught by Jan Haag, former editor of Sacramento Magazine. At the time, I didn’t see much need to heal. Jan was the first to see an early version of Strawberry Roan, and insisted my memoir sketches were the most important material I would write.
Any memoir begins when something happens that you will never forget. The emotion tied to the event gives it staying power. My youth had been so different from others, colored with the beauty of New Mexico and misfit moments. Ecstatic joy and crushing embarrassment. The writing let me see for myself how I had navigated a path from a youth with horses and sacred mountains to adulthood and even descendants.
I wanted to share it. If I could get someone else to understand, maybe I would understand as well.
Ah, so that’s how writing heals.