It was a running joke among those of us who wrote on the arts for The Santa Fe New Mexican. Every profile on an artist we ran seem to open with, “the light spoke to me….It was the light that drew me…..”
Always with the light-some artist’s ecstatic response to the New Mexico version of it.
But the joke’s on me because I experienced a displacement of time and space in reaction to the light in Marfa the first night I was there.
“Putain,” I thought as I sat in the courtyard of the Paisano Hotel. It feels like Paris that night we ate outside at 10 PM. But that was northern Europe. June.
But it’s January. 6 PM Central Time. Here…now…it’s still light. Here’s a film from the courtyard of the hotel showing what the light looked like.
Something was off. I couldn’t square the time with the light. I know Marfa has aerial phenomena- the Marfa Lights. ( American Spirits-Marfa Lights-why not) A viewing area exists about 8 miles out of town. But this was different there was something in the air- like a vortex- my normal perceptions were skewed.
One person I asked about my condition said, “It’s because we should be in Mountain Time like Santa Fe.” I knew Marfa was in the Central zone but my eyes and this feeling – I got nothing out of this answer. Couldn’t wrap my brain around it.
But the displacement fueled my curiosity – the natural armor of perception was compromised- for the remainder of my stay I was le flaneur – I crisscrossed the town center for the next few days in search of hidden places, unexpected locations and encounters with locals -anything the town had to offer.
I did finally get a scientific explanation for what I was experiencing- from my server at Stellina, one of the watering holes in town..
See more about Stellina here:
When the nearby MacDonald Observatory was being built the time zone here in this part of West Texas was changed – at the scientists’ request – from Mountain Time to Central Time so the researchers in Chicago and Austin could share data in real time with the observations made at the observatory. So the sun and light weren’t lying – the clock was.
Marfa has a number of great legacy structures from the 40s, 50s and 60s that have, are or will be re-purposed.
These, along with projects by big name architects are the kinds of structures I appreciate on my business trips -you can find them everywhere…Chicago, Cleveland, Minneapolis, Los Angeles… reminders of our country’s industrial past- some getting new life with TLC. .
Marfa also has a number of ruins-mostly in the form of adobe buildings returning to the earth.
The woman I met from Colorado who had some knowledge of the area told me the adobe building tradition is dormant here. Marfa isn’t Santa Fe. There are some parallels to the way Santa Fe was a few decades ago before it got the national attention it enjoys today. The video below reminds me of what it was like in Santa Fe-in the barrio near downtown.
I didn’t see any adobe structures being refurbished in Marfa.
The buildings most in demand for re-purposing are the older warehouses and structures from the 40s and 50s.
The light, the buildings, the feeling I got here leads me to believe this could be a good spot for a structure I’ve wanted to see built for some time. More about this in another post.
The photograph above – grabbed from the web- shows the store sitting within an area carved out from the surrounding ranch land.
I wanted to take a photo too and measure the building outside, look inside -but I didn’t see it on my way in as I’d taken a different route. But on my way out…about 6:30 AM I passed it. I wouldn’t have seen it at that hour were it not for a couple of people setting up a tripod and getting ready to shoot it at sunrise. I barely saw them in the dark while they were moving around the center of the road.
What I saw in passing….on this road at this hour at that speed…:.