In northern New Mexico there is a small town called Chimayo with a small old church called the Santuario. As I understand it this little church was built by the first Spanish settlers in the 16th century. It's one of the oldest churches on the North American continent. But that is not why this church is famous. It is famous for its dirt. There is a spot close to the altar that has this very special dirt. People come from all over the world to get and use this extraordinary soil. This story is my experience with this Holy Dirt.
This happened in either 1990 or 1991. I've never paid much attention to dates which is one of the dumber bad habits I now regret. I had a great friend back then who has since passed, also to my regret. His name was Carlos Martinez. One day he asked me if I wanted to join him on a trip to Santa Fe with a couple of side stops in Taos and Chimayo. I was happy to go especially to see the legendary Santuario. Before I left I happened to be visiting my friend Carlota Espinoza who asked me to get her some of the dirt. I hadn't intended to go inside the church since I wasn't Catholic and didn't know the rules. She convinced me to do it but I was still a little nervous about it. Not growing up Catholic in a secular totalitarian culture there was a lot of nasty propaganda out there. Since then I have learned that it was all just bogus crap.
Now at that time I had developed a bad case of ball and socket disease. This meant that the ball and socket in my left shoulder had gone all to hell. The doctor said I had painted so much that the ball and socket had literally worn out. He said the only solution was an operation to replace them. The problem was that there was no guarantee that I would have full mobility, much less be able to paint at the same level that I had been. For now he had me on heavy doses of ibuprofen because I was in constant pain. It was a pulsing pain and I couldn't lift my arm beyond a certain height. It hurt so bad the pain killers barely put a dent in it. I learned to ignore it as much as possible to have some semblance of normalcy. It hurt so bad I just wanted to sit down and cry like a little kid but I didn't. I just took it and pretended it didn't hurt. I had been suffering with this problem for several months and was really scared. I didn't want the operation and kept putting it off even with the doctor pressuring me. This trip to New Mexico was a great distraction although I knew the problem was still with me. I was just not going to think about it.