The Southwestern US is a world away from my cozy mountain homeland. The land is barren and the sky large and bright blue. Rugged mountains capped with snow and covered with sage are the opposite of the thick, hot-house feel of my rambling hills. But I love everything about this foreign world: smell, dry air, vast sky and desert. It isn’t home, but it feeds my soul in the deep simplicity of the landscape. A dear friend went to New Mexico last year and became so in love with this Land of Enchantment that she organized a trip for her daughter and close friends to come experience the magic.
We flew into Albuquerque and then drove the hour or so to Santa Fe. We stayed in the Inn and Spa at Loretto, a beautiful adobe building that resembled a pueblo. My room looked out on the famed Loretto chapel, the first gothic building west of the Mississippi. Our little group of four were tired and hungry after our early morning flight so we wandered to the historic town square and found a place to eat and rest while adjusting to the altitude of 7200 feet. After our late lunch, we wandered the square looking at the wares laid out on the blankets under the portico of the 400-year-old Palace of the Governors. Beautiful jewelry, pottery and art made by local artisans felt like I was enjoying a living, open-air museum where I could actually touch the art. I purchase earrings with Kokopelli stamped in the silver and a copper necklace for my mother. The altitude and time change meant we were ready for an early night, so drinks and appetizers by a warm fire was the perfect ending to our first enchanted day.
After breakfast in a little French café, the first stop was the mysterious Loretto Chapel that was built in 1878 by the Sisters of Loretto. This small chapel has a “miraculous” staircase to the choir loft. The story is told that the chapel was too small for a conventional staircase and the predicament was solved by a mysterious stranger that came and built a spiral staircase without any central support or handrail. He then disappeared, never to be seen again. A masterful work of carpentry, the stairs seem to defy the laws of physics, a miracle of skill and artistry.
There are many beautiful museums in Santa Fe celebrating the art of the local people and history of the land and people. Recently a new interactive museum, Meow Wolf, brings together young artist to make a fanciful world of light and sound to explore. It was hard to choose but I wanted to see the Georgia O’Keeffe museum just off the center square. This remarkable and celebrated painter made Santa Fe her home for the second half of her long and productive painting career. I was interested in who Georgia was as a creative woman and a new film of her reflecting on her life gave me great encouragement to find my own creative second act. Her work is both stark and lush, bold and delicate and absolutely a reflection of her innovative life.
Wandering around a town that is so dedicated to art and beauty became an enchanted experience. The trees were still ghost silhouettes against the deep blue sky which contrasted with the earth colored buildings. It is truly an original American city that deserves its place as one of the most beautiful in the country. After lunch, I visited the St. Francis Basilica and the Palace of the Governors. I wandered around these old building on my own just admiring what caught my eye. I was drawn to the icons and statues of the local saints. Each had a primitive beauty and a story to tell. I particularly loved Our Lady of Immaculate Conception standing on the crescent moon.
I finished my day with some quiet reflection (nap) while my fellow travelers had spa treatments. A delightful dinner followed with the star of the show a chocolate mousse in the shape of a pueblo with a little chocolate ladder to access the top story—totally adorable.
Santa Fe is a living dream, stark and lush, beautiful and barren, a feast for all the senses. I can see why it inspires such deep creativity in the people and sparked new creative spirit in my heart.