As I walked out of Hen House with my groceries, he was loading his trunk with food supplies. He smiled, then asked, “Are you from New Mexico? He pointed toward the tag on my car: “New Mexico — Land of Enchantment.”
“No,” I said, “but I’d like to be. It’s on my bucket list to go there at least twice each year.”
He told me how he grew up in Ruidoso, moving to Kansas to help his elderly parents. But he missed the rich verdure of the New Mexican mountains, the vast expanses of desert and the spiritual history of a land with his Native American roots.
“I long to go for an extended stay,” I said, “maybe a writing retreat in Santa Fe.”
“You’ll get there,” he said with a confident nod. “People who love New Mexico end up living their dreams.”
As I opened my car door, he tipped his hat and said, “Stay enchanting.”
Throughout the long COVID winter, I thought often of this man and his kind prophecy. Was he an angel in disguise, sent to encourage me on a gloomy day? Or was he merely a nice person, taking care of his parents and trying to share hope with a fellow pilgrim?
Memories of my last two trips to Santa Fe brought tears. The 2012 research trip for my third novel, “Final Grace for Reverend G.”
My bestie, Deb, and I, strolling through art galleries, eating multiple recipes dunked in roasted green chiles, each of us finding handcrafted jewelry and colorful broom skirts.
The trip of a lifetime, I thought. Deb’s lifetime. She passed in 2017 and was not able to return to the Land of Enchantment with me.
My next trip was September, 2018. I attended the Creatives Conference with Julia Cameron as the keynoter. Another trip of a lifetime. But this time, I was alone. Still, it was a beautiful experience.
My quiet time to work through the grief of losing Deb. Although I missed her presence yet felt her spirit, I discovered being by myself was indeed a great way to fashion a writing retreat.
And so much more:
- Multiple people became new friends as Santa Fe has a tendency to pull people together.
- A touristy walk provided new insights about the history of this town I love.
- The discovery of a free trade store where I bought some jewelry — of course — and met other travelers.
- A kind sales rep in another jewelry store who revealed his lifetime of FBI service in Albuquerque and why he changed careers mid-life.
- My favorite waitress at the Santa Fe Bite who jangled her bracelets as we shared our love for bling.
- A surprise wedding as the happy couple and their mariachi band circled around the Plaza.
- More delicious recipes with roasted green chiles.
- Soaking my feet in the hotel’s pool after a day of walking.
- Watching the shadows peek around the Sangre de Cristo mountains, then merge into fabulous sunsets.
Creativity seems to spurt from every pore of Santa Fe. In the evenings, I wrote pages of a new novel. The Year of my Redemption was birthed at the Sage Hotel in Santa Fe. It will always be one of my favorites.
My plan was to return to Santa Fe in 2020 with a new traveling partner. But alas — COVID. Then I hoped 2021 might be the year. Another alas — physical obstacles and chronic pain.
Have I experienced my last trip to Santa Fe? Please, God, no. Can I not hope for another week or two in the Land of Enchantment?
A Pueblo Indian blessing foreshadowed the loss of Deb, now even richer with meaning:
“Hold on to what is good even if it is a handful of earth.
Hold on to what you believe even if it is a tree which stands alone.
Hold on to what you must do even if it’s a long way from here.
Hold on to life even when it’s easier letting go.
Hold on to my hand even when I have gone away from you.”
My enchanting hope is to return to the land of clay and pottery, brilliant sunsets and artisans camped around every corner. To live where the everydayness of what we must do thrives with a positive outlook and gratitude for life itself.
Hope breathes through the improbabilities of reaching the desire of the heart, somehow managing to make it happen. A prayer — a wish — a dream all wrapped in the hope of seeing it come to pass.
Even now, mid 2021, the hope survives. A quote from Georgia O’Keefe, resident artist of Santa Fe, ties my hope in a package of possibility, “Once you’ve been to New Mexico, the itch never leaves you.”
I am itching to return.
©2021 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved
Watch for the novel that was birthed in Santa Fe. The Year of my Redemption will soon be available on Amazon.