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Cherie Burns

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Inspiration for Change

Posted: 09/30/11 03:20 PM ET

What triggers making a fresh start in life? Sometimes something as simple as a beautiful fall day or a scenic panorama can make one aware of life's possibilities. Millicent Rogers was at an age when many women thought not much lay ahead of them in life when she first arrived in Taos, New Mexico. She arrived on the Feast of San Geronomo Day exactly sixty-four years ago today. She was 45. After three marriages and three sons she was positioned to create a new life.

The Standard Oil heiress and fashion icon first came to town when northern New Mexico is at its loveliest. Fall is a beautiful season almost everywhere, but Taos is stunning when the cottonwood and aspen trees start to shimmer gold in the breeze. Cool nights follow warm days. The smells of roasted green chile and pinon fires fill the night air. The Feast at the Indian Pueblo north of town is an annual day of pole-climbing competitions, a foot race between different sides of the Pueblo at dawn, and a market of wares and jewelry made by the local and neighboring tribes. While the car models in the parking lot have been updated since Millicent's time, the event and the scenery have stayed mostly the same. The public is invited to stroll through the plaza, the dirt courtyard that lies between the multi-storied adobe buildings on both sides. The Rio Pueblo de Taos, a creek, runs through the middle. Taos' Sacred Mountain looms majestically in the background. And on this day, the Koshari, those black and white painted Indian clowns, part policemen, roam through the crowd ready to punish cellphone users and photo takers, sometimes with a dunk in the river. It's good protocol to never look a Koshari in the eye. It invites their attention.

Millicent Rogers, her heart broken the previous summer by Clark Gable in Hollywood, walked into the scene and decided on the spot that she would reinvent her life once again in Taos. Her friends, the actress Janet Gaynor and her husband, the couturier, Gilbert Adrian drove Millicent to Taos, hoping to take her mind off her heartache. Another heiress from the East, Mabel Dodge Luhan from Buffalo New York, was living here and hosted the traveling party for a meal. Luhan had arrived more than 20 years earlier and was now married to an Indian, Tony Luhan. From her adobe house on the eastern edge of town, she functioned as the social arbiter and hostess to distinguished visitors from out of town. She took Millicent and the Adrians to see an 80-acre piece of property that her attorney, a local judge, had for sale. The Adrians shrugged off the suggestion that they buy it, but Millicent was charmed. The dilapidated structure on the property had no plumbing, but what it lacked in accommodations, was more than compensated for with views. Perched on the side of a mesa, it looked over the meadows along the small rio running to the Rio Grande through farm and grazing land. The prize vista loomed beyond. Majestic Taos Mountain. The natural splendor of Taos in autumn cast its spell over Millicent. She decided to buy it

Her spirits revived, her vision expanded. Taos has always had this affect on people, as a late September day out at the Pueblo, makes easy to understand.

 
 
 

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