To get to Anita Bauer’s house, you turn off the highway in Pilar, New Mexico, follow the freshly tarred road that hugs the Rio Grande, take the long, spaghetti-thin, one-car-at-a-time bridge that spans the rushing river, then follow a scrubby, deeply rutted dirt road to the very end, hoping that that brushing sound beneath your little car is somehow a good thing, like brushing teeth.
When Anita found this old adobe by the river surrounded by scraggy mountains about thirty-seven years ago, she tells me, the place had been abandoned. It had no electricity, no running water, and no plumbing. She spent that first winter in one of its rooms, with a cook stove that was also a wood stove.
“Then, in the spring, I started fixing it up,” she says, smiling. She has lived here, happily, ever since.
This New Year’s Eve Anita, who labels herself a healer and an artist, will turn 76 years old. It’s clear as we sit and talk in her cozy living room on a bright New Mexico autumn afternoon that her positive, can-do approach to life hasn’t abated in all these years.
“It was the river, mostly, that brought me here,” she says, “because I love being near water. The river has always been kind of a reminder for me that everything is flowing. Nothing stays the same. In order to get the most out of life, you’ve got to flow with it.”
When asked about her daily artistic process, she says she likes to ease into the day:
“The early morning is a very powerful time for me; it’s a meditative time. I don’t even get out of bed until I feel fully centered. Then, when I start working on my art, my energies are flowing and I want to keep working. I work during the daylight hours, by natural light. The light is really important to me.”
Anita takes me into her adjoining studio, where I’m dazzled by the light flooding in from the south-facing window. Here, she creates her one-of-a-kind silk art. As she explains on her website (www.finesilkartandwearables.com), “Silk is a luxurious, smooth and sensuous natural fiber that translates my unique Southwestern landscapes and original motifs into stylish scarves, shawls, kimonos, ties, wall hangings, paintings and wearable art. I paint the silks like watercolors, using only the highest quality dyes.”
As a single, self-supporting woman, Anita calls her art her “bread and butter.” “People like my work enough to buy it,” she says, “so I’m lucky.”
On the subject of age, she tells me she doesn’t feel old at all, and I ask why.
“I think it’s a philosophy that I hold, having to do with time and energy. I believe that time is manmade; clocks and calendars are all manmade. Yes, we need them to live in this three-dimensional world. But on another level, it’s just energy flowing, and there’s no limit to that. My goal is to not be limited by time and to tap into the limitless energy that’s available to us all.”
From May to December each year she focuses on her silk painting and the many shows where she displays and sells her work. This year, in early November, I visited her booth at the Dixon Studio Tour.
“After my shows are over,” she tells me, “I open up more to working with people, doing noninvasive energy healing. I find I can’t do too many things at once. I like to focus on one thing at a time. That’s part of my philosophy – one step at a time.”
Yes, advancing age brings with it challenges, she admits. But, she adds, “Worry is a waste of time.” As for living alone in a remote adobe home at the end of a long, rutted road, she says, “I feel really safe here. I feel protected. I don’t feel alone or afraid.”