Finally Finding Our Way to Santa Fe, New Mexico

I was ecstatic to finally visit Santa Fe. As we drove into the city for the day, I rattled off all that authors, artists, and musicians who have visited or lived in Santa Fe and the amazing creative works that the area has inspired. I was so excited to walk the streets, immerse ourselves in the architecture, and see what all the hype is about.

As we parked the truck and started walking through the city, all I could think of was how similar the streets felt to walking through old Spanish towns. The narrow, cobblestone streets, the short 2-story buildings on either side, the areas outside restaurants and in the square for people to sit, relax, and people watch. It was an ambiance unlike any we have encountered thus far in our journey.

We visited on a Monday morning, so things were pretty slow and quiet, although by noon, the activity was starting to pick up.

We began our visit at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. While the church itself was closed for the day, we were able to walk around the prayer gardens and enjoy the various statues around the building. I was particularly drawn to the beautiful statue of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the first American Indian to be canonized. She is the patron saint of American Indians and the environment. I had mixed feelings about this statue, because, on one hand, it is an incredible tribute to this woman and her life’s work, but on the other hand, it is further evidence of American Indian culture, spirituality, and customs being taken over by others (namely Christianity). While I could hope that there is a melding of Catholicism with the American Indian beliefs, that does not really seem to jive with the history of the Catholic Church. Regardless, the statue was beautiful.

From there, we wandered along various streets and made our way to the vendors set up in the plaza. When Bird was a newborn, we had planned to save some of Will’s parental leave and take a month-long road trip closer to Bird turning 1. That trip would have brought us to Santa Fe, and all along, we had planned to purchase something for Bird from the vendors that we would give her when she is older. However, when Will’s job was uncertain, we opted to use the time elsewhere, and that dream slipped away.

Now that we were finally able to make our visit, we wanted to make good on that dream, and we made several passes by the vendors until we saw exactly what we wanted. The Navajo woman we purchased both the gift for Bird and a silver ring for me from was so nice and had the most beautiful jewelry. It was so fun to think about giving Bird this token from this adventure in the future. Even though we will not know what her interests will be as she grows, we are thinking even now about how we can help her remember this time and remind her that we hope she continues to explore this world on her own when she is older. We do not buy many “trinkets,” but this is the one thing we have been planning on buying since before this journey even began.

After we explored the city a little more, we returned to the camper in time for lunch and Bird’s nap…and to give me the afternoon to return to town and visit the Georgia O’Keeffe museum.

Like finding a gift for Bird, visiting this museum has long been at the top of my wish list. While we considered visiting as a family, Will was not overly enthusiastic about it, and he really wanted me to take my time and enjoy the experience. What a gift going to the museum by myself was!

The museum required timed tickets, so I had purchased my ticket online ahead of time. It was a good thing, too, as it was sold out for the day when I arrived. Once inside, I was incredibly happy that there was a limit to the number of visitors because while the museum has lots of O’Keeffe’s work on display, it is not a big place.

To accompany the visit, there is an audio tour available via the museum’s website, so I had my earbuds with me and pulled it up on arrival. I do wish I had looked at this prior to getting to the museum, as there is a 15-minute video about her life that would have been nice to watch beforehand. There is very limited space within the galleries, so it was impossible to watch once inside.

Since I wanted to get the whole experience, I really wanted to listen to all of the audio tour. However, in doing so, I initially was incredibly anxious, as the tour is not necessarily in order of how the work is encountered in the gallery, and I struggled to calm down, take a breath, and go with the flow. I felt in the way and like I needed to rush, especially right at the beginning where it was rather busy.

Once I found a quiet area to regroup, I made my way slowly through the museum, thoroughly enjoying each piece and the audio accompaniment. It was so amazing to see the progression of her art, to learn about her life, and to immerse myself in it all for the duration of my visit.

It was a real treat to have the afternoon to myself, to walk around the city a little bit more, and really soak in the Santa Fe vibes.

I wish we had planned a few more days in New Mexico, as there was so much more I would love to explore. But with every place we visit, that seems to be the case, and it just leaves the door open for a future visit. Even after only a day in the area, I see why it is such a mecca for creativity with the desert and the mountains and the slower pace. Maybe someday I can return, have some more time to myself, and tap into my own writing and creativity.

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