Expensive parfume and cheap martini’s mingle with the smell of cigarettes at a free friday night art opening, one of many as Santa Fe lives up to it’s reputation of being an art friendly community. This one happens to be at SITE Santa Fe and we are attending as we wait for our dinner reservations for Aaron’s Mom’s birthday. They are both full time artists and enjoy keeping up on what’s going on in the art world, though neither of them fit the mainstream industry very well. I have to laugh a little at the level of cliche’ in the room- mustaches, top hats, mismatched clothing, dreads, full length furs some fine, some tattered and same with the jewelry. One slightly chubby girl, blonde with pink highlights and a steampunk Avril Lavigne look, tries to flirt with a young artist in a full suit and top hat who is trying not to love the attention. I was smiling the whole time I was there, thought i don’t even remember any of the art, the whole place was such a caricature of my entire experience in Santa Fe over the last few months.
I first came to Santa Fe in Sept of 2011 for the Santa Fe Ren Faire( I’ve been to dozens and this one is my favorite, noncommercial and totally quirky) and fell in love within an hour of crossing the border into the state, spending the next couple of years trying to think of every reason to go back. This place has a tranquility and expansiveness I’ve never encountered anywhere else in the world, and I feel I’m spoiled for sunsets forever. For all of Santa Fe’s renown as an art community, I must admit I remember very little of it’s art, and I even ran a gallery for a while! What I do remember is the people I’ve met here. I’ve had some of the strangest (lady yelling at me in a park while I was babysitting a friends’ dog that her husband was allergic to dogs- let me clarify, she walked from the other end of the park to yell at me about this, while I was reading a book and the dog was on a lead, weirdest encounter ever) and some of the best interactions of my life (Valentine and Zoe literally put on a fairy princess party for my birthday, chocolate mushrooms, tiny plates, pink streamers and all- I spent the whole evening and next day on and off in tears of love- and that’s just one thing on the list) and probably spent far too many hours evesdropping on others’ conversations in coffee shops.( Btw, I’ve drunk an absurd amount of coffee in Santa Fe, I’m surprised I didn’t just see people shooting it up it’s so popular here!)
The culture is a mix of art hippies, natives, and a now massive influx of wealthy who are turning the place into their personal playground, turning the normally inexpensive and laid back culture into a smaller version of a big city, with skyrocketing prices and mass traffic for the woefully inadequate streets. It’s also pushing out many of the locals who can’t afford to live here anymore and don’t want to just be slaves to the new wealthy class- part of why all of us are leaving as well, going west to seek out a new place to create a peaceful sanctuary, the old classic story of America.
Not to say the place is over and done with, as I write this I am sitting in the National Forest, watching the clouds play over the mountains, the same place I’ve now seen my first moonrise, shooting stars, and the glorious purple shades I’d only heard of in song. Just the other night Aaron and I sat outside in the cold for hours just to watch the spectacular full wolf’s moon rise and to listen to the wolves’ and coyotes’ howls accompany it. We’ve had dozens of picnics on the banks of wandering creeks in the woods, played with a gardner snake in a little branch fort built generations ago, hunted for pottery shards and branches for art sculptures and run from Black Widow’s.(On a side note, Aaron found a Black Widow in the bathroom of the RV and KEPT IT AS A PET for a few weeks while I was in Texas, and still has the body on the windowsill to use in a piece of jewelry- he’s lucky he is so cute…..) The cocoa at Kakawa chocolate shop is unmatched; the turkey, chili, cheese pastry at Santa Fe Baking Co is the perfect breakfast and the owner Eric knows us by name; Harry’s Roadhouse has the perfect summer and fall patio dining with a garden and little creek and all, and some of the best diner food I’ve ever tasted, perfect for recovering from an exhausting ren faire day. I’ve learned to properly peel green chili’s and just how much caution is required for the xtra hot(!). I’m quite certain I’m now addicted and they are going to be brought on the trip by the pound. The Farolito walk (which i kept calling the faerylight walk) was a magical way to bring in the winter season, even if Aaron is a jaded native narrator going on about “back in his day they did things differently- they had flying farolitos and there was none of this commercial nonsense” (He’s like a seventy year old man in a 21 year old’s body). So I just poked him and sang carols and drank in the lights I will remember when I’m old and grey. I did a radio interview with Gab Rima at Warehouse 21, the local youth clubhouse which puts on all kinds of phenomenal events encouraging the arts, about living on the road and in the forest as a gypsy.
I helped Aaron with Paredolia Gallery, a local art space in the Plaze Galleria dedicated to helping local artists. It’s now collaborating with Open Art Studio, and organization run by Nicole, who is studying art therapy and using it as a place to help the homeless and anyone who needs a creative outlet for life and the infinitely healing power of art. And that is really what I’ve felt Santa Fe is about, a least for those of us traveling through, it’s a safe place of peaceful healing, creative renewal, and contemplation of life. I’ve met more truly driven and active people here than anywhere else I’ve ever been. Here more than anywhere else it’s “I have finished this project I’ve been working on, tell me what you think” rather than “One day I want to do this thing”. I know just being here for a few months I’ve already opened up creatively and found my true path and drive- hence why I’m on here writing at all. I think that’s why it’s so easy for artists to come here and just never leave again, it’s a community geared towards creation and acceptance of new innovations and unusual ideas. It’s a place to transition from the idea of doing art to the actual accomplishing of, and everything is in place to subconsciously encourage it. I have felt that this place has been a cradle to nurture and begin to manifest my true desires and dreams, a place where denial of ones’ truth just leads to madness( it’s true, the dreams I’ve had here are more vivid than anywhere else and cut straight to the point of my pains and fears). For me, the energy, the culture, the people in my life now have been the biggest catalyst for my dreams and closest sense of acceptance and family than I have ever experienced in my life. It’s time for me to move on to other adventures very soon, but I have loved to time I’ve spent here and look forward to visiting many times in the future.