David E. Stuart writing book exploring Chacoan gardens

Albuquerque author David E. Stuart writing book exploring Chacoan gardens

A sign on a table in Limonata, a cafe in Albuquerque’s Nob Hill neighborhood, says the table is reserved for David E. Stuart. It identifies him as “Anthropologist, Author (books sold here), Smooth Talker.” (David Steinberg/For the Albuquerque Journal)

A sign on a table in Limonata, a cafe in Albuquerque’s Nob Hill neighborhood, says the table is reserved for David E. Stuart. It identifies him as “Anthropologist, Author (books sold here), Smooth Talker.”

Stuart has been coming to Limonata to write and edit the manuscripts of some half dozen of his books for about 10 years.

He writes the old-fashioned way – with pencil and yellow legal pad.

“There is some sort of visualization that goes on in writing with a pencil. I don’t understand it, but it works for me,” he said. “With a computer it becomes distant.”

He hires someone to type his handwritten copy onto a computer for submission.

Stuart is usually at Limonata three hours a day, five days a week. He buys a meal there.

“There are nice slices of life around you. Customers and staff are friendly. It’s a lively but gentle place,” he said with a smile and a sparkle in his eyes.

The ambience, Stuart said, is good for him. It helps him concentrate and “it diminishes the loneliness.”

Stuart lives with his wife, Cynthia, in a nearby house. But while Stuart is at Limonata, Cynthia, an artist, is usually painting in a rented studio.

Scott York, Limonata’s owner, said that sometimes Cynthia comes to the cafe. “She’s a sweetheart,” he said.

York is pleased to have Stuart as a fixture in the cafe.

“We love this guy. Everybody who comes in wants to meet him, talk to him,” York said. “And Stuart has paid for a lot of our baristas’ college tuitions. That’s the kind of guy he is.”

Stuart explained that for many years he’s been helping to pay the tuition of student-employees who have a grade point average of 3.5 or higher and who work 20-to-30-hours a week. He’s been contributing to students’ tuition long before his Limonata days.

“It gives me enormous pleasure to do this. It’s the working kids I worry about,” Stuart said. “When I was a young guy coming out to New Mexico, I had to work night shifts while I was going to graduate school. It was tough.”

Stuart, 78, received a bachelor’s degree from West Virginia Wesleyan College and did undergraduate work in Mexico City in anthropology and archaeology. At the University of New Mexico, he earned a master’s degree and took doctoral exams in both subjects.

Stuart is professor emeritus of anthropology at UNM, where he taught for 46 years; 22 of those years he also served as associate provost for academic affairs.

A longtime author, Stuart is currently editing the manuscript for his next book – “The Chacoan World: A Legacy of Gardens.”

It’s part of a new book series from the University of New Mexico Press titled “New Century Gardens and Landscapes of the American Southwest.”

Baker Morrow said one of his duties as series editor is to think about the subjects of the books for the series and who he knows would do a good job of writing them. He’s long been familiar with Stuart’s writings on the ancient Southwest.

“I said Dave, I want a book on the earliest gardens in New Mexico. Where did the come from? Dave took to it instantly. He said, ‘I can do that!’ ” Morrow recalled.

Morrow said he’s read and edited the manuscript and found a lot of surprises in it. That women planted – and owned – the gardens. They grew cotton and tobacco besides corn, yucca, beans, squash and sunflowers in different periods.

“The Chacoan World” will be Stuart’s fifth book on the ancient Southwest. His most popular one is “Anasazi America.”

“I finally realized that the key to the transformation of pre-Chaco ancient societies (in the Four Corners), who were hunters and foragers, into something more recognizable as structured societies depended on the women,” Stuart said.

“The book is not feminist in any political way, but there would not have been any Chaco without these women and their gardens.”

The book also looks at pre-pueblo landscape design – the courtyards, the walkways, the pathways, roads, as well as the many types of gardens, Morrow said.

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