The way it is – the way it was

Published 8:34 am Sunday, October 25, 2015

Commentary by Dr. Don Newbury

So much that makes Santa Fe, NM, unique and forever beckoning is that visitors find the old city looking much like it did the last time. Some things can’t change for the better–it’s hard to improve on mountains, beautiful sunsets and the art/jewelry/handiwork of an amalgamation of people bent on preserving what ought to be preserved.

We happened to overhear an interest-piquing suggestion during an earlier conversation in Albuquerque. “If you like New Mexico in the summer, try Santa Fe a season later.” So we did, mere days before leaf colors of the stately aspens took a turn for the fall. Foliage color-changing–and snow falling not far behind–lure artists, photographers and skiers back again and again. Both participants and onlookers are welcome!

With no agenda, and rushing the seasons a bit, we joined others in grand expectations, not unlike the excitement of baseball’s opening day, when hope always springs eternal!

Santa Fe has a magnet’s draw. Each time, we hasten to the plaza, as if to make sure it hasn’t changed. Oh, they take credit cards now, but the plaza remains mostly about the shops, booths, tables and blankets where the work of artisans awaits. As always, jewelry, arts, pottery and other works abound. They’re all within an arrow’s range of the Palace of the Governors–now more than four centuries old and the nation’s oldest standing public building.

All things adobe are desired, defended and demanded. Many “national brand” stores look the same throughout the U.S., but in Santa Fe, codes call for adobe and conforming architecture.

Less than an hour from the capital city is Taos, another favorite destination. Friday nights there feel much like Branson. Though traffic is thick on major streets, drivers courteously welcomed us back into the flow after we’d checked out the neighborhoods.

As in Santa Fe, Taos is adorned by chile strings–both green and red–hanging from every hook. The “greens,” of course, are from Hatch, NM, “chile capital of the world.”

Taos traffic slows to ambles. Creeping down a side street barely wide enough for two-way traffic, a warning sign appeared near our hotel: “pavement narrows.”

Settling into a charming bed and breakfast retreat called Palacio de Marquesa–mere steps from downtown–we were surprised that somehow it was devoid of sirens, honks and assorted other city sounds. Can such serenity reign? It does in Taos.

Back in Santa Fe, we visited environs of an “artistic avenue” called Canyon Road. In one neighborhood, we saw a woman renovating a small, ancient adobe structure on a tiny lot.

We quickly learned she was an artist in rolled-up sleeves, working magic not only with creativity, but likewise equally comfortable tiling, as well as hanging doors, windows and sheetrock. She didn’t shy away from heavy lifting, either, mixing mortar with the best of ‘em. I’m sure can fix whatever breaks, too.

Keys to her creative restorations are unique items picked up in garage and yard sales, plus visits to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.

We Texans sing of our state’s eyes always upon us. New Mexico, this “Land of Enchantment,” likewise inspires many songs.

For our brief stretch on fabled “Route 66,” I whistled not about “kick-getting.” Instead, I trilled a 1950 ditty, “Along the Trail to Santa Fe.”

Where else but on “66” could one see a vintage car collection owned by a guy named “Bozo”? He’s outfitted an Edsel with a front-end loader, so we had to stop for a photo op!

Returning to our hotel at one evening’s end, the plaza “buzzed” about the lunar eclipse called “blood moon.” A fellow guest at the Hotel Chimayo de Santa Fe said, “It’s great seeing so many people looking skyward at God’s handiwork instead of squinting downward at iPhone screens.”

On the short third floor walk to our room facing a lovely open courtyard, we pushed hanging strings of chiles apart to view the eclipse’s totality.

Learning the next such eclipse won’t occur until 2033, we joked about the prospect of watching the phenomenon yet again from Santa Fe. Neither the city nor the moon will likely be much different. We, however, almost surely will be.


Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Inquiries/comments Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: Columns archived at, newbury blog.