Fourteen years ago today, Larry and I got married at El Santuario de Chimayo® in New Mexico, which is one of my favorite churches in the world. I was living in Denver at the time and my pastor, the fabulous Reverend Analea Rawson (I was a member of Unity Church) was going to be in Abiquiu on the date we’d chosen. Since she loved El Santuario as much as I did, we decided to simply meet there and make our vows in the late afternoon.
Larry is Jewish, so it’s a tremendous tribute to his accommodating nature that he agreed to be married in this most Catholic of venues. Built in 1816 on a site that was purported to have miraculous healing properties, El Santuario is both a National Historic Landmark and the most important Catholic pilgrimage site in America. It’s a tiny church – just 60 feet long and 24 feet wide– with walls 3 feet thick, hand-painted altar, faded portraits of saints, rickety wooden pews– and of course, the holy dirt.
In a small room off the chapel is a dark room featuring “el pocito” (little well), with its constantly-replenished reputedly healing dirt that draws 300,000 visitors a year to this tiny, dusty New Mexico town. Whether you see it as complete superstition or deep faith, for me Chimayo exudes a kind of deep mysticism that I find profoundly moving. I couldn’t believe I was going to get married there! (And neither could Larry’s mother who probably wanted to kill herself just thinking about him getting married at a Roman Catholic shrine.)
On September 29, Larry and I drove down from Denver with my darling friend Clarice, who terrorized Larry for hours with tales of her romantic past. We stopped to buy our wedding rings at a roadside stand outside Taos, had a few slugs of vodka to calm our nerves in the parking lot, and met Larry’s two best friends Stuart and Judith at the church. Clarice and I changed into our wedding clothes in the public bathroom beside the gift shop and when the tour guides and pilgrims all left, about 5 in the afternoon, Analea met us in the dappled shade behind the church and we had our beautiful wedding (this is probably strictly forbidden).
Legend has it that long before the Spaniards arrived, a hot spring sacred to the Tewa Indians had healing powers on the site of Chimayo. I believe there are sacred places on the earth, and this is undoubtedly one of them. So for giving our marriage a healing, holy, miraculous beginning, I’m giving $100 today to El Santuario de Chimayo with love and gratitude (and anonymity).