Week 23

 June 4, 2017 – SUNDAY

Photos: flowers, cotton snow balls, lunch

Surprise in Santa Fe: We had breakfast at a local ‘down home’ eatery, an establishment with ‘real’ art and kitsch. They sold fine wines and hard liquors. It was a cross between a high-end grocery store and 7-11. After breakfast we moved to the Inn on Alameda and walked downtown past open-air markets, and installations of art everywhere we turned. We visited the ‘Indian art market’ located under the covered walkway in front of the Spanish governor’s palace. And walked down side streets and into courtyards with vases full of bright paper flowers, multi-hued umbrellas / doors / windows / displays and even ladders. I bought a ‘rainbow’ hand-loomed poncho. We found a courtyard café, ate a leisurely lunch under a giant cottonwood tree, preceded, of course, with cold cocktails. I had coconut mango cold soup and JM a wasabi crab/avocado salad. We split a 5-way peach dessert. JM kept saying how he loved Santa Fe, loved it because of the adobe buildings, the bright colors, the food, the art …

Five years ago we were disappointed by Hawaii. It had been over-promoted. Perhaps we would have liked it more if the water temperature had been swimmable. We like the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico’s water for swimming, but the beaches of the Pacific we’ve visited have been too cold for a pleasant swim. Hawaii was visually attractive, yet we were not charmed by it. Santa Fe charms us. It is far more than we expected and we feel at home here. Our colorful home, if it were adobe, would be happy with its neighbors. We even have ‘snow’ in June. The cottonwoods drop ‘cotton’ as if it were snow. There are balls of it our on our balcony.

June 5, 2017 – MONDAY


Down to Earth: We drove to the mountains for a hike, a hike at 10,000 feet. We found hordes of ‘army’ caterpillars pulsating in giant ‘web-nests.’ I tried taking a video, but could not get my camera to record a movie. There were butterflies and flowers and a wide road to the top. We walked less than a mile. Out of breath, we turned around and headed back to the car. A couple we met on the way to the car were from Denver (the mile-high city). They said the altitude was too much for them because they had not yet acclimated to the altitude and they live at half the height of this place. JM and I returned to town, stopping for lunch on Museum Hill, then afterwards visited the Native Art Museum. We exchanged one kind of altitude for another, high meters for high art!

The museum complex on Museum Hill, its buildings, its layout, its sculptures are impressive, but we were more impressed with the exhibits than the buildings. Afterward the museum we visited the museum shop. I found a necklace I loved. It was hand painted pottery and multi-colored. The only color I love more than red is multiple bright colors. I inquired about the artist and the cost. It was selling for 4K. I knew it was nice, but it was nicer than my pocketbook! A table displayed dozens of colorfully painted feathered wood heads & birds. I found one head particularly appealing and photographed it. I checked the price, $200, and put it down without a word. Michael, who had been in another part of the shop, stopped by the table, picked up the piece I liked and bought it on the spot. He had not seen me look at it. I tried analyzing why I liked it more than the other similar pieces and decided that it was the only piece that was asymmetrical and that had drawn me: a horn on one side and ear on the other. I was surprised that JM bought it, but was, of course, glad that he did. It seems that in some ways we have similar artistic sensibilities. One contemporary Native American artist we both liked named Frank Buffalo Hyde painted conceptual art pieces, pieces with iPhone images of images, rather like the concept I conceived just months before at a jazz concert.

We had planned to spend the day hiking, but altitude being what it was we instead exercised our aesthetic natures. Dinner under yesterday’s big Cottonwood tree, selected by JM because the restaurant served sweetbreads — which he loves.   We usually exchange plates during the meal. That way we are able to taste twice as many different foods, but tonight, he shared not a bite saying, “I don’t get sweetbreads often and I like them more than you.” He does not know that, but I did not correct him, the man who, without knowing it, bought the wood head I dearly wanted.

June 6, 2017 – TUESDAY

Photo of $1,000 throw, church

Can this be true? We did our usual touristy thing, walking around town, visiting old buildings and squares, and photographing. We stepped into a Catholic church filled with art, and I thought of my Protestant background where churches had no art. Anti-Catholic sentiment stripped out not just the Catholic rituals but also the art. Life, for Protestants was to be simple and pure, based only on the Bible, that holy book, and so they removed art and complexity from their places of worship. My mother’s family had been high Lutheran (one grandfather a Catholic had priest brothers), Protestant, but not purist, and her childhood church had decoration and color and stained glass. I have an affinity for bright places and enjoy the color and iconography some of my ancestors abhorred.

While walking down retail lanes, I find a turquoise throw I love, a chenille body with a multi-color ribbon fringe. I want it, but we have a sofa in need of reupholstering and a concrete wall to build. I touch the throw – it feels as beautiful as it looks! – and photograph it and get the name of the creator, but do not buy it. It is still on display in the window when I walk past the shop in the evening. Oh, I desire it. Oh, I would have it.

We visit a spice shop to buy Southwestern spices for our cat sitter. It is the nicest spice shop we have ever seen. They have various vanillas, all manner of spices and pre-packaged spice blends and mixes, mixes to make mustards and gin and soups, sauces, nuts, dried corn. Loving foods as I do, the shop makes me want to open my own spice shop.

We walk along the river and notice that picnic tables are placed in a kiva – like shaped spaces. The plan is subtle and likely few notice. We walk on to Canyon Drive, a drive with more art outside of buildings than even the downtown area. There in one gallery JM finds a colorfully designed chest he’d like for our hall. I find tall metal and, yes, bright-colored garden stakes I want. We walk by a several-acre display of fountains and wind sculptures, sculptures whirling in the wind. I want a couple of the fountains and JM a couple of the sculptures. There are huge hunks of petrified wood and stone benches and building corner art and wall art and sculptures of every size and shape and we would have this and that and …. But we have neither space nor cash for the beauty we see and must be content with a photo of the objects we so covet. We’ve never been in a place where we desire so much, where we like the forms and color of building and objects as we do. Halfway up the street, we are overwhelmed and stop by a historic building, sit on a porch swing and look out onto the historic garden. The house and garden are of this place, but of its past. Nothing is for sale. It is a spot to simply enjoy the place and the time and the history and the beauty. We swing in the cool shade, delighting in the yellow columbines, as beautiful as any piece of art. They draw our eyes and the bees.

After a long day, we bath, dress up and meet our friends Matt and Lyle for dinner at the Compound Restaurant. The place itself beautiful, the meal goes on for hours with good wine, food and pleasant conversation. We have spent a delightful meal with kind friends, a delightful day from first to last in a sophisticated place which JM & I both like very much.

June 7, 2017 – WEDNESDAY

Photo of: park @ sunset through flags, street cat & canyon drive…

Our walk continued: Lunch at the Tea House on Canyon Drive under a fruit tree. (Surprisingly, stone fruit trees seem to thrive in this environment.) JM has wine and a pork / polenta soup. I have green tea lemonade with a lox bagel. Starting at the far end of Canyon we walk down the street towards where we ended the walk yesterday. In two days we’ve manage to walk both sides of the drive. In this place both art and architecture appeal to our aesthetic sense. The terracotta stucco palette and the painting of doors and windows are similar to those of our own home. We literally selected hundreds of colors and painted several dozens colors on our house before we got the colors and a combination we liked. We should have visited here first because the colors on Canyon Drive are very similar to those we selected.

For well over five years I’ve pondered staining our porch columns multiple colors. I have hesitated to do so. (Our one neighbor does not like our house colors, and I worry that she’d freak out if we add more color.) But one downtown art museum has multicolored SW columns. I love them and hope these columns have given me the courage to get out the paint! Walking by an old hotel, JM & I admired the lively painted bollards. The parking attendants heard us, invited us into the hotel and suggested we visit the lobby. We wanted to buy a cocktail, but decided to save it for another night.

At sunset we walked downtown. There were moments we could imagine the Santa Fe of centuries ago as we sat quietly in the square eating Haagan Daz ice cream cones bought at the Black Burro Café. Although we love our Oakland and SF Bay Area, California, there are things about Santa Fe we like better. I thrive on color and art and beauty, and here we walk though art and beauty and color all at once. We miss Lyle and Matt, but they did choose a beautiful place to live and perhaps if we had family ties to Santa Fe as Lyle does, perhaps we’d settle here too.

Lyle has beautiful roses. I’ve never been a fan of roses (although some are very hardy and we favor hardy) because, like hearts, I seem them as clichéd. Lyle has beautiful roses, and all over town one finds the beautiful climbing flower. What can I say. Who can argue with beauty?

June 8, 2017 – THURSDAY

PHOTOS of hanging peppers & G Ok

The most famous woman in town (or state): It took some doing but we found Abiquiu and the tour headquarters for the Georgia O’Keefe home. Her home is a lovely sculpted building with a most magnificent view out her bedroom window. To have fallen to sleep or to have awakened to such a scene would have inspired anyone to become an artist, or in her case continue into old age. All over her home, rocks. My artistic mother loved rocks and I do, too. We both had rocks all over our homes, but O’Keefe had even more rocks than both of us combined – perhaps rock indicates an artistic gene? As a child, I’d bring home rocks from trips and got upset when they, out of water, lost their color. I used to write on the rock where it was from, but found the writing did not stick, so as I love a rock, I often love it in spite of the fact I have forgotten its pedigree.

After visiting the O’Keefe home, we visited Ghost Ranch, the location of her other New Mexico home. She had an eye for beauty and an eye for choosing magnificent sites for her homes. She, it seems, needed to be surrounded by out-sized beauty. Even if one were not a fan of her art, surely they must envy where she made it.

My mother, who ended her life in Florida, woke early so that she could walk and enjoy the out-of-doors before the heat of the day. O’Keefe, we were told, did the same and likely for the same reason. In the afternoon, JM and I hiked a couple of miles up a high rocky path, but, as on other hikes since leaving home, we turned around before the trail ended, exhausted by the altitude and heat. We drank plenty of water, but the going still was rough. We met a young man who grew up in the SF Bay Area, hiking with his pre-teen son and he told us his young son would like to have walked more, but they were returning to the car so that his wife and daughter would not sit too long without them. Perhaps he was being considerate. (He did offer us bottles of his extra water, so that is likely.) And perhaps, unlike us, he needed an excuse to cut the hike short.  It was a hot day, hot beyond hot and those of us from sea level found the heat and the altitude together a challenge, and on this day we did not take up the challenge.

June 9, 2017 – FRIDAY

Photos: capital, old church, house, etc

Ending: Our last day in Santa Fe. We met Matt and Lyle at a touchy-feely museum; the objects in the ‘private’ collection are to be experienced up close and personal. They are there to be not just seen but touched. However, we found ourselves hesitant to touch, shaped by the restrictions of other museums, but we did touch some objects. Host Bruce gave us a personal tour of the museum and told us of its history and philosophy. We found him interesting and liked his comment, “Art depends on Audience.”

Earlier in the day we visited the Folk Art Museum on Museum Hill in which an exhibit collected by a single man filled an entire wing. He spent two years arranging the exhibits, folk stuff from all over the world. It overwhelmed us. We left after a couple of hours with sensory overload. My mother could spend an entire day (and I mean from opening to closing) in a museum. My brain cannot handle it. I burn out easily, too much beauty or information for my neurons. If I stayed longer I’d likely develop ‘Stendhal Syndrome’: “hyperkulturemia, or Florence syndrome, a psychosomatic disorder that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, fainting, confusion and even hallucinations when an individual is exposed to an experience of great personal significance, particularly viewing art.”

Early in the afternoon we took a leisurely walk around the state capital, which like the City it is in, was filled with art: art on walls; art in halls; art in the lobby; art on the grounds, riot of art. New Mexico’s capital makes California’s capital building seem barren by comparison and makes me want to increase our own capital’s art.

We visited the oldest house in the City, which is now a shop featuring art from the state, and the oldest church in the City. The guide claimed that it is the oldest church in the United States because the church in St. Augustine, Florida has not always been a church. Language is a slippery thing. The church is old, may not be the oldest in the US, but it is old and was built on top of an older Native American structure dating to 1300 AD. The structure itself is whitewashed adobe with a timber roof, but the pulpit end has a floor to ceiling brightly painted altar piece as well as painted furnishings.

Our last stop before dinner, a shop of a friend of our friends. It is a place of my dreams, walls of red and green and blue, cabinets of fuchsia and yellow on which are displayed objects of color and whimsy. I wanted the Noah’s ark, the possum with babies hanging from its tail, the long-eared rabbit, the rooster, and the blue cat carrying some strange prey. The shop specializes in Mexican, Central American and South American art, but, like so many places in Santa Fe, it is museum too.

Goodbye Santa Fe and our once Berkeley friends. We found it a memorable visit!

June 10, 2017 – SATURDAY

Frida & Santa Fe & painted desert & petrified forest

Obsessed with Frida: We leave on JM’s birthday, again this year spent on the road – South Africa four years ago, Germany three years ago, Nova Scotia two years ago, Normandy last year – on the road that leads home. YELP helped Michael locate a Flagstaff restaurant for his birthday supper, where we anticipated dressing for the occasion. We had plenty of time and decided to stop by the Spanish Colonial Museum to see a Frida Kahlo photo exhibit. JM is a BIG Frida fan. It did not disappoint, and he could not resist buying more Fridas for his ‘Frida shrine.’

We drove and drove though miles of beauty, beauty of wide open spaces, but the nature of those open spaces varied: vegetation different, soil color different, geology different and the sky in relationship to the earth different in each new ‘environment.’ Lunch was an ice cream cone. Other than that we drove non-stop until we took a detour at the Painted Desert / Petrified Forest National Park. We disembarked at each stop and walked around the overlooks. The vent of an ancient volcano is surrounded by red hills of the Painted Desert and although a desolate landscapes it has been inhabited for at least 13,000 years. Impressive.

We continued into the Petrified Forest National Park, stopping at petroglyphs – Newspaper Rock it was called because there are so many — with its friendly crow. We drive, we walk, we drive, we stop and at windy Blue Mesa we walk, walk for a few miles until we get thirsty. We forgot our hats and water in the car. Otherwise, finally acclimated to the elevation, we would have completed the loop. What were we thinking? How could we have started the hike without water? I suspect the beauty drew us. We followed the path, without thinking, simply because it was there and did so in spite of the fact that the wind blew wild, so wild that JM worried that it would carry some small children off the cliff. (Many of today’s photos displayed my blowing hair.). And the wind also created dirt-devils, spinning mini-tornadoes, which carried red earth hundreds of feet into the air.

We made it to Flagstaff and the restaurant shortly before the last seating. We, who had planned to dress in elegant attire, sat there in our sweaty clothes and my hair, knotted by the wind, gave me an ultra-casual look. JM said if we had ‘dressed up’ we’d have looked out of place. Most patrons were casually dressed, but less casually than us. The food was quite good. In fact, the bread was a good as any I have had anywhere. Well it was almost as good as the bread we ate in the south of Africa. We ordered cocktails and were glad to enjoy a respite after a long day.

The bill arrived and JM told the waiter it was wrong and he might want to correct it. Our drinks (cocktails and wine) had not been included. The waiter delivered the accurate bill prefaced by, “Wow! You are really honest!” We saw no need to ‘stiff the place.’ Thank you YELP for helping locate a great place for a special birthday meal. On the comment card JM wrote, “We are such god awful Cali food snobs, but even by our standards, fine food!”

We had taken more time that we likely should have in the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Parks, partially because years before we had arrived at the park late in the afternoon and a ranger swept us out of the park. If we stopped for a view, he’d come up behind and flag us on and because of that we saw little of the park, but we arrived at the exit about an hour before the park was to close (perhaps he’d had a long day). The ranger, it seemed, wanted all out of the park early maybe because he thought us ‘petrified wood’ hunters, because we were driving a rented car. Today there was no ranger hurrying us on and we stopped and hiked, but if we had remembered hats and water, we’d likely have walked further and never have made it to our lovely dinner. We would have liked hiking longer, but we enjoyed ending the day with Michael’s celebratory birthday dinner. “Happy birthday my love, my dear friend!”