I have been to El Santuario de Chimayo north of Santa Fe many times. A very old church, it is always a quiet, sacred place, even though there are many tourists.

You can’t escape the meaning, if you know — and you do know — there must be a spiritual aspect to life. It is full of the lives lived in the high desert and hills of what is now New Mexico. Lives lived in the privacy of canyons where there is only the thinnest dirt track to follow and under a sky from which no one can hide. It matters little what “faith” is represented by the church or how homely the setting, which includes a few nearby restaurants where you can buy souvenirs — a French word, meaning “remember.” You see the sanctuary and you become quiet, quiet in spirit. Mortality is here, full of generations. All the stories of families are here: the fights and reconciliations, furtive trysts and endless partings, accidents of fate, childbirths, child-deaths, a hundred — a thousand differing pains, men and women in love, despair or both; the lost ones and the found growing old equally as they come to this same place still believing. Your ears buzz with the the celebratory noise of marriages and the silence of losses, of funerals, of innocence, of all the living fables of trust and betrayal — and finally, especially, healing — everything, united in one place where the pigeons now roost in the rafters and the dry leaves of the trees rattle in the wind like so many lessons about this strange state of simply being alive. You cannot come here without thinking about who you are, about relationships past and present, and what you yet must do in your life. You are dust here. You are the art of dust. And you cannot stand here for long without acknowledging that there is something unfathomable at the center, a deep acceptance of you so much greater than your own acceptance of life or suffering. There is only an ocean that fitfully laps in a dry, cold space at the edge of a tiny village called “the human.” And by this you know you are home.

It can’t be photographed or written down, no matter how good you are. It is the medicine.