The Land of Enchantment
December’s heavy wind and rain pounded Northern California recently, delaying progress on our tattered Golden Gate hillside property. But we are grateful to our crackerjack team who is nimbly choreographing the step-by-step gritty, muddy, dirty transformation despite the inclement weather. However, I am seriously in need of a dose of beauty and light.
Lights and Luminaries
London, Paris and New York are indeed dazzling at this time of year, but Northern New Mexico has an enchantment all its own that looks, tastes and smells like no other. During the holidays tiny sparkling lights are clustered around ancient openings of mud and straw on the historic eastside of Santa Fe. Luminarias – brown paper bags embedded with fat, glowing candles – appear at sunset whimsically perched on flat and curvaceous adobe walls – and the combination of lights, candles, and undulating mud and straw is absolutely magical.
What could be more captivating and mystical than witnessing ageless trees with trunks and branches wrapped in an array of teeny blue, green, gold, pink, purple and white lights? People gather to celebrate the holidays gazing at strings of sparkling lights that connect with high desert stars above the grand, centuries-old Santa Fe Plaza.
Walking distance from the Plaza, luminarias line the angular edges of the multi-level historic Inn of Loretto. Built in 1853 as a Catholic school for girls by the Sisters of Loretto, the luminous paper bags resembling rustic crowns of light draw the eye to the dramatic adobe structure at the corner of the Old Santa Fe Trail and The Alameda.
Sacred Spirit of Santa Fe
Founded in 1610, Santa Fe means Holy Faith in Spanish. The first church was built that same year on the site where the Cathedral stands today a block from the Santa Fe Plaza.
The adobe Cathedral was rebuilt in 1714 by Spaniards and named in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi, Patron Saint of Santa Fe, who loved nature and animals.
The current Cathedral was recreated out of stone in 1887 around the previous adobe structure which was broken into pieces and carried out the front door. To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the stone church, a Monumental Altar Screen was installed depicting famous saints of North and South America in 1987.
Hotel St Francis
Two blocks from the Cathedral is the St Francis Hotel built in 1924. The spacious lobby of this century-old guesthouse displays a stately wrought iron chandelier suspended over an elaborate carved stone fountain surrounded by glowing candles. The interior design echoes the esthetic of Spanish missionaries arriving in New Mexico in the 17th century, known to live simple, uncluttered lives. The hotel authentically reflects this philosophy in its rustic yet engaging minimalist décor.
Flavors and Aromas of Santa Fe
La Fonda on the Plaza, a revered national treasure in Santa Fe’s rich tapestry of hospitality, predates American independence. Originally dating back to the early 1600s, Hotel La Fonda was reconstructed ten decades ago in 1922. People throughout the world journey here to admire the architectural style and details of the celebrated adobe as well as the vibrant and eclectic La Plazuela restaurant on the 1920’s patio. The aromas and flavors of time worn recipes used in traditional New Mexican cuisine make the 100-year-old restaurant one of the town’s most sought after dining venues.
In the fall, primitive wire cages hand turned over beds of simmering coals at the Railyard farmer’s market and grocery store parking lots, permeating the high desert air with the enticing smell of locally grown Hatch green and red chiles. Speak up when asked at any restaurant in town if you want red or green chile. Or, enthusiastically declare “Christmas” like the locals do if you prefer both.
One of my favorite experiences in the fall and winter in Northern New Mexico is inhaling the earthy fragrance of burning piñon from indoor and outdoor fireplaces. Piñon wood made from the local piñon, or pine, trees is the signature firewood of Santa Fe due to its aromatic mountain essence and clean burning ability. Seated are my friends and clients, Katie and Charlie, who live in Washington DC, enjoying the smell of piñon burning in the outdoor fireplace we added at their second home in Santa Fe.
During multiple trips to the Southwest, I was privileged to meet and represent wildly talented artist – Jim Wagner, who lived and painted in Taos for 60 years. Sadly, Jim passed last summer but will be remembered through his whimsical art that appeared in galleries from Malibu to Manhattan. Jim Wagner, An American Artist by Stephen Park, is a collectible coffee table book that pays tribute to Jim’s most captivating artwork during his lifetime in Taos.
In the summer of 2019, Marshall, Toby and I traveled to Taos, stopping at the Jones Walker Art Gallery that represented Jim Wagner’s current artwork. We were fortunate to purchase his last self-portrait, which we treasure.
We hung Self Portrait in a place of honor in Casita Alegria, our second home in New Mexico for 16 years. After selling our beloved casita last fall, we carefully stored the artwork until it can be shipped to California. This is where Jim grew up and studied art before he left for Taos at age 21, encouraged by the illustrious artist Agnes Martin. Jim was awarded the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts in 2013. Art is the greatest expression of the human spirit and important to value in life.
May the spirit of Christmas and Hanukkah fill your dreams with visions of beauty and light. We wish you, your family and animals a joyous Feliz Navidad!!