from the Road
“Ojo Caliente Revisited” – July 2015
You were on my mind when I got home earlier this evening at La Fonda on the Plaza, official residence of Jane Bay in New Mexico. A lot has happened in the past two years since I retired from working with George Lucas for thirty-five years.
My Navajo friends Tsali, Cyndi and Nolan (the Hall family) invited me to go with them up at Ojo Caliente, a luxury spa about 50 miles north of Santa Fe. I visited Ojo Caliente in the early summer of 1977 when I came to New Mexico for the first time to stay at my friend Reno Myerson's house up in Truchas, a small village that faces East in the magnificent Sangre de Christo Mountains of New Mexico, where interesting luminaries from the late 60s-70s came through from time to time. It was the quintessential hippie house with running water in the kitchen, but no indoor plumbing, however, the view of the sun rising over the mountains made the trek to the outhouse inspiring. I especially enjoyed the knowledge that I was sitting on the same toilet seat in an outhouse where Bob Dylan did his business when he had been there.
Reno's sister-in-law at the time, the actress Leigh French, had urged me to come to New Mexico for years during the time she lived at my house in Sherman Oaks in the mid-70s, before I worked for George. Leigh eloquently described the mountains as the next best thing to Tibet which neither of us had been to at the time but had a longing for the experience. You probably know how the story ends, four visits to Tibet, and two books about my experiences, and, love and loss.
The first time I went to Ojo Caliente, shortly after arriving in New Mexico, it was a simple outdoor mud bath place with rows of old fashioned bath tubs on four claw foot legs filled with local mud purported to have healing powers. We'd been assured that the mud was "clean" and contained no contagious germs or anything that would cause infections in our private parts or on our skin. One tub per person, usually.
Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs is, in fact, the oldest natural hot springs health resort in the country and has, over the years, been upgraded to a luxurious place with all the amenities of a five star spa with restaurant, mud baths, saunas, private hot tubs and small open air spas, and a very large pool all fed from the same springs.
It was an overcast day with huge swaths of dark clouds in the distance, but the weather was good and the sky clear above us. Most of the afternoon was spent lounging around the pool, soaking up the warmth of the sun, falling in and out of short naps with memories of the past crossing my mind.
When I went to Ojo Caliente the first time, I was at a crossroads in terms of what I wanted to do with my life. I had recently work on Jerry Brown's first gubernatorial campaign and knew I didn't want to work in government.
Campaigns were fun, hard work, frustrating and sometimes permeated with the atmosphere of old time politics which we all wanted to move away from. That was easier said than done.
I wasn't sure I wanted to continue working in the film industry, and I was also struggling about working in state government with Jerry when he was elected governor. I thought I'd take nine months off (not intentionally, but the length of time for gestation of a baby) and go to New Mexico to contemplate my future.
Two days after returning to Los Angeles, Tom Pollock told me he had just talked to George Lucas who was looking for an Executive Assistant to help him set up his company shortly after STAR WARS was released. And the rest is history. Ah, the Magic of New Mexico.
This afternoon, I thought back to that time, the first time in my adult life I had not had a job since becoming a working woman. I found sweet irony in being here again, not knowing what I would do with the rest of my life having retired after all those years with George. It had been a great career, but I was now looking forward to entering a new phase of my life. Time to contemplate the meaning of it all.
It is, of course, a different set of circumstances, but the context was the same. I want to do something useful that benefits others and also gives me a sense of satisfaction in that I am making the most of my skills and talents.
I didn't come to any conclusions, but have no anxiety or concern about my future. I am grateful for good health at this time when a beloved woman friend is facing death. I am confident that I can be of service to others whatever path I take.
I spent most of the day enjoying the affection of being in the company of my dear friends, hearing the sounds of fun and play of my Godson Nolan, the nine year old boy that I have taken into my heart, and resting in the comfort of being part of his family, being connected to the cares and wows, the joy and frustration of living life and just being present in the moment whatever it brings. I am truly blessed.
A few minutes ago, the big, dark clouds of the afternoon moved over Santa Fe which is now being pummeled with hard rain, lightning and thunder. The energy of the storm is palpable. I'm enjoying it! It has sparked my senses.
Photos by Cyndi Woodall Hall