The Women Who Rode Away
Maria Chabot, Georgia O'Keeffe Hitching a Ride to Abiquiu, Ghost Ranch, 1944, © Georgia O'Keeffe Museum
It is one of the most iconic pictures of Georgia O'Keeffe. A rare, unguarded smile suspended in time. When Maria took this photo, she was probably thinking more of the jealousy she felt for Maurice, on whose motorcycle Georgia is perched, than the possibility that she had captured a moment which would become famous. This photo graces the entry of the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum today.
Maria called this photo "The Women Who Rode Away", perhaps inspired by D.H. Lawrence's short story, The Woman Who Rode Away.
As a writer herself, she must have been awed by Lawrence. He was yet another of the world's artistic gifts who, for a short time, called New Mexico home. His story of a woman who didn't feel her "place" so left everything behind is not as well-known as other works, but its premise is enticing. I think Maria and Georgia considered themselves such outliers -- though Maria had to work harder at being so. Georgia, so famously, just was. Women who feared nothing, cared little for the customary and boldly marched with their different drummers.
I was honored this week to speak with Barbara Buhler Lynes, who authored the book of letters that brought me back to Maria (among many other impressive accomplishments). She was a good friend to Maria and shared one thought that really struck me. She said Maria was always doing things that took a great deal of courage, "she would walk into the future all of the time."
As I look into the past as part of my future, it is this photo that urges me on. To make the phone calls, track down the people, research the ideas, do the work, and shed a little of my old skin in doing so. I like to think Maria is here with me in spirit, urging me to walk into the future too.