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San Francisco de Asis Church

black and white image of an adobe church with a cloudscape background
San Francisco de Asis Church, Golden, New Mexico

Corie and I are eagerly planning a January trip to London.

In addition to some of the must-see London sights and a few lesser-known ones (we were a little disappointed to learn the museum dedicated to the lives of George Frideric Handel and Jimi Hendrix will be closed for renovation), I have been mapping out our routes to pass as many of the city’s old churches as possible.

But as much as I love the grandeur of ornate cathedrals, there’s something about the simplicity of New Mexico’s small chapels that will always have a place in my heart, and one particular church will always hold a special place for me.

It was a place that began a photographic journey for me in 1985 then renewed my passion in 2020.

It takes a little longer to drive between Santa Fe and Albuquerque if you take Highway 14, the Turquoise Trail, instead of Interstate 25. The extra twenty minutes are well worth it. The 50-mile two-lane road winds through the high-desert landscape dotted with juniper and sage, passing the historic towns of Cerillos and Madrid.

A few winding miles south of Madrid is Golden and, if you’re not paying attention, you just might miss the small church outside of town, perched on the top of a steep hill just beyond a stand of short, wizened trees.

I had first photographed the San Francisco de Asis church when I was in high school. It was the first print I had ever sold. Built in the 1830s, the small chapel was abandoned for two decades before its restoration. It now holds mass every Sunday afternoon.

I no longer have a copy of the negative for my original photo, but I can say with a degree of confidence the $25 I sold it for was way overpriced.

Fast forward 35 years.

It was the start of the pandemic and, like most of us, I was going crazy.

Isolation didn’t really phase Corie. She had her books. She had the dogs and cats. She had comfy clothes. The only real challenge she had to contend with was dealing with her husband who couldn’t stay in the same room for more than 25 minutes before becoming insufferably antsy.

One morning, she was faced with a choice. Her first option was to drive somewhere and avoid people along the way. Her second option was to smother me in my sleep.

She thought long and hard about her two options as we drank our coffee. With the first choice, we would have to go outside. With the second choice, there wouldn’t be anyone to remove spiders from the house.

I won’t keep you in suspense any longer. She chose the first option. We decided to drive the long way to the Salinas Pueblo Missions east of Albuquerque. We stopped in Golden, and I ran around with my camera.

It rekindled my passion.

I have long enjoyed photography, but during the previous few years, it had been placed on the back burner, shoved aside by a schedule that demanded more and more of my time. But as I walked around the church, I understood the importance of making time for those things that fulfill us.

black and white image of a window on the San Francisco de Asis Church
San Francisco de Asis Church, Golden, New Mexico

black and white image of a gate leading to the San Francisco de Asis Church
San Francisco de Asis Church, Golden, New Mexico


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