Hope Unplugs in Santa Fe

For one glorious week, I lived the unplugged life in Santa Fe, NM. No social media. Even turned off my phone. Wrote long hand on a legal pad. Sage Inn

My purpose for going to Santa Fe was to attend the Creative Reboot Conference – an amazing weekend of workshops for the sole purpose of tapping into our creativity as writers.

The highlight was two workshops with Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way and many other books.

Fresh from several of life’s messes, including my son’s five-month illness, I desperately needed some down time.

But this week also offered growth in my craft and immersion in one of the most creative places on earth.

So I tacked an extra two days onto the weekend – time for just me – for that self-care my therapist says I need.

Words fail to express how glorious that week became and what a milestone it was both personally and professionally. I have so many great ideas to share with my coaching clients. I also have several great ideas for blog posts and even for a future creativity retreat. And I am rejuvenated, refreshed, rebooted.

In the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some writing tips I learned at the conference. You can follow these tips on my newsletter.

What is it about Santa Fe that evokes such a strong sense of belonging?

The Environment. At 7200+ feet, Santa Fe rests between the Sandia and the Sangre de Cristo mountains. It lies at a higher elevation than Denver, the mile-high city, yet doesn’t feel like you have to climb enormous hills to get there. Some people do suffer from altitude sickness.

I only suffered regret when I had to leave. The city is nestled like a bird resting in God’s hands, so you feel safe within those mountains, secure within its borders.

The Climate. With little or no humidity, a bad hair day does not exist in Santa Fe. Compare that to Kansas where I might as well throw away my curling iron and forget the entire process. The week I spent in Santa Fe, daytime temps were in the 80’s and nighttime in the 50’s.

Layered clothing required. My definition of perfect.  

The Diversity. Tourists from all over the US and the world visit Santa Fe. I met people from France, California, Minnesota, Germany, Chicago, Australia, Japan, Columbia (the country, not Missouri) and Colorado. Those who choose to live in Santa Fe may be Native Americans, Hispanics, Asians or Anglos – an amazing mix of God’s creatives.

We easily mingled, shared tips about the best historical tours or joked with each other on the shuttles.

Doorway - Santa FeThe Architecture. Those curved, soft walls – no angles anywhere with the terracotta covering the adobe. The colorful doorways and window frames, usually a turquoise blue.

From the St. Francis cathedral to the Loretto Chapel to the Georgia O’Keefe museum, Santa Fe knows how to display its unique beauty.

The Atmosphere. The people of Santa Fe relish in the joy of relaxation and play. A wedding party marched around the town plaza, complete with Mariachi band, dancing bridesmaids and the newlyweds with happy glows on their faces.

People stroll through the streets. No hurry to make appointments. Waiters and waitresses take time to stop and talk to their customers. Business owners do not pressure for sales. Everyone seems eager to meet you and take the time to learn more about you.

The History. Each year, I read through my copy of Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather. Though written in novel form, it details much of the history of the region. The faith walk of Saint Francis and Father Lamy, how the famous cathedral was built and how the sisters of Loretto served the people of the community.

I participated in one of the historical walking tours with an amazing guide who was born in Germany, raised in Chicago, then made Santa Fe her home. During that hour, I learned more about the region than previous years and reveled in the rich faith that built the city.

Loretto StaircaseThe Arts. From Canyon Road to the winding Loretto staircase to the handmade jewelry of the Native Americans – the arts thrive in Santa Fe. In fact, people come from all over the world to attend the Festival of the Arts or buy season tickets to the famous Opera House.

For a creative like me, it is like being drenched in the fiery juices of God’s artistic design. The colors and textures, the fine craftsmanship, the pride of each artist as s/he describes their process. Heaven on earth.

Six years ago, my precious friend Deb and I made a research trip to Santa Fe. I was working on the last book of the Reverend G trilogy and needed to know first hand the feel of Santa Fe. I already loved the area. That trip cemented my craving for New Mexico’s finest.

This time, without Deb, I determined to make my own memories although I still grieved her absence. But I felt her there with me, in the coral sunsets and the mournful tone of a wooden flute.

Most of all, I felt a sense of homecoming – as if Santa Fe had chosen me for a week of rest and a reminder that life was about to turn around. That my son would indeed be well. That my words would impact readers and my soul would find its refuge.

Hope strolls through the quiet lanes of Santa Fe and promises to call me back again. I plan to someday answer.

George O’Keefe was right when she said, “Once you’ve been to New Mexico, the itch never leaves you.”

©2018 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Learn about Reverend G and her trip to Santa Fe in the trilogy: The Unraveling of Reverend G, Intermission for Reverend G, Final Grace for Reverend G. 

 

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How Do Writers Research?

One year ago, my friend and I drove to Santa Fe, NM. We planned it as a research / vacation trip in the wonderful Southwest, with side trips to Taos and Red River.santa fe

Why Santa Fe? Because I knew that my main character, Reverend G, loved the Southwest and particularly Santa Fe. I also knew that I wanted to include something about that region in the third Reverend G book – which is still in its first draft stage.

So we drove to Santa Fe, enjoying the mountain scenery and the warmer weather. After a hard Kansas winter, we needed to soak up the sun as well as to soak in the culture.

Writers can, of course, do research on the internet. In fact, that’s where I started – looking up the main sites of Santa Fe. But the internet can only provide facts and stats for a region.

If you want to write credibly and make your stories real – you have to actually experience a region.

The writer needs to know how people communicate in a particular area, how characters dress and talk, what it feels like to stand in line at the Georgia O’Keefe museum and then spend several hours drinking in the colors and textures of her paintings.

The writer needs to discover new artists who craft incredible sculptures out of metal, pictures of women on horses that seem to fly through the studio, textiles that flap their colors in the wind.

The writer keeps a journal of the trip and gathers brochures, maps, postcards, photos wherever she goes. But the writer also records the emotions she feels, touring a particular city.

I wrote about our tour of the Plaza: “Native Americans spread out their creativity: jewelry on black mats, shining silver and bountiful turquoise, coral, copper bracelets, earrings, necklaces – nothing that Reverend G would buy but all of it – she would enjoy. The pottery – some with colors of the earth, some with the brightness of primary colors.”

We talked with tourists, but also with the locals – interesting blends of Hispanic, Caucasian, Native American and some Asians. Reverend G and I both loved the diversity of the Southwest.

These friendly people, women in broomstick skirts of various colors. Men with tanned and wrinkled faces. They seem to live an idyllic life where they have the freedom to leave workplaces and spend time with a writer from Kansas, to tell her how long they’ve lived in Santa Fe and why they moved out of corporate America to operate a coffee shop in New Mexico.

We ate at a little café with different colors painted on each wall – purple blended into orange, yellow beside red. Small salads with walnuts, salmon and bleu cheese with a vinaigrette dressing. Iced chai tea in tall glasses – spicy yet sweet and so refreshing.

So many variations of wildflowers, splayed in gardens along with buckets of pansies and Indian blanket daisies. A momentary wrong turn and we were lost, but then found in a rose garden at the church of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Bathing our hot faces in the fountain that promised health. Snapping my promo picture while surrounded by lavender roses.

Statues of Mary everywhere and the creativity of God surrounding us. Worship all around us and in us as my friend played a Native American flute, and I wrote in my journal and savored the day.

The Loretto Chapel, famous for its spiral staircase. You can’t imagine what happens to Reverend G in the chapel, but you’ll have to wait for the third book to find out.

Although we smelled smoke from mountain wildfires, the resulting atmospheric change brought us colorful sunsets – a sacred end to a busy day.

We left a few sites for the next trip – whenever that will be. But I found enough material and soaked in enough of the Southwest to add to my book and make it credible.

How do writers research? They live in the area for a while. They let every one of their senses open fully to the people and the places where they exist. They look for the inner soul and the textures and colors around them. They listen for dialects and observe relationships. They take time to literally smell roses and meld new friendships. Then they come home, organize their notes and write about it.

And a year later – they wish they could return.

©2013 RJ Thesman – Author of “The Unraveling of Reverend G”