By Fyllis Hockman
A writer's worst nightmare is being at a loss for words to describe a place or event. And so it is with the Meow Wolf House of Eternal Return, an immersive, interactive art installation and technological wonderland with unending surprises at every turn in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Oh sure, it's magical, mind-boggling, awesome, inspirational — but no mere words can capture the experience.
Prior to entry, you are encouraged "to do things." And indeed there's a lot to do. Also be careful of flashing lights, dark spaces, uneven terrain; watch your step, watch your head, watch your mind. You are advised not to run, eat or gossip and incidentally, to stop the apocalypse. What else is there to know?
As you walk in, around about and through a house, there is supposedly a sci-fi mystery about what occurred there — with clues ostensibly placed throughout — but I quickly gave up on even trying to imagine what or where they could be. Apparently 100 hours of narrative content are superimposed upon 70-plus rooms of inspired idiocy. Way beyond my pay grade. Besides, the experience itself is one big distraction from focusing on anything but trying to figure out just where you are, how you got there, what you're actually seeing and what comes next.
To say there are secret passages is like saying alphabet soup has letters in it. Eventually climbing through a fireplace on your knees or walking into a refrigerator or sliding down from the back of a dryer begins to feel normal. Then those portals lead to other rooms, ramps, caverns, hallways and stairways, each one of which houses its own mesmerizing series of shapes, sounds, games and statues — perhaps some psychedelic monsters, multicolored puppets and optical illusions but mostly huge unidentifiable objects that appear to have no particular purpose other than to pique one's imagination and cause one's head to shake repeatedly in disbelief.
It's like being shot into a living, breathing kaleidoscope, the sensory overload akin to "2001: A Space Odyssey" combined with "Fantasia" on steroids. Sure, it's a multidimensional art gallery because this is, of course, Santa Fe, but the creative chaos is interspersed with being ensconced within a human video game, jungle gym and an otherworldly dimension that defies any normal concept of reality. Did I mention the multiple theme rooms with their bright lights, colorful designs and mystical music? The treehouse alone is its own adventure. Occasionally voices emerge, but who cares? I was too busy playing the dinosaur bones and producing a sound and light show before moving on to the laser-harp room. Don't even ask. Then on to an invitation to visit multiple fictional destinations or view a peephole containing dioramas of weird — might I say macabre — objects. Inexplicable videos that to some level of intelligence beyond mine may have meant something — or not.
What? An arcade room? Something must be wrong. It looks normal. OK, not so much. The sign saying the games are free is perched right above the token machine. Onto a graffiti-filled wall: "How is one to know one's mind when one's mind is all one has to know it by" pretty much sums up what I'm feeling at the time. An extensive garden of wide-ranging floral arrangements attracts until one realizes it's just a reflection of single plants magnified multiple times within a mirrored room. More head-shaking.
At the risk of repeating myself, none of these words even begins to do Meow Wolf justice. It just might be the Eighth Wonder of the World — and it demands a visit so that you too can shake your head, roll your eyes and laugh knowingly when someone asks you to describe it.
WHEN YOU GO
The best idea is to buy your tickets online. This allows you to choose your date and time and avoid the long lines that form in the mornings. Later in the afternoon you should be able to walk right in. Meow Wolf is open until 8 p.m. and closed Tuesdays: www.meowwolf.com.
Fyllis Hockman is a freelance writer. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
Clues to a mystery abound in this themed room at the Meow Wolf House of Eternal Return in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Photo courtesy of Phil Allen.