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New Mexico

Alice and I drove down the rutted, rough dirt road that almost wasn’t one in her brand-new Nissan Altima. Falling down barbed wire fences among Johnson grass and other weeds separated us from the fields of sage stretching to the horizon. We bobbed and jerked along in the middle of nowhere until eventually, off to the left, we saw a couple of old dilapidated flat roofed stuccoes. Scattered across the bare front yard were shiny new Mercedes, BMW’s and a couple of other high-end cars. “Hmmm, must be the place.”


While reading one of Shirley McClain’s books, Dancing in the Light, I was captivated by her descriptions of Chris Griscom’s Light Institute in New Mexico. Founded in 1985, nestled in the hills of Galisteo, NM, this center for spiritual healing had become internationally famous. I felt New Mexico was an enchanted land the first time I visited there as a thirteen-year-old girl. I loved the smell of the dry air and the stark, rust colored landscape interspersed with tall Saguaro. So, after reading Dancing in the Light, I wrote to Shirley for information on how to get in touch with the institute. Her staff replied quickly and gave me phone numbers and address. I called and spoke with a young man there who was very cordial and informative. I talked about my career and my desire for a change and asked if they had need of administrative help.


“Why, yes.” He said, “We have decided to go from pad and pencil and ledgers to this new computer still in its plastic wrap sitting in the corner.”


I became excited. “That’s what I do.” I thought.


We set a date to meet at the institute and my friend Alice decided to drive out from Ft. Worth with me. We spent the night in Santa Fe and began our drive out of town early the next morning. Following directions, we soon left the pavement to drive a mile or more on a gravel road. Once we turned off that, we were on that rutted, rough dirt road.


We parked and got out of the car in our latest 1986 business wear of short black skirts cinched at the waist with a wide black belt. The spike heels of our black pumps sank into the sand of the parking area as the wind ruffled our big Texas hair. We could not have felt more out of place if we had been naked.


There was not a person in sight. We chose the long narrow building on the right with its wooden front porch that stretched under windows and doors across the front and entered through the first screen door. No one. The floor had brand new carpet stretched over the lumpy, waving, I guess, ground underneath. The new computer in its plastic wrapper sat on the floor in one corner of the empty room as gauzy lace curtains wafted out from the open window across from us.


“Hello,” we chorused. “Hello, anyone there?” as we walked into the next room and the next and the next in the long, narrow building. No one. We found ourselves whispering. It was so quiet. We walked out onto the porch and stood there for a while deciding what to do when a tall slender young man stepped out of the other building and started towards us. He wore white loose trousers and a white linen shirt with no collar and a big smile. He held out his hand and called us by name with a question mark. “I am so glad you came. Chris is with clients but I am eager to talk to you. Won’t you come in?”


They needed someone who could take the many calls from all over the world each day in many different languages, (“What? Different languages?”) and make appointments as well as help them with their travel reservations. They needed someone to set up the new computer, order whatever software would be needed to track appointments as well as start keeping their accounting records.


“Keep in mind we live a quiet life here, (“Quiet? How quiet?”) There will be no radio or TV allowed or personal visitors. We have no air conditioners or fans, (Oh dear, I don’t do heat.”) Our hours are long in order to take care of the overwhelming, worldwide response since Shirley’s book came out. Is this something that might interest you?”


“I don’t think I would be capable of trying to make appointments for people whose language I could not understand. I do apologize, I should have asked more questions before we came out,” I sadly replied.


“Oh please, don’t apologize, I should have volunteered more information when we spoke.  I am very glad you have come and am delighted to meet you both. I will give you a tour of our facility if you would like.”


“We would love that.” 


“OK, the current sessions in the other building will be closing down in about fifteen minutes and I will be back to get you. Would you like something cool to drink?”


We waited on the porch and when the sessions let out in the other building guests came out and got into their cars and left. Three staff members, young women with scrubbed faces and soft hair, in flowing white dresses and sandals walked toward us with our interviewer. I felt rather cartoonish in my short, tight clothing, spike heels and big hair and makeup. Everyone was friendly and charming. They spoke softly and eventually drifted into the room with the computer while our young man took us through the treatment rooms in the other building. The rooms were sparse and all white with long white sheets draped over the message tables.


After “Thank You” and “So nice to meet you,” and goodbyes, Alice and I got into our car and drove away. We were stunned. We just stared ahead as we bounced and wobbled our way down that rutted road until we turned to look at one another and burst into nervous laughter.


“Another world, oh my word, another world,” Alice said.


“I wish I could want that sort of thing,” I said. “But I could not live that life. I did feel small and insignificant against their calm, kind demeanor.”

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