So here I am sitting on a plane at 35,000 feet winging my way home from Santa Fe, New Mexico. The week we just spent there (we being David and I and my sister Fran and brother-in-law Ed) was part of my birthday celebration. Before I share what I’ve learned on this trip I want to tell you that Santa Fe has just got to be one of America’s best-kept secrets (until perhaps today when I’ve shared this amazing place with all of you). What’s so great about it? Well, being a Leo, I’ll start with the sunshine and the sky. There’s a kind of blue in the sky that I’ve never experienced anywhere else and the clear, crisp air which is almost always filled with sunshine … well, it just lifts my spirits. Not surprising at all that this is a haven for artists. The hiking is incredible, taking you through high desert red-rock mountains and canyons that often lead to the Rio Grande. I am embarrassed to say that this time (we were there a few years ago too; will definitely go again) I was just at the very start of a hike when I missed a step, fell to the ground, and ended up spending the day seeing doctors, getting x-rays, and sporting a lovely new splint on my ankle – which was the end of hiking for this trip. You can spend days and days wandering in and out of art galleries; my favorites were the huge wind sculptures not to mention the sculptures that you see pretty much everywhere you go, from the ones carved out of dead tree trunks to the ones that just cry “try this! try this!
And then there’s the food; every meal was an incredible adventure in tastes and textures … often accompanied by!”
the best Margaritas (at Gabriel’s … comparable to anything you’ll drink in Mexico) or the best Mojitos (at El Farol, as yummy as the ones I had years ago in Havana at the La Bodeguita del Medio bar (an Ernest Hemmingway favorite) you’ll find in the US. The highlight this trip was two amazing evenings at the Santa Fe Opera (saw Don Giovanni and La Traviata … want to go back next year to see Madama Butterfly); it’s an open-air theatre and as you sit waiting for the opera to begin you can see the sun setting behind the surrounding mountains. All breathtaking. If you’ve never been to Santa Fe, do put it on your travel list if you can. But it wasn’t just about what we did/ate/drank/saw; the truly best parts for me were the insights I gained along the way. I wouldn’t have thought that architecture could teach me something about life, but it did … and I’d like to share that with you. It’s about adobe!
One of the beauties of Santa Fe is that almost every building is adobe (in fact there’s a city bylaw that requires this and limits buildings to two stories in height). As we drove around, Fran and I kept commenting on how much we loved the look – and feel – of adobe. Part of the beauty of it is definitely its inobtrusiveness; and that was the first thing that flashed as insight. The purpose in life isn’t to “stick out”; reminded me of something that I used to teach my education students … teachers should be the guide on the side not the sage on the stage. Of course this blending in is done without losing the integrity of the structure or the beauty or the functionality. Indeed, becoming “one with the world” is an over-arching goal for me … one that’s reflected in this architecture I think.
But I knew there was something else that drew me to these buildings and it took hours of gazing at them before I understood what it was. The edges are soft. One wall eases gently into the next. No rough corners. Nothing brittle or cold-hearted. There’s an ease and a warmth in the transition from one part of the building to the next.
So I think I’ll spend some time trying to figure out how to leave some of my western hard-edged nature behind and … maintaining what I think is beautiful and warm in my being … cultivate some softer edges.
One last very sweet – and funny – anecdote from this trip. On our last day there – given that my ankle injury limited our hiking capacity – we headed off for a drive into the Jemez Mountains and to Spence Hot Springs. After walking about 15 minutes (down hill and then up again) we came to two natural hot springs; the higher one at 108 degrees, the lower at 96 degrees. We’d already put on bathing suits so we just lowered ourselves into that hot, health-giving water and began to talk with our fellow voyagers who were enjoying this blissful day. We told them how much we loved New Mexico and how lucky they were to live here. They agreed, and then one of them said: “But if you want to ever be a New Mexican you’ll need to lose those bathings suits”. Hhhmm … very brief pause. “Done” says I, and David soon follows suit. We sat there – the five of us – talking about weather and politics and life and – inevitably – education. Turned out that one of our fellow-soakers teaches at the University of New Mexico and before we parted I’d left her my card and she said she hoped I’d be able to come to UNM and give a talk. I can’t help but wonder what it will be like to meet her again – clothed this time.