Chimayó, New Mexico

30 minutes north of Santa Fe, New Mexico, in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, lies the tiny community of Chimayó. This morning, on yet another cloudy day in Oxford, I woke up thinking about chile!

When Jamie and I were in the early stages of love, I did not, could not, understand his obsession with “chile”. It mattered not how spicy the briyani or kebabs (both foods he loves very much), it was never the same, even while as hot as New Mexican Chile. I would often say, “Spicy is spicy, I don’t understand.” I didn’t get it despite really enjoying New Mexican cuisine whenever we would go out to eat (which I quickly learned was different than Mexican food which is, as everyone knows, different than Tex-Mex).  However, slowly, I started being able to tell the difference between the chiles. Sometimes it was not as red as other times; sometimes it was a “flat” green taste and other times it was a “fresh” green taste. Not all restaurants did theirs the same. Each time even at the same venue it couldn’t be the same because it depended on the batch.

Well, now I understand completely. Here is more if you want to read and see beautiful photos about it.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, a South African friend of mine who is a healer told me, “You will marry a man from the desert. He will take you to a place that reminds you of your childhood.” I laughed at her and told her that was impossible–I was never ever moving to the desert. And no force of love could ever make me leave New York City, my home of so many years. Two years later, I met Jamie. Of course, leaving New York City was easy because it was no longer the city I had loved for so long, but I left knowing it was not possible to feel “at home” anywhere else. I have never been more wrong.

New Mexico is high desert, meaning it has all the seasons, including snow. It has mountains, sky, green, rain, pinon, monsoons, real diversity, and wonderful people.

Love, real love, shatters preconceived ideas about so many things: where you can or can never live, what the word “desert” means, and where you call home.

 

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Thoughts about Albuquerque & a place called The Open Gym

As strange as it may sound, I have been avoiding writing about Albuquerque and New Mexico so as to prevent anyone learning more about it. This is very unlike me. When I like or love or find something curious, I share it with the entire world. It matters not if that world consists of one person or one hundred people. In this instance I have been very childlike. You know how a young child can sometimes pretend that if he or she closes his eyes, the object before him would simply go poof and disappear? Of course at the particular age of development a child isn’t aware that this is not plausible. So I have been childish lately, thinking that if I don’t talk much about it, I won’t jinx it by inviting unappreciative energy. That somehow as if I stay quiet, no one will know how great it is here. This is because I am protective. I am protective of this city and state as I was once about my New York that no longer is. I am protective as one might be about a new love. You want to scream at the top of your lungs that you are somehow living a dream you dared never even bother dreaming and yet at the same time you don’t want to invite envy or jealousy. I want to protect it from what is happening to cities all over. I don’t want to draw attention to the city in the fears that it will become the next “cool” or “hip” city. “Cleaning up a city” shouldn’t mean making sure locals can’t afford to live there.

Locals assure me not to fear given the high poverty level and significant small and big gang related crimes (robberies and car break-ins etc.). Locals remind me of the poor job market. Locals assure me that the DWI levels alone will keep people away. Others confidently state that most folks just go to the ritzy Santa Fe or Taos either becoming, or chasing, caricatures of art, missing the spiritual essence of the land despite it being right under their nose, bypassing this quirky, sometimes gritty, city as soon as they land. People in the Hollywood industry know Albuquerque well given so many movies and shows are filmed in New Mexico. Yet this influx never changes things permanently. No one wants to stay. It comes on and off the map like cheap lip gloss. It is and isn’t part of the United Sates’ psyche. Most people hear “New Mexico” and think you mean “northern” Mexico.  People sort of  know about Arizona but there is so much misinformation about New Mexico (if there is any prior knowledge at all) that her identity remains a mystery.

I must disclose the following: I don’t know how I would feel about the city if I were a kid who grew up here. Maybe I would leave and never look back. Maybe I would leave and then come back in my middle years or to retire (many miss the weather and seasons, not to mention the 300 days of sunshine). So, my perspective is based on being married to someone who is from here and proud to be from here and my having lived in many states and continents. I no longer need to be in a city that must entertain me every time I step out. Or perhaps, better put, what entertains me is very different now.  Actually, that’s not entirely correct either. While I lived in NYC I would live off of strangers’ tall tales and true stories but they became harder and harder to hear as the city started resembling more like Ray Bradbury’s nightmare than a cool science-fiction graphic novel. I mention this to assert that even in NYC what entertained me was not the clubs, the shopping, or any “scene”. Very few people truly understand what I loved about the city, especially my neighborhood.

There is one major university here, University of New Mexico, and yet Albuquerque is not a college town like Boulder, Lawrence or Des Moines. I like that about it. Jobs are hard to come by unless you work for the state or local government in some capacity. I had a college friend who lived here some years ago, long before I even met my husband, who said it is hard to meet people if you are not from here. Others have confirmed this; however, it hasn’t deterred me from making stranger-friends. Public schools are not the best (except the ones like mine!) but the private ones are, of course, bar none. Other than Nob Hill and Downtown (the city is trying to clean up Downtown and has done an amazing job to make it more inviting without gentrification) there really aren’t any designated strips like in Berkeley, Austin or the likes. You have to scratch the surface to find gems. In some ways it reminds me of Philly from fifteen years ago. That being said, people are genuinely nice and real. And they are filled with generations of stories and a product of at least three different cultures who have been living side-by-side for 100 years or more, including decades without recorded bloodshed. There are many breweries, coffee shops, several locally owned stores that are able to survive next to the big chains, housing is affordable, and the sky is a lucid dream.

The Indigenous/ Native American communities were here for tens of thousands of years. Then the Spanish were here for a couple of centuries. Then it became Mexican territory for a couple of decades. Thereafter it has been part of the United States ever since. Santa Fe is the oldest state capital city in the United States. The United States didn’t exist when Santa Fe was founded. Perhaps because it has always been a cultural meeting place despite people’s diverse backgrounds, the food is some of the best I have had in the world!

 

My silence has been about protecting this city from a Silicon Valley invasion or even a remote infection (pun intended). I know this sounds silly but the arrogant take over by young people in charge of decisions that impact so many when they don’t fully understand the consequences of their actions is not only dangerous, it is not sustainable. It isn’t that young people haven’t existed before; it’s just that we treated them as inexperienced no matter how brilliant or talented. Somehow we have started equating “page hits”, “likes” and “retweets” with experience, maturity, intelligence, and compassion.

Then I realized that silence could be perceived as permission. I am going to be writing about Albuquerque, starting with this post, in the hopes that my words will attract more people who genuinely appreciate this city and state and less who want to move here and change it into whatever hip place they left. I met one young lad at a local bookstore here who had the audacity to remark, “Yeah, New Mexico would be perfect if there was a beach!” It’s a land-locked state! There is no beach! If you want to be near a beach, live there! Don’t dig a puddle with your money and “try to bring the beach” with you. That’s what I am talking about.

If you love where you live (realizing no place is perfect per se) and enjoy your neighbors and the community, then you know how I feel.

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After first freeze. November, 2015. Albuquerque, NM.

 

Today’s Albuquerque local story is about Bill. Bill owns a medium sized gym called The Open Gym. I have only talked to Bill twice. In fact, prior to talking to Bill the second time, which prompted this post, I had only seen Bill around the gym a few times without even knowing he is the owner. Let’s back track as to what in the world could I possibly be doing at a placed called a gym?

I hate gyms. Gyms remind me of hamster cages. Somehow I have never been able to convince myself that being at a gym is fun. In California I tried so many gyms to maintain my functional health and physical condition, that I lost count after four. Everyone was a fitness coach or trainer (once again, young and lacking experience). Apparently being able to walk upright made a person qualified to be a trainer or an instructor. If it hadn’t been for Francine’s yoga classes or the yoga teachers who would come and teach at Yoga Space in Bakersfield, I would have been in an even worse physical and mental health than when I left. When I left my home in NYC in 2012, I was in the best shape of my life. This is saying a lot given I had always been active. After college this became challenging due to multiple factors but in 2007 I found Marco Rojas and his yoga classes were an emotional, mental, and spiritual challenge that relied on physical alignment and strength. In California, this last year, before it was apparent that I was losing my strength, I went on walks, I tried yoga, and I even bought into that cross-fit idiocracy (no offence to anyone—but it is NOT, repeat NOT, good for your joints. Maybe if you are 18 and can jump around, it won’t hurt you right away, but given how it is executed most places, it is a disaster). Anyway, upon moving to Albuquerque we have been literally doing something or other since we settled into our beautiful space.

About four weeks ago I decided although I love both of the yoga studios I attend, I was not getting stronger. Unlike my husband who is a disciplined fitness aficionado and incredibly nutritionally aware (and a phenomenal cook!), I am not. Jamie doesn’t need to go to a gym or take group classes or have a coach. He can do it all by himself right at home. Most gyms are designed as a place for people to feel good about themselves for attending, regardless of any results. They can be isolating yet serve as a pick-up joint both for men and women. People are competitive and rude. I am happy if this has not been your experience. In fact, I have a friend in NYC who is a gym rat and goes to a really big gym and loves it. However, most gyms are trying to be like this absurdity and no thank you.

 

I can’t really recall how I found Bill’s gym. I think I was looking for strength training classes and something in my search led me to information about a trainer named Adelaide Mcmillan. Upon joining the gym (which is so affordable!) I decided to work with her because I wanted to learn more about rock climbing and hiking. I am in New Mexico, after all. In order to be able to join her and others who regularly go rock climbing with her, I needed to become stronger. So, once a week, I train with her and follow her plan on my own four times for the rest of the week. I am continuing with my yoga three times a week. It hasn’t even been four full weeks and I already feel so much stronger.

Adelaide has a wonderful sense of humor and the best part is that she is neither a ditzy Barbie doll nor a woman who feels compelled to be aggressive and macho. She is not trying to be permanently 20; she is beautiful and extremely strong. She also loves to travel and really likes Albuquerque. I hope I can share a photo of her and her story here later.

I love this gym because the people who go there are regulars. I see the same faces even if I haven’t talked to many of them. It feels safe and as a woman I am not disgusted or annoyed by men on a testosterone high. Women actually smile at one another and everyone is so courteous. It doesn’t have a spa bathroom but the changing rooms are always squeaky clean and have showers if one so desires. And this is the most important part for me: most dumbbells and weights are made of this metal which leaves a residue that smells like burnt iron. I have an idiosyncratic disdain for that smell. I can’t stand it. I have to hold things that smell like that with a glove or a towel. None of the weights at The Open Gym have that metallic stench! It’s amazing! I don’t know what material they are made of but it sure isn’t metallic or if it is, it is covered.

This Saturday when I walked into the gym, I was so moved by this image. There was Bill fixing the hardwood floor. This is what local looks like, was my first thought.

Bill

 

 

I introduced my self and thanked him for this space. I told him why it was important to me. It wasn’t just about fitness, it was also about writing. The time I was writing full time in New York, I was also on top of my physical health. If a writer, coach, teacher, artist, poet, is a vessel through which creativity flows, then the vessel needs to be strong enough to process all that comes. I haven’t been able to write since June. Yes, it has been because of settling into a new place and all sorts of relaxing-ness and busy-ness, but it has also been because I have not been able to take care of my joints and muscles. I wanted to express my gratitude to him for this place that I look forward to going.

While I was chatting with him, I learned that Bill is also an attorney! We discussed schools and law and owning one’s own business. Yes, Albuquerque may not have a lot of typical corporate jobs, but it is great if you want to run your own business.

 

My mother always says that wherever one lives, one must literally appreciate the dirt of that land. This means giving back to the community in ways no one may ever notice. This means taking care of the city. This means loving the city with all your mighty heart, unafraid.

I never imagined I would get a chance to call another place home after New York. But then again, I never thought I would actually like a gym. So much for knowing oneself entirely despite the many experiences that reveal to us how and who we really are.

Merry and Bright 

Sister (in-law No. 2) loves the Santa Fe Aspen Ballet Nutcracker: “It’s not Christmas without it.” So we were gifted tickets too. Lucky us.

Santa Fe looks like a Christmas postcard, the annoying Invaders are not easily visible this time. Perhaps that’s why. Who knows?

Sister (in-law No. 1) keeps making Fresh pomegranate juice, the rosy froth satisfies nostalgia of Lahore, a city that no longer exists, another time. The last glass was with my aunt in 2002, when she was still alive. She loved to love, just like me. She couldn’t be free unlike me who continues to fly. Sometimes it’s Living that kills, not Death.

Piñon nuts from brother (in-law No. 2), handpicked from all over Pecos, New Mexico keep crackling in California. The delicious middle pops imperfectly.

Yoga with my brother Z is an energy exchange; align and don’t define. His intuition is outstanding.

My other brother makes fun of me for being out of breath on a small and short hike in Santa Clarita but gives me olives to warm up.

Small gifts exchanged offer big feelings.

My brother (in-law No. 1) makes such wonderful coffee. Keep it coming!

There is no gift like sharing a blanket on a couch with my sister as I reach to hug my mother, to take in that scent that can only belong to a mother.

My father’s knowledge is a sky that makes sense without a meteorologist’s interpretations.

My mother-in-law’s faith needs no translation.

The world has been falling apart for some time now. Hard to get real news anymore. That’s news that doesn’t get old. I hope it never does.

Yet we love as if we are stars that will never burn out.
Or at least we should.
Having Jamie near makes everything just right.
We can always celebrate love.

Happy Winter Solstice.

 

 

Snow flakes. (45)” by Emily Dickinson

I counted till they danced so

Their slippers leaped the town –

And then I took a pencil

To note the rebels down –

And then they grew so jolly

I did resign the prig –

And ten of my once stately toes

Are marshalled for a jig!

Vallecito

Four hours north of Albuquerque, past Aztec, New Mexico and Durango, Colorado, exists this magical place called Vallecito. Our neighbors have a cabin there and they kept nudging us to go check it out. We didn’t believe them given people have a tendency to say many things to sound generous and this is the Air B&B age where people charge as much money as they can only to have another stay in a closet, so no we didn’t believe them. But they were serious! So we decided to go explore.

It was a beautiful drive–all of New Mexico is just breathtakingly beautiful–and a wonderful stay. We soaked ourselves in stillness. This was much needed. So much has happened, mostly all good but just so fast, since March. Not to mention this September marks my 3 year anniversary away from New York, New York. Of course I have been back in between (which will continue) but still…

What do I miss the most? My yoga practice with Marco Rojas. It wasn’t yoga, it was some kind of dance akin to Bharata Natyam. I miss my friends, naturally, who are like a second family. I miss my neighborhood before it was completely gentrified to the extent it can hardly be recognized.  But there is so much I don’t miss. I don’t miss what it was becoming and has become. I don’t miss not being able to afford it and write too. My sister and her husband are there now for their medical school rotations and I hear their experiences and I am reminded that to every person the New York they know is the New York they are in now. They don’t know about the bodega that doesn’t exist. They don’t know about the barber shop that disappeared. They don’t know about the restaurant that got swallowed to build a new office. And so it goes…

 

Redefining or rather defining what is my relationship with this blog and its generous readers/supporters has been another reflection that I didn’t or rather couldn’t tend to till this weekend away. When I started this, I didn’t have former or current students who were subscribed or who would stop by to read my thoughts. I certainly didn’t have their parents keeping up with it every now and then. Although I have always been very conscious about what I share, this has added another dimension of filtering that I am still navigating my way around. Moreover, social media has morphed into something I can’t really relate to like I once did so what I share here and any links I share on Twitter have begun diverging in ways I didn’t anticipate. I suppose all of this is good in the sense that the writing that needs to happen will happen as drafts that lead to something beyond here.

That being said, I do enjoy sharing whenever I can and I am grateful for those who continue to keep up. Enough said.  Here are some photos to mark the beginning of Fall.

And here is to people like our neighbors who are lighting up the world with their generosity and love despite the world falling apart in so many ways all at once.

 

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Around Albuquerque…

It has been the most full summer in awhile. The Middlebury program ended in July, then I participated in the 48 Hour Film Festival in Albuquerque (which was a lot of fun and a huge learning curve when it comes to writing), immediately thereafter I went to California for my mother’s birthday (an impromptu visit!), then a few weeks later she visited us in Albuquerque.

Not to mention July and August are filled with birthdays which happen on the same days in both of our families.

Here are some photos.

-a.q.s.

 

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Flamingos at the Albuquerque Zoo

 

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Sea Lions at the Albuquerque Zoo

 

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Although I have been to Botanical Gardens before, the one in Albuquerque has an entire section dedicated to healing herbs!

 

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Children’s Fantasy Garden in Albuquerque

 

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Magic Man at the Rail Yards Market in Albuquerque.

 

 

I also took my mother to Los Poblanos lavender farm around Albuquerque where we had lavender water and lavender gelato. You can read more about it here and see other photos here.

 

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All that is possible…

Busy days and nights. Reading more and more each day, wishing I had more time to re-read. Any email updates to anyone are fragments wanting to be poetry.

I was awestruck by this plant (see image below). I found it during a hike in the Bandelier National Monument park. The park is located near Los Alamos, about a 45 minute drive north of Santa Fe. As part of the “Nuclear Southwest: Literature and Film” course, taught by Dr. Jesse Aleman, we took a trip to Los Alamos where we visited the Bradbury Science Museum. There is much to process about the trip, the many nonfiction and fiction readings prior to the trip, the class discussions, and the new readings due next week. Besides, once processed, I actually have to do more than write a post about it so I better save my energy for that! After the trip some of us decided to continue the day and went onto White Rock, from there we took a shuttle to Bandelier. Here you can read about the park’s history etc. Here you can see many more amazing photos taken by professionals who specialize in such photography. I have a few to share and will do so later, perhaps via email update (for those subscribed).

 

Besides all kinds of other professional and academic growth, I am keenly aware of how the landscape here is serving as a suture for the past so as to experience the Stillness that leads to the future. I can’t quite articulate any of that for now but it is certainly happening.

 

Awed by that which grows so beautifully in the harshest of conditions, almost mocking humanity, as if it could be any other way. The desert is rich with life, abundant with contrasts, and reminds us of all the impossible that is quite possible.

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Summer of 2015: Bread Loaf School of English

Is there anything sweeter than June?

Of course there is. It is July and August! It is an entire summer dedicated to reading, writing, and being in a place where the exploring has no end.

Greetings from New Mexico!

 

In September of 2014 I sent an email to those subscribed in which I shared my extensive research related to MFA and Phd. programs and my reasons for not wanting to attend either. However, I mentioned that I was quite taken by Middlebury College’s graduate school, Bread Loaf School of English, for a variety of reasons, reasons that I didn’t share.

I didn’t think–didn’t have time to think–about any of it becoming a reality until February of 2015. Looking back on it, September of 2014 till February of 2015 is hardly any time in between but because of so much that happened in that short amount of time, it feels like lifetimes. In March of this year I had a very honest  exchange with the admissions director: I was not some teacher confused about what I “really wanted to do” when I grew up; I was extremely picky about workshops and such, having attended only two to date (one in Prague in 2011 before Auguries and one in March of this year hosted by the Andrea Brown Literary Agency in Big Sur); and my definition of “community” was very old school, basically sans the digital static; and the idea of more debt for yet another degree wasn’t exactly exciting. I was so taken aback by her patience, kindness, and sincerity regarding all my concerns, that I decided it was worth applying with all my  heart. Where there was one real human being there had to be others, right?

I began my personal statement essay with: “Are you a writer who teaches? Or are you a teacher who writes?”

I ended that essay as follows:

In February of this year I had the opportunity to present my work of last two years with my phenomenal students in a rural community in California at the CATE (California Association of Teachers of English) conference in San Jose. On the final day of that conference we were given a long quote by John Steinbeck, part of which I share now, the part that answered my question.

“I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. It might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.”

It is my hope that during each summer of attending Bread Loaf I will find a community of avid readers and learners, which will make me a better writer. My experience at Bread Loaf will be one of joy and it will help me be of service to my students. It would also provide for a shared reading experience that I would cherish beyond any classroom.

Essentially, if I was going to go back to graduate studies, I wanted the cake and I wanted to eat it too and that too without calories!

Ask and receive.

So, here I am. Very grateful for this opportunity to become a better writer by having a shared reading experience.

 

In other news, Vusi and I are almost done with www.realthinkingtree.com (it will be live in a few days! It’s has been a huge learning curve for me to create a digital platform like this and I couldn’t have done it without Vusi). I created it to share my reading and writing strategies with parents and educators as I continue to grow in this profession. I feel it is imminent that educators across the United States (and the world) utilize the Internet to share what they are doing (or what they are unable to do, even if anonymously) to help one another given what’s at stake here, the future. Here is an excellent post on the demise of the artist-teacher.  What makes www.realthinkingtree.com unique is that it is also a safe platform for students–from anywhere–to connect with each other (and with me) about their thoughts on reading, writing, and learning because students’ voices are missing from the learning conversation.  In order to make that possible, we had to review COPPA, a federal law that regulates activities of users under 13. COPPA requires parental consent before signing up on sites “that may attract children under 13”. In the past I have only worked with older students, but while I was living in California I had the unique opportunity to work with an amazing group of 5th graders. They will now be in 7th grade and in case they find me (many have!) and want to sign up I had to ensure it was done properly. What’s interesting is that both Fakebook and Twitter are able to bypass COPPA by stating that they are not platforms which attract children under 13. I wish that was true! More importantly, I wish there was better enforcement of these regulations given the dangers of younger folks signing up on social sites.

 

Finally, here is the podcast interview with Jessican Ann Media where I talk about writing, auguries, yoga, community etc. I have received some wonderful feedback about it and I am grateful for the opportunity.

 

Bread Loaf.

I am enrolled in two courses for this summer. The first course is “Nuclear Southwest: Literature and Film” and is taught by Jesse Aleman. I have been reading this assigned link as a warm-up to the background on the Atomic Bomb. The “interdisciplinary course examines the literary and cultural fallout of the atomic Southwest—a constellation of texts, images, and film that confront the nuclear era with protest, critique, fear, survival, and humor.” Last night I watched two assigned films, one of them was Trinity and Beyond (available on Hulu ) and the other was The Moment in Time: The Manhattan Project (available on YouTube). Both films show the uncertain days of the beginning of World War II when it was feared the Nazis were developing the atomic bomb and the migration of a group of nuclear scientists to Los Alamos where the first atomic bomb was detonated. I am very lucky that my in-laws, both in their 70s, are actually from New Mexico and have seen many parts of the state, including the changes to their hometown Santa Fe, which provides for another rare perspective not offered in a textbook or documentary film.

The second one is “Indigenous American Literature” and is taught by Simon J. Ortiz! I was first introduced to such literature by Prof. Bud Hirsch at University of Kansas. I have written–not as well as I can now– about that much younger self here (the shorter version, our first conversation) and here (the longer version, our last conversation before Prof. Hirsch died too soon). Reading these two older posts about an even younger time in my life brought tears of joy. I wish I could tell Bud that I am enrolled at Bread Loaf and I will be taking a class where we begin the session by reading the exact same book which I read with him, Ceremony by Leslie Mormon Silko. Silko is originally from Albuquerque and among many other well-deserved acclaims also  “self-published her multi-genre book Sacred Water: Narratives and Pictures (1993) under her own imprint (Flood Plain Press).”

Moreover, I wish I could tell him that his letter of recommendation didn’t just land me in law school, but because of that experience I met another great professor who became a wonderful mentor and remains a dear friend. That I had a lot of questions after his death but now I know I was never lost and he always knew that. Most importantly, I wish he could have met Jamie, my best friend, the love of all my lives, and I could tell him I finally “get” what he meant by a “love that just doesn’t quit, no matter what life throws at us, a love where you are in love always.”

His loss doesn’t make me sad like it once did. If anything, it confirms that there are no mistakes, and there is indeed some invisible trajectory following commands, whispers from our deepest chambers, that we can’t always hear.

So, I will be reporting from “The Land of Enchantment”, New Mexico, this summer. That is, when I am not reading and writing!

I am re-reading Fahrenheit 451 and other Bradbury stories again because I plan on teaching them. Re-reading Ceremony after over a decade. The rest of these are not Bread Loaf readings but my own! Hope I can do it! I am almost done with the Stinging Fly issue and it is fantastic.

Some photos from Santa Fe(e)

I have been busy editing. I have also been organizing and re-arranging the content of this website (mostly in my head) for Vusi, my amazingly creative (and patient!) website design creator. I have also been reading quite a bit.

But for now, I had some photos to share from Santa Fe from my visits there. I don’t doubt there are many better photos of Santa Fe that are closer to the stereotypical images associated with the city but this is what I have.

What can I share about Santa Fe? Also known as Santa Fake or  Santa Fee.

New Mexico is known as the Land of Enchantment. Or Entrapment. Depends who you ask.

 

the bronze

 

Those who have previously read my travel essays on the various cities I have visited know about my tendency (perhaps like most?) to describe cities as if they were breathing entities.

I would describe Santa Fe as a beautiful woman whose parents decided to force her to enter children’s beauty pageants so she grew up thinking how she looks is all there is to her.

 

Perhaps only when writing fiction can one ever claim to really know all there is to know about a city. I would never assert I know all there is to know about any area, unless I really do, and when I say I really do I have dissected and plunged into every nook and cranny of a city, turned over every neighborhood’s stereotype, and talked to a lot of strangers. A lot. This includes people who are visitors, transplants of years, locals of many generations, businesses, schools etc. It is important to speak to as many different people as possible in order to get the true feel and real deal on any city. Diversity of opinions are attractive until they are so subjective that they are useless, therefore gathering information requires a fine balance.

I can offer much about Lahore, Durban, Johannesburg, Kansas City, Lawrence, Paris, Prague, New York City because I have lived there and visited many times even when not a resident. There are many other places I have visited where I can co-share a subjective authority but only because I have talked to many others who live there.

 

I have had many occasions to visit Santa Fe for various reasons. The first time I visited Santa Fe was over a decade ago. My mother and I were driving from Kansas to California since my family had relocated to California and I was moving to New York City. It didn’t even register in our minds that passing through Santa Fe was a big deal in any way. We were not familiar with the city having much to offer other than adobe infrastructures, Native-American/Indian casinos, and a few wonderful stops to check turquoise markets (which happened to be outside of Santa Fe, so the one thing that we remembered and liked about Santa Fe wasn’t even in Santa Fe).

We weren’t so taken by the adobe homes which mesmerize most because that is all there was in the Middle East where I spent my younger years. The primary difference being adobes were not glamorized as they are now in Santa Fe for tourism; although, initially they were very much served a necessity to combat the heat and cold in the high desert of New Mexico.

Most people are impressed by Santa Fe because they are not used to so much open space, but having lived in Kansas, having explored Colorado on many occasions, this was not a  new landscape.

 

It was only a few years back that the name of this town was again in my stratosphere.  I was embarrassed to admit that I had never, ever, ever associated the place with “art” or having anything to do with art. I was informed that Santa Fe was the 3rd largest art market in the United States after New York City and San Francisco/Los Angeles. I concluded this is probably because I am not a fan of Georgia O’Keefe (who, by the way, is not even from Santa Fe, no different than most “established” artists who live there now, she too resided there because she had the financial resources) and I am not a collector of art as endorsed by the so called gatekeepers of mainstream art. I like what I like until I don’t.

 

Most people who come to Santa Fe do so on retreats related to art, writing, silence (yes, really!), spiritual, nature and anything you can possibly come up with. Seldom do they talk to locals.  Moreover, those who are managing or serving in hotels are not necessarily from there but just transplants working in the hospitality and tourist industry, the primary industry of Santa Fe. The city government does everything it can to ensure this continues, sometimes at the expense of local communities who have been there (and this includes Whites and non-Whites) long before others even knew about Santa Fe as more than a dirt town in the middle of nowhere.

In many ways Santa Fe serves as the extended backyard of Los Angeles’ wealthiest. After all, it is only a two hour flight from L.A.

Most people associate the following images with Santa Fe as per the churning of ‘what sells’ philosophy by the city’s business bureau:

“land of kokopelli” (A favorite character of mine too; it’s just that I am aware that there is more to Santa Fe than this icon!)

 

“come here and find peace you can’t anywhere else”

(although this was taken in Sunrise Springs, not quite in the city of Santa Fe, I just offer it as an example)

sleeping buddha

 

“unique art”

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“land of enchantment”

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and painting after painting after painting of sunsets, clouds, sky, sunrises, sunsets, clouds, sky, sunrises…

fire sky

and why not?

 

It is indeed true: the landscape is glorious and every single time a person looks at the sky (which is hard to miss) it takes one’s breath away.

This has much to do with having the cleanest air in the nation which also makes for a great retirement community which in turn offers very little besides a tourism industry.

Unfortunately, art gallery after art gallery offers much of the same. There is very little original or unique perspective, no real storytelling in the art other than what one is expecting given the myths and preconceived ideas associated with the city. All there is is that which will sell. And anyone with money can open up a gallery regardless of any talent or vision and any tourist with money will buy it so they can say they bought it in Santa Fe so it must be collectable art. This is not true of all of New Mexico but this atmosphere is particularly common in Santa Fe.

This wasn’t always so from what I am told. Once upon a time this was a thriving small town with tiny pockets of powerful opportunities for original creative pursuits for music and art. The aforementioned issues existed but they didn’t necessarily engulf avenues for others to do something different. However, in the last fifteen years, there are hardly any options for those who are actually interested in creating something different.

The above are the least of Santa Fe’s biggest problems. The city has only one main hospital which is known for not treating its employees fairly, especially nurses. The city is by and large owned by a handful of developers most of whom don’t even reside in New Mexico which makes for a very high cost of living for a city that size. This makes it very challenging for the people who were born there to continue living there. Most people who live in Santa Fe are not from Santa Fe.

 

 

Here is me holding a shadow in a bottle. : )

little things

 

Sunny day is a good day to observe frogs play some chess!

frog chess

 

This one was taken in Albuquerque back in September. We had a great time there with friends.

 

 

These are from Los Golandrinas in La Cienega (20 minutes outside of Santa Fe) which is breathtakingly beautiful and serene.

 

 

outside of santa fe

 

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only bookstore

 

 

A pensive me  (photo courtesy of The Wizard) who is always thinking there has to be a way to save cities from people who just don’t care where they are given the finite people who do but can only do so much on their own.

This was taken at a spot called Counter Culture. I don’t know what culture they are counter to for there was nothing alternative there and if anything they were counter to quality service. Most of the crowd there was from Los Angeles.

 

a thinking me; photo by my one and only

 

 

But trees, the trees remind me it will be okay.

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Note: Although I truly despise when blog posts at the end state a generic, “And what about you? How do you feel?” so as to generate comments for the sake of comments, I feel compelled to ask. In this instant I am genuienly curious if anyone who reads this has something to share about a place that doesn’t offer much to its local residents but is all about tourism first? Can that even be sustained? Curious, given in NYC the tourism industry is huge but it has much to offer the locals as well.