Friday, June 7, 2013

Cellos, Chapels and Chemistry

My Santa Fe Saturday got off to a rare but welcome slow start - partly because it had become a late night the day before when I discovered there was no hot water in the guesthouse and I had to wait while the owner rushed over to relight the pilot light in the house.  (Okay so maybe there are some advantages to staying in a hotel instead...) 
There was no doubt where my first stop of the day would be - it was Farmer's Market Day at the Railyard!

This market was such an entertaining mix of locals and tourists.  I bought an apple cider icee (which turned out to be an enjoyable but very overpriced plastic cup with a small amount of apple cider and a large amount of crushed ice) and wandered through the crowd.  I stopped to appreciate the really beautiful music that came in many forms along the walkway.

The market had everything you could need whether you were in Santa Fe for a day or a lifetime.

And I do mean everything.

I didn't have a clear plan but I didn't want one - it was 75 degrees and sunny, a perfect day to unwind and just stroll. I was in search of the Georgia O'Keefe Museum when I accidentally stumbled into the Andrew Smith Gallery.  I am not typically an art person - I try, I really do, but if left to my own devices I usually go through art galleries at the speed of someone on their way to a big sale at a favorite store.  I'm a glance-and-check-the-box kind of art aficionado, but this gallery made me actually stay awhile and look appreciatively at  the collection.  It was largely made up of Ansel Adams photographs - he's one of my all-time favorites, and I've never quite gotten over the disappointment I felt when I learned the University of Arizona's  Ansel collection is almost entirely locked up in dark rooms somewhere.  Add in an old house with perfectly squeaky wood floors and some overwhelming Annie Leibovitz shots of naked celebrities, and you've got yourself a gallery.

After such a surprisingly pleasant art experience, the Georgia O'Keefe Museum was quite a disappointment. Note to self: when you're paying $10 to get into a gallery and everyone walking to the exit is confusedly saying "that's it?" you should put away your hard-earned cash and just go to the gift shop.  But I did love this quote above the entryway.

The Museum was a part of Santa Fe I had wanted to experience, so I ignored the complaining visitors, made the most of the very small collection of little-known paintings (not a flower painting in sight?!), and headed back downtown to see the Loretto, the other famous chapel near the Plaza.

The Loretto is no longer an operational church, a fact that gave the beautiful building a much more commercial feel.  The $3 required to get in was perhaps a silly use of cash but I did want to be able to say I'd seen the famous spiral wood staircase prominently located inside the chapel.  What I did not know was that the $3 would create an experience worth much more, merging me into a culture I love and seek out every chance I get.  Once inside the church I was completely surrounded by Hispanic families, pretending not to eavesdrop while picking out phrases and words from the too-small amount of Spanish I've learned since I fell in love with Cuba and appreciating the culture of the chapel more than I ever could have by reading a guidebook. 

Hunger finally drove me out of my happy companionship inside the chapel and back into the sunlight...once I finally found the exit that was located on the other side of a gift shop cluttered with cheap trinkets and overpriced candles.  When churches go commercial they really do it wholeheartedly. Lunch occurred at The Shed, a hopping joint that apparently is Santa Fe to both locals and visitors.  The 30-minute wait in the restaurant courtyard was entertaining due to the conversations and shoppers surrounding me, and though I ordered something that is apparently only semi-good off the otherwise great menu (note to self: order something more bold than red sauce enchiladas next time), I enjoyed the experience.  Now I am among those who knowingly nod and advise when The Shed is mentioned.

My enchilada-induced lazy afternoon in the Plaza was one of the highlights of my trip.  The live music was almost overwhelming due to the number of participants.  Instruments tuned as if an orchestra was preparing for a show, but without the unified effort or even a unified location.  Sounds came from many corners of the plaza and some musicians were invisible - I heard many but saw only a solo banjo player, plucking a happy tune, and a really beautiful young woman playing even more beautiful cello music.  I chose a bench nearby and listened raptly until she finished her repertoire and carried away her bulky instrument.

I pretended to read a book, but was happily distracted by the many sights the Plaza offered.  Colorful balloon sculptures had invaded a lamp post, tied there by the happy but likely insane man who created his inflated friends at an impressively pace.  A man did tai chi so quickly that it looked almost like karate.  Teenagers gathered, flirted.  The boys practiced skateboard jumps, perhaps even more socially awkward than the biochemistry professors who strolled by in groups when released from their conference being held in a hotel nearby. 

This pigeon and I spent time contemplating the scientific message on the sidewalk.

As I sat in the Plaza I was reminded of the first time I delved into writing about my travels.  It was in another neighborhood park, near Seattle's University of Washington.  I poured the details of each day's activities into e-mails to family.  I was in Washington seeking rest from a job that had zapped both my strength and my soul, and I had a willing audience in my grandmother, who assured me she loved every word I wrote and asked for more.  It has been years since she was with us but I could easily imagine her on the bench near me in Santa Fe, repeating her assurances that she couldn't wait to see what I'd write and experience next.


  1. You made me feel like I was right there with you, Bethy...walking alongside you, eating red sauce enchiladas and enjoying a cello solo. I felt relaxed and serene on our journey. :O) If the state ever has a budget, I'm outta here for a while...traversing the Arizona landscape somewhere. You inspire me.

    1. That made my day, Monica - thank you! I am eager for the end of session for countless reasons but now I'm even more excited - can't wait to hear about your adventures!

  2. We just arrived here and are using your blog as our guide! First order of business at the B&B was to turn off the AC and open the windows! It's so beautiful here! XOXO Jeff


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