I'm finding that writing a lifestyle column for Santa Fe is a little bit more complex than writing one for New York City (champagne! caviar! subway grit! cash money!) or Washington DC (politics! museums! the White House!) or LA (you get the idea).
Santa Fe is a funny old thing; a shape-shifting trickster; loathe to be defined, yet loathe to be underestimated. Northern New Mexico, studded with vistas of Dr. Seuss-like, dislocating wonder, serves as a launchpad for the lives of this history-steeped city's inhabitants. Writing fluffy things about gardening clubs and tabletop trends (and stopping there) wouldn't do Santa Fe justice. The style of life here is really unlike "lifestyle" as we think of it anywhere else; a pat description of Santa Fe will almost always leave out 90% of what's crucial in its DNA.
Much better to find focus through the lens of the esteemed late poet Robert Creeley. In his introduction to the anthology New Mexico Poetry Renaissance, a book I just happened to stumble upon this morning (which is so Santa Fe), he notes the following;
"Scale is immensely increased here, time moves in a measure of centuries, and people are only a small if particularizing instance of so-called life. It is as if we had here to leave our usual human situation and enter upon another imagination of what our lives are all about as well as how and where we live them."
How does that translate, exactly?
"Santa Fe either welcomes you in, or it kicks you out," was one of the first things I heard when I moved here five years ago. Another: "In Santa Fe, emotional landscape is amplified and personal growth is accelerated. Everything you might feel a little bit somewhere else-here, it's on ten. You're ten times more happy or ten times more miserable. Your relationship is ten times more divine or ten times more unbearable. This spurs on personal growth like no other place outside of an ashram. You don't get to look at life with a soft-focus lens, oblivious that things are out of alignment. Oh, no. It hits you over the head with a conch belt."
Creeley's introduction also contains this sentence: "Perhaps the very fact of New Mexico's amplitude means one has to find a way to anchor, or else disappear."
Over time, I've found both statements to be more and more true. I've watched people come here and have a succession of domestic and livelihood setbacks until they turn tail and run back to someplace much more accommodating and laid back, like, say, Manhattan-and I've watched other newcomers be gifted with fortuitous connections, coincidences, and big wet sloppy kisses in the sweet living situation and plum job departments. I've watched those around me (and myself) shed trappings of a formerly cruising-along-just-fine life like a snake glides out of old skin. This is "the city of holy faith," and yet this faith and connection to Spirit is exactly what you decide it is. Chances are, if you have a certain way of believing, it's represented and respected in Santa Fe-whether it's connection to God through ayahuasca, going to Mass or just greeting the sun from your back portal.
Overheard last night at a potluck: "Wow, you're the second person I've spoken to this week who moved here with plan, ditched it soon after, and chose something completely new. This must be a place where people find themselves."
How do these traits impact a Santa Fe lifestyle? What does it mean to craft a life in a place that has a b.s. detector as keen as a high school principal's? Or even one that can be defined by the way it "greets" people who move here, because there are so dang many of us? What does it mean that "Sorry I couldn't make it to work this morning. I had to go out to Lamy to help my friend feed her uncle's burros, since he had to go back into rehab," is a credible excuse?
Santa Fe is a city of quirks, counterintuitive rules, and juxtapositions, and as residents of such (if we're awake), our assumptions are constantly being challenged (which is good-kind of like first semester of college but without the tuition). Here are some:
Let's say you're here. And it hasn't kicked you out. And you've gotten used to the altitude, the lack of attitude, the terrible customer service inevitably paired with the transporting of food. You've noticed this certain kind of soul pummeling from within and without...you might be getting some kind of inklings that a connection to spirituality is there whether you choose it or not, and maybe you want to make it a little bit more conscious and deliberate. Santa Fe has so many opportunities. But where to start?
I could give you a list of ways to connect to Spirit, but as Mulder said in "The X Files," The truth is out there. Your truth, the one that mirrors the one inside you on some innate, particularly satisfying level. Scan the Reporter's Community Pages, slip into the back pew of the church that you find has the most comfy curb appeal. Pay attention to what you overhear and how the shiniest, happiest, most fun person you know connects to spirit. Be open. Be willing. See what happens.