Tuesday, August 28, 2007

ECM : The label that keeps on tickin'

I spent the night last night listening to some of my old vinyl with one of my sons.
I am inevitably drawn to the seventies music of the ECM label. Manfred Eicher was a genius about identifying amazing musicianship in its infancy. He gave a working recording platform to many different astounding musicians and had the ear to record them in multiple and varied combinations. His work with Eberhard Weber; Ralph Towner: Miroslav Vitous; Steve Kuhn; Jack DeJohnette;Dave Holland; Jan Gabarek; John Surman and others is still a joy to my ears and some of the most creative music to this day. I tip my hat off to him for the wealth of music he has allowed us to have the pleasure to experience and share with the next generation.

Friday, August 3, 2007

A Santa Fe Journey & the Bee House on Baca Street

& The Bee House on Baca Street

By Ralph A. Miriello ©2007

In a never ending quest to determine where we may someday like to settle for the next phase of our lives, my companion, Stefania and I decided to take a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico recently. We decided that after raising seven children between us we would start to plan how we might actually spend our coming years in an environment that was sympathetic to our own sensibilities.

Stefania is an intuitive, a shaman, an accomplished feng shui practitioner and foremost a healer and she has long found the New York metropolitan area to be somewhat lacking if not devoid of the soul and spiritual connection that allows for acceptance of what she does and how she sees things. I myself aspire to much less. I am a builder who has done his share of participating in the unchecked growth and economically driven development of the tri state area over a thirty-year career. Despite my recent conversion into trying to encourage and develop building in a more “green” and eco friendly way, I have viewed myself as part of the problem and not yet part of the solution to the deteriorating quality of life we are experiencing in this area. I hope to become an active agent for change going forward.

We both however, have seen the light and have made a conscious effort to try and discover a place where the next leg of our journey could be more comfortably traveled in a way that would be more true to our reclaimed sensibilities. To this end my partner chose a trip to Santa Fe where we would also combine the trip with a visit from her brother Marco and sister-in-law Sylvia who were to meet us there from Los Angeles.

I must admit to being less than overwhelmed with her choice of destinations to explore. This is not to say that I had no desire to see the place. In fact the timing couldn’t have been more fortuitous. I had just finished a book Blood and Thunder that was predominantly about the mountain man and western scout Kit Carson, who made his home in Taos, New Mexico. The story is filled with references to various points of interest like that include Santa Fe Trail and Taos, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the surroundings, so I felt somewhat connected, at least from the historical point of view. I had never been to the desert except for a one time drive through Nevada, on the way to Las Vegas, as part of a coming of age cross country adventure that I had done with my best friend Doc in my early twenties. Neal Cassidy had nothing on us. Stefania’s motives were certainly purer; she had long read various articles about the people of Santa Fe and their affinity to be slightly ahead of the curve in matters of spiritualism, energy conservation and a more holistic approach to health and well being. She was anxious to find a place where her natural gifts were honored, where the climate was a bit more temperate and where the cost of living was more affordable. With this in mind we made our way to the one of the oldest cities in North America.

Santa Fe is the third oldest surviving city established by Europeans in North America behind Jamestown, Virginia in 1607 and St. Augustine, Florida in 1565. It is the oldest capital city in North America established, as such, by the Spanish in 1610. It is also a city of altitude with an elevation of 7320 feet above sea level. This unique combination of a seasoned past, elevation and the stark quiet of the desert give it a charm and identity all its own.

After disembarking our flight from Liberty Airport in Newark to Albuquerque International Sunport in New Mexico at 12:30 am, we spent the night in a pedestrian but adequate Courtyard by Marriot. The next morning, a courtesy breakfast of OJ, toast, Cheerios and coffee in our bellies, we rented a modest Suzuki sedan and made our way toward mystical Santa Fe. Santa Fe lies directly on I25 approximately 67 miles or a little over an hour from Albuquerque. The late June day was unseasonably hot and yet the humidity was nowhere to be found. The net result was a comfortable, sunny drive through the high desert between the two most major cities of New Mexico. On the way we were struck by the lack of trees that we are so accustomed to in the northeast. In its place the desert expanses offered, pinion pine and sage and a rustic, craggy geography comprised of multi-hued reds, oranges and browns. On the ride up we also became aware of the large Native American presence, which was amply represented by the various tribes that comprise the New Mexican population, and the conspicuous presence of their individual reservation territories with their thriving gambling casinos. The influence of the strong Spanish heritage was also evidenced by the customs, language, foods and architecture throughout.

As we climbed in elevation, Albuquerque is 2000 feet lower than Santa Fe; we could see the sacred mountains in the distance. Santa Fe is bound on the west by the Rio Grande Trench and to the north and east by the Sangre de Cristo or “Blood of Christ” Mountains. Further to the north and deeper in the mountains about an hours drive from downtown Santa Fe lies Taos, known for its fine skiing, its cottonwood and aspen forest, part of the Carson National Forest and a breed of settlers that are seemingly a world apart from the rest of the state.

We make our way into downtown Santa Fe with our GPS firmly stuck to the windshield of the Suzuki and are surprised to find it a perfectly manageable city. By the crowded standards we are familiar with back home as our guide, it’s a pleasure to be able to navigate through this quaint city without ever feeling threatened by huge traffic jams or unruly, pugnacious drivers rushing to get somewhere. We perceive courteousness, even on the roads during rush hour (hardly a rush) and that immediately puts us at ease despite our lack of knowledge about the intricacies of the various highways and byways we must navigate through. After taking a short tour of the downtown and viewing some of the older, pueblo style adobe buildings that still stand, we approach the rail yard section of town, a seemingly bohemian area that appears to be in the throes of somewhat scattered but current development. Our navigational tool directs us to Cerrillos and then to our destination street Baca, where we have rented a house by the nom de plume The Bee House. At first we are somewhat surprised by the shabby appearance of some of this neighborhood. These are obviously older homes built in the Pueblo style with adobe walls and flat roofs. Some are well kept little jewels that have been tenderly restored maintaining their original charm while others seem to have borne the worst for wear. With remnants of rusted cars in driveways and pick up trucks left to rot on scraggy red dirt yards littering some of these neighborhood houses we felt like Stefania’s brother Gianmarco who had made the arrangements had perhaps made a mistake by securing our lodging over the Internet. After finding our way to the address listed, we parked our Suzuki in a dirt driveway that was adjacent to a curve in the winding road. With a little trepidation we got out of the car and knocked on the door to the little adobe cottage that was supposed to be the Bee House. The screen door was open and there was no one around. We had called ahead to the proprietor who had been freshening up the place as we drove into town, so she knew we were close. We assumed she had left it open for us and proceeded to inspect the place with a somewhat jaundiced eye. Much to our delight the place was immaculate. After riding through the area we expected to be as disappointed with the place much as an on line dater is usually disappointed with their first date with the next Cate Blanchette or Keanu Reeves look a like. The rooms, the kitchen, the bedrooms, the bath, the kiva style fireplace and the living room all looked consistently like the photos we had seen on the Internet and didn’t give us pause to think we had been mislead. The fact that the proprietor had left the house opened also gave us reason to believe that our first impressions of the neighborhood might have been a bit too hastily developed.

Satisfied that we could safely and comfortably make this our camp for the next few days we began to unload the baggage from the little Suzuki. Soon we were greeted by the proprietor a cheerful woman in her early forties, dressed casually in khaki pants and a short-sleeved blouse. She introduced herself as Amy. Soon Marco and Sylvia arrived from the airport in their own rented car and after hearty hellos and a careful inspection of pregnant Clyvia’s bulging belly we settled in and chose rooms.

After a sincere hearty welcome, Amy showed us around her unusually pleasant little rental including a brief explanation as to where to find fresh towels and sheets and how to operate the laundry. She also gave us a brief tour of her backyard where she had percolating four active beehives and so the name The Bee House. The hives were not like any I had seen before; no rounded mounds as pictured on my Golden Blossom honey jars.

Her hives were comprised of corrugated metal over what appeared to be old metal washtubs and Amy explained they were similar to the ones used by African beekeepers. She assured us that the bees were perfectly docile and that we should not be expected to find them a bother at all during our stay, which was comforting. She also informed us that she was residing in the other adobe home a mere fifteen yards directly behind our rental unit and that she could be within shouting distance if we required anything or needed to ask her directions. This at first seemed disconcerting but we soon found her close proximity to be nothing but delightful and her local knowledge an invaluable resource.

We found Amy to be a very gracious innkeeper. She provided us with some honeycomb dripping with fresh honey from her hive the next morning and we anxiously devoured the sweet gooey, light amber nectar with a little bread at breakfast time. She also turned out to be a fascinating wealth of information, about the area, about bees, about good and inexpensive restaurants and strangely enough about the growing movement of fellow concerned residents with environmental sustainability and building methods. She was a part of an organization called the Bioneers, a local group dedicated to environmentally responsible living as well as a student of adobe and other construction techniques specific to the area. This I found particularly interesting being a builder myself. In fact this was one of the underlying reasons why my companion and I were so interested in exploring this area. We wanted to see what progressive people were doing in these areas of sustainability, energy conservation and holistic living. After Marco got up early and brought back some coffee and fresh baked pastries much to the delight of the rest of our crew we were ready for our first day’s adventure.

I had previously done some research prior to planning our trip and was interested in seeing how they did things here in Santa Fe compared to the methods we employ back east. We took a ride to see a development that was recommendation of friend. Las Campanas or “The Bells” is a high-end residential golf oriented community perched a few miles northwest of the city. The facilities include private stables, a swimming pool and cabana with well appointed eating and drinking facilities and several gated communities within an approximately 5000 acre development all surrounding a professionally designed golf course. The homes have to meet certain design criteria and while it is not fully built out presently, the development has been substantially completed enough to provide the owners with a sense of community while still maintaining its exclusivity.

Stefania and I made a visit and we were accompanied by a knowledgeable, firecracker of an agent, named Johnnie who took us through some of the various options that could be available, from building sites to pre-built homes. As it was late in the day, our tour was a somewhat hurried but quick overview. I was particularly impressed with some of the high end finishes that were apparent in some of these elegant homes; diamond finish plaster walls and ceilings, adobe like exteriors of different hued stuccos, heavy solid wood doors, arched openings, traditional wood slat & beamed ceilings, and the traditional flat roofs with abundant skylights were some of the features we found. The use of traditional trim around doors and windows, baseboards at floors and crowns at ceilings are all refreshingly foreign to this type and style of construction.

What I found particularly unsettling; however was the lack of any energy star rated homes within the development. When asked about the employment of solar, geothermal or other more advanced energy conserving methods, Johnnie felt it was something that people who bought here were not terribly concerned about. Being an energy star accredited builder myself I found this lack of awareness somewhat contradictory to what I had heard about New Mexico and frankly disappointing.

I took a moment to sit silently in the back yard on a covered veranda of one of the houses that were for sale. The yard overlooked a fairly wide hollow of sage and craggy rock outcroppings with matching houses across the hollow sharing a similar view back towards us. I was taken by the serene but stone cold silence of the place and it sent me away thinking, that while Las Campanas was a stunningly beautiful, urbane and exclusive project, this was not the type of living that would draw me to New Mexico.

The next day we took a fifty-minute drive up to Taos. We stopped at Kit Carson’s home, which was smack in the middle of town and a bit of a disappointment to me. Kit was one of the first mountain men and scouts of any notoriety and to think of his home, once on the border of the great western wildness, now in the center of a developed downtown was a bit anticlimactic for me! After driving a short distance out of town we came upon Taos Pueblos and strolled leisurely through the Pueblo Village there, with its Native American artisans and rustic adobe structures. The village is said to be one thousand years old and the old buildings were surprisingly, still being used by artist to work from and in some cases live in while also serving as a tourista destination. We walked from one abode to the next checking out the various offerings. Native jewelry of silver and turquoise was in predominance but we also saw beautiful tribal drums made from the trunks of cottonwoods and aspens and strung tight with the skins of Elk, Deer or Cow. The larger the drum the deeper the sound, with some simulating the deep tonal utterances of the booming thunder of an afternoon storm, and others the short shallow ping of an woodpeckers peck on a hollow cottonwood. We came across a marvelously talented native potter who specialized in horsehair decoration fused into his classically fired vessels. His name was Tony Mirabel, not a particularly Native American sounding name to my way of thinking, but none the less a name that was common amongst several artists that we visited. Tony’s work was authentically individual and the pride he displayed in his work was obvious. He was at first somewhat aloof not really paying much attention to the tourists that milled in and out of his shop. We discovered he was a Pueblo Indian and he told us that clay pottery that like he makes was not indigenous to his people, an honest revelation. After engaging him in some conversation about his works and marveling at the delicate details of his horsehair applications he warmed to our presence and got up from his bench from where he was working in the back of his shop. He saw the Greenwich Motor Car Show emblem on my souvenir, red Mercedes baseball cap and mentioned that he had many clients from Greenwich, CT. “They don’t even ask the price.” He offered. I smiled and said we were not to be mistaken for those people. We both laughed. We did however find a beautiful and affordable small vase that my companion was especially fond of and I purchased it for her. We continued our conversation and he recommended the best drum maker in the village, his cousin, another Mirabel. My shamanic companion was in search of a particular sounding drum for use in her ceremonies. Before we left Tony graciously permitted me to take his photograph standing in the threshold of his arched adobe studio doorway bathed in the shadowy backlight of his op skylight. I noticed that even here the skylights were secured with burglar bars to prevent intrusion, a somewhat disappointing reality. His picture captures his solid, craggy, unmistakably Native American persona, beautifully framed by his adobe studio surrounded by his art and memorializes for me the artist to the piece of his work that we purchased.

After a wonderfully simple but authentic lunch at Mike’s kitchen, a local favorite haunt in Taos, we rode out to see Spaceship Earth. This is an area out near the Rio Grande Gorge, which we also had the pleasure to visit. We arrived just minutes late to take the last tour, but we saw enough on our own to see what all the fuss was about. The area features at least a dozen or so homes in a relatively stark desert like landscape. Each home, in their own individual and somewhat odd way, incorporates recycled materials in their construction while being purportedly designed to have minimum impact on the environment as well as being energy efficient. We saw houses made with recycled bottles and aluminum cans, recycled tires and other normally discarded products. Most structures were partially dug into the earth to both minimize their heat loss in winter and heat gain in summer and to be relatively unobtrusive in their visual impact n the serene desert environment.

Spaceship Earth is indicative of Taos and the people this mountainous maverick town attracts. Check this out for more info.(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2KYJ0dsd-x0).
The beautiful mountains and fauna of the Kit Carson National Forest surround the area; of which the famous ski resort is just a part. The people who settle here are known throughout the State as being a breed apart. Part rugged western individualist; part environmental activist; part outdoorsy oriented adventurers; Taos emoted this very special feeling in all of us.

On our return trip we stopped at the Rio Grande gorge, which was somewhat of a surprise. The gorge itself was a deep chasm that was obviously the result of millennia of water carving its way through the reddish brown mountains that run adjacent to the river. The gorge was impressive in its depth and length. The myriad of colors that patterned the cascading walls spoke of layer upon layer of different eras buried long ago, only to be exposed by the endless powerful cutting force of the once driving river. The historically famous river meandered below, in my judgment, at least fifty feet from the top of the gorge and seemed like a faint remembrance of the powerful river that once was

On the way back to Santa Fe we again stopped in Taos. The girls wanted to view the shops and pick up gifts for the children back home while I went in search of an authentic western belt for one of my sons and a handsome but manly Native American crafted silver ring for another. After we had checked out the stores we were interested in we darted our way through an afternoon shower to a combination art gallery/café for some long deserved refreshment. The place had a wonderful open-air courtyard that was covered with wild indigenous flowers and the sweet aroma of sage was in the air. Since it was still raining we settled in a corner table overlooking the courtyard and immediately ordered our margaritas. Stefania declared these margaritas to be the best of the trip and we sampled some light fare, which was equally delightful before we made our way back to Santa Fe. I questioned the waitress who appearance reminded me of the punk rockers from the lower east side of New York City and asked where she was from. She was a transplanted Californian who had traveled extensively; made her way to Taos but was now thinking of going to spend some time in Europe. She was a teacher when she wasn’t plying her trade as a waitress. We asked what she thought of the New Mexico and Taos in particular? She offered that Taos was one of the only places she had lived in that she would consider returning to settle. We all thought that this was a pretty strong validation of what were we all feeling.

We made our way back to Santa Fe and with the windows on our Suzuki wide open and with the endless fields of sage flanking the road for miles on both sides, we were pleasantly treated to the powerful aroma of this sacred herb wafting through the car.

The next day we proceeded to explore the old plaza in downtown Santa Fe. There we strolled by the Cathedral of St. Francis and by the many stores and restaurants that were in abundance on the various side streets. Stefania wanted to look at the local Native American street market, where Native artisans from around the state displayed Indian artistry. We found one particularly authentic artisan, whose work was especially appealing and listened intently as he described the “medicine” that goes into each and every one of his spiritually inspired pieces. His name was Roddy Lee Guerro from Albuquerque and he described himself as half Apache and half Navaho in ancestry. He explained how his father taught him the medicine of his people’s history and how he eventually came to appreciate that it was his duty to pass this tradition on through his work in silver and stones. He in turn passed the trade on to his daughters and they now all simple blanket, the blanket creating the borders of his small patch of space amongst the flanking other Native artisans that were on either side.

He explained how much of the jewelry displayed in many of the stores were
products made in Mexico and often not made by authentic Native American artisans as
sometimes purported. We found out that he and the others had typically stood on line
each morning for hours waiting to be chosen by lottery for the fifty or so spaces
designated to Native American artisans for the coveted open-air market spaces. Often
times he and others were sent away with out a spot despite some traveling from hours away. His jewelry showed design features that embodied Native American themes and his polished turquoise and other stones were carefully chosen for their unique graphic beauty and wonderful colors; and of course there was the magic that was part of his work that was missing in others. His medicine that he had been inspired to infuse in his art through his ancestral heritage was his work’s defining quality.

We were unprepared to spend the kind of money that his work commanded that morning but we told him we would return the next day flush with cash, unfortunately for us, Roddy was one of those artisans who were sent home the next day for lack of space.
My overall impression of the open-air artists market was one I realized of sadness.
Few of the artisans appeared to have the quiet majesty and absolute sense of pride that Roddy had exhibited to us. Most seemed to be quixotically following a pattern that borders on victimization subject to the whims of tourists who are blinded by the true nature of the people behind the craft. I know this will sound like a somewhat cynical view of the artists market but it resembled in my mind an extension of the images of displaced indigenous peoples trading hard earned goods for trinkets outside of an old Army Fort.

Santa Fe offers a variety of wonderful eateries and fine restaurant dining some of which we had occasion to visit. No trip to the plaza is complete without a visit to the famous La Fonda hotel on San Francisco Street where margaritas are always in order. One afternoon we made our way to this grand landmark and tried to have a drink in Bell Tower overlooking the plaza. Unfortunately for us the Tower was closed until later on in the afternoon and we wound up settling for a couple of icy margaritas and some cold Negro Modelos with some chips and salsa in the lobby bar. The central courtyard dining area was basked in sunshine and had a wonderful open air feeling to it surrounded by a bustling wait staff and decorated with local floral arrangements. We attempted to get a table to enjoy our drinks but were told that we had to eat lunch there to be seated. Since we had already eaten and were only interested in the ambiance and drinks we made our way to the accommodating but more subdued bar. We also made our way to the large adobe like fireplace at the far center of the lobby and delighted in taking pictures at this landmark location.

On another evening we made our way to a Middle Eastern restaurant that Sharveen, a friend of my companion’s brother and now a resident of Santa Fe, took us to in his monster truck of a Ford pickup. The foreboding look of the vehicle with its air shocks elevating it so high that you could envision the driver dropping a rope ladder down to the curb to allow you entrance into its cab posed an especially funny scene when Gianmarco and I had to hoist Cylvia, seven months pregnant, into its elevated rear cab. Despite the truck’s loud rumble and diesel exhaust as well as its ominous dark window tint, we were surprised to find out that this unlikely vehicle, a renegade from a Mad Max movie, was really an eco-friendly if not totally practical form of transportation. It seems that Sharveen, being a stunt driver for movies and commercials, had this truck outfitted to burn vegetable oil, a tank of which he carried in the back bed, and when that wasn’t available there was always the local bio-diesel station! I marveled how very cool this was as we made our way to his Middle Eastern treasure of a restaurant. There in a shopping center storefront was a little gem of a restaurant, Cleopatra Café, where we all had wonderfully fresh hummus and pitas as well as other traditional Lebanese and Greek dishes.

On another occasion we had dinner at the Zia Diner Restaurant, an Amy pick, where we experienced home style cooking from a wide varied menu that included one of my favorite’s homemade meat loaf. Eggs any style were also the order of the day; all in all a pleasant and affordable experience. We closed the place at 10:00 pm (this ain’t New York people)and the staff while all ready to leave for the evening never rushed our departure.

Amy, our beekeeper/hostess, also suggested that we reserve one night to go to Tomasitas, a local Mexican restaurant that is know for its generous portions, good food and pleasant atmosphere. We were not disappointed with the food, the service or the atmosphere. The place is a converted railroad station in the now trendy rail yard section not far from our Bee House lodging. The fare is Mexican with good margaritas and a neighborhood family atmosphere. This was the one time however during our entire stay that we encountered an extremely unpleasant person. I had been commenting to my party that the one overriding factor that most impressed me about the Santa Fe area was the overwhelmingly friendly and accommodating response we all received from all the people we met.

We had found generous and friendly people all through our stay from the president of the Santa Fe local chapter of the Homebuilder Association, with whom I had prearranged a meeting and who spent some of his gracious time discussing the building opportunities in the area; the various Native Americans we met at the Pueblo Village or at our trip to the chapel at Chimayo; or the transplanted artist couple that ran a remote but surprisingly urbane art gallery of wood carvings and metal sculptures on a remote road half way between Santa Fe and Taos, in Las Truchas. Universally everyone was extremely kind, not pushy or overly aggressive and seemingly genuine. That was the case until we came across this dour patron at Tomasita’s, who we had the misfortune of sitting adjacent to. When we arrived at the restaurant we had a party of seven. It consisted of my companion Stefania, Gianmarco, Cylvia, Marco’s friend Sharveen and his wife Marianne, and their five year old daughter Tuesday. Tuesday was a little cranky and tired and like all young children a bit noisy, but not demonstrably so. Tomasita’s is a nice restaurant but by no means an exclusive, stuff shirt type of place where occasionally cranky children should be expected as a normal possibility. Despite Marianne and Sharveen’s best efforts the little girl was somewhat agitated. This behavior apparently caused the elderly lady next to us an undue amount of grief. With a dour look on her face as she sat tellingly alone eating her dinner, she began to uncomfortably stare at us in a mode bordering on disgust. She then told Marianne that she should control her child more in a restaurant and not allow her to disturb other people’s dinner. This was too much for Sharveen who until then had been trying to accommodate his fellow diner’s peace by walking Tuesday and keeping her occupied away from the table most of the time. Her obvious lack of understanding and continued complaints made us all the more hostile, with all of us exchanging menacing glances and occasionally some words. She eventually left but not without staring us down and complaining to the manager on her way out. He promptly told her that she was in a family restaurant and shouldn’t come here if she was unable to cope with children. He then came over to our table and apologized for her behavior which we found extremely gratifying. This reaffirmed our opinion that Tomasita's was as a fine place to eat and imbibe.

As I alluded to before we had also made a trip to the sacred holy chapel at Chimayó,
which is twenty-four miles north east of Santa Fe, along Route 76, sometimes called
“the high road to Taos”, in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.Chimayó is the location of a
shrine and a destination for many hopeful people with various aliments who go there in
search of their faith and sometimes a cure. Built around a well where according to tradition a crucifix was mysteriously discovered on three separate occasions after being transported from miles away, the chapel in this slightly remote mountain village, is a small but charming church with a small area set aside to the left of the altar where the well is now housed in a shrine like room. The walls outside the well chamber are lined with pictures, crutches, canes and offerings from many believers that have come to the chapel and been cured of their maladies. The small room housing the well is where patrons go with plastic bags in hand to scoop up the sacred dirt from the very location where the crucifix was first found back in 1810. We dutifully took some time to pray in the chapel and as is her tradition, Stefania lit several candles for all those she chose to so honor. We then proceeded to the well were we were forced to stoop below a short archway into the little chamber that housed the well. We were not alone and patrons dutifully waited in line to get to the well, say their offerings and scoop some of the healing dirt that is so coveted by the believers. When our turn came we bent down to the side of the well where a convenient garden hand shovel was provided and we filled up our plastic containers with the magic dirt. I felt strangely moved to say a few quiet prayers and took my little piece of this New Mexican earth as a remembrance. Despite my reticence to believe in such things, I found myself taking some of the earth and spreading it on my knees, over areas that were subject to chronic aches, somewhat hopefully, all the while wishing no one was watching. It occurred to me that with all the dirt that has been removed from this location since 1810 by cure seekers, the seemingly inexhaustible supply must either come from some other source or is miraculous replenished as the wine was at the Canaan feast, but I chose not to dwell on this incongruity. The little town of Chimayo is also know for its particularly prized chili peppers and we could not leave without taking a bag of the potent powder.

Toward the end of our stay we went to explore the artist gallery section of Santa Fe off Canyon Road, which lies to the east of the downtown plaza area. Apparently, Santa Fe is home to the third largest assembly of art galleries behind New York and San Francisco, and most of them wound up nestled, neatly along the Canyon road corridor. Stefania having once been exhibited artist herself was particularly interested in the kind of work that could be found in the galleries.

We had made plans to meet Sharveen and Marianne at a place called the Teahouse on Canyon Road. The place was a local neighborhood café that offered a myriad of fine aromatic teas from around the world, as well as coffees, and snacks. We chose to sit in the lovely outside rock garden under the shade of a large tree. This is what Starbucks should aspire to. The inside was bright and wired for Internet; locals were perched at various tables with their laptops while other more relaxed patrons enjoyed the ambiance and aroma of the Teahouse. Stefania and I found the area around Canyon road to be one of the most appealing neighborhoods in Santa Fe. The feel of the area exuded a sense of community while at the same time being a somewhat private neighborhood where one could walk to and from the various activities in the area while being shaded by tree lined streets with beautiful and carefully restored adobe constructed homes. All in all a very pleasant environment and yet minutes from the downtown plaza area.

After our pleasant sojourn at the Teahouse, we made our way to an art gallery owned by a friend Marianne. The Corazon Gallery had a stylishly designed a long narrow white stucco walled gallery that was very tastefully appointed, displaying some fine limited edition art from various local artists as well as metal sculptural work done by the proprietor herself, Heidi. The art was appealing and there were postcard reproductions of some of the limited edition prints available for those of us who wanted to come away with a piece of the experience at a more affordable price. We checked out Mary Ann’s upscale clothing boutique, which was in the area and said our goodbyes to her and her blissfully sleeping Tuesday.

All in all we found our trip to Santa Fe and Taos to be one that was well worth taking and one that had us scratching our heads trying to figure out how we too could make this place something more than a one-time visit. Who knows what the future will bring but Santa Fe and especially Taos hold a special place in my mind as destinations where a better more gentile way of life is possible.