Songscape: Beulah Land


It takes a bold landscape to stand, exposed, as wind and rain have formed it. It is otherworldly, a “savage beauty,” something that has been shaped by weather, eruptions, and time. Of course I am talking about the strange and iconic landscape of Northern New Mexico, with its stretches of badlands and red rock country. There is no gradual ascent and sloping climb into the mountains, as it seems when one is traveling into the mountainous regions of the Southeast. Out here, vast stretches of flat land and huge skies lend an uninterrupted canvas to mountains that seem to simply jut up out of the ground. Hoodoos and strange rock formations stand naked in the face of the wind, and volcanoes and volcanic plugs can be seen from miles away. Nothing here is obscured by stretches of trees- it’s simply “out there.”


These formations- hoodoos, volcanic ridges, massive rock structures, mesas- were created many years ago through volcanic eruptions and sculpted over time by water and wind. The beauty in these structures may not be what one typically seeks- no lush forests, no sandy beach in the distance, no showering of green or the myriad colors of a landscaped garden. It’s a primal beauty, the beauty of something that has been sculpted into something completely its own by storms and, quite literally, earth-shaking events. And these formations stand there, out in the open, a mystical testament to how we are all shaped over time.

Weather is also still changing these formations, and over time they will slowly be something completely different than what someone might see if they visit Abiquiu or the Bisti Badlands in 1,000 years.

Ghost Ranch

A Red Rock Sky

 So it is with all of us. In our own lives, there are violent storms, eruptions, and turbulent winds, and we are shaped by these things into who we are. And, just like the badlands of New Mexico, we too are still in the process of being formed. This process may mean that what we’ve been in the past can no longer be sustained- we become something new and grieve for the parts that have passed away. We can choose to try to mold ourselves into something we’re not, something that counters what the storms have done. We can choose to try to say, “well, there are no storms,” or “those storms are in the past and they don’t affect me now.” It only takes an honest look inside to know that is not true and will never be true. As long as we hold to those ideas, we’ll never fully develop into who we really are. It is much better to take the storm ravaged parts of our souls and incorporate them into the new creature with honor.

Because of all the reasons listed above, I’ve always said that the New Mexico vistas made sense to me. I feel a kinship with the exposed, rugged, ravaged landscape. The word “beulah” is a Biblical reference  to being one with the land, a “marriage” with the landscape. So, although the phrase “Beulah Land” has been used in hymns to refer to the place from which one can see heaven, here it has to do with a land in which one’s soul is rooted and in which we can truly see ourselves. There is sympatico here, self-revelation. These rocks have been there. They’ve been through that. And they’re still standing.

Ghost Ranch Mesas at Sunrise

Ghost Ranch Mesas at Sunrise

 Karen Marrolli will play “Beulah Land” and a bunch of songs no one’s ever heard before at Ravensong, a monthly singer-songwriter showcase, on Wednesday, March 12 at 7:00 pm. Ravensong happens at Iconik Coffee, Lena Street, Santa Fe.

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