Under Santa Fe Skies

by Susan Tungate

The Raven

I returned home one late afternoon to find a baby raven hopping down the middle of the driveway. Baby must have fallen out of the nest in the tall evergreen tree over the house. An adult raven, let’s call her Mom, sat on the fence squawking at the little one. What to do. The neighborhood is full of cats. Baby would be dinner if I did not help her.

I managed to maneuver Baby into the patio as Mom swooped and screamed, warning me to do the right thing because she was ready to take my eyes out if I harmed a feather. Once Baby was at least semi safe, I ran inside and Googled “what do ravens and crows eat” and “helping baby raven” or something like that. Turns out Harry the Cat’s canned beef would work just fine.

Baby’s first big leap was into the Napoleonic era Oeil de Boeuf  leaning against the coyote fence. Baby has great taste in French antiques.

Baby served as evening entertainment for Harry the Cat, Georgia the Dog and me. When I last saw her before bed, Baby was huddled between the fence and the shed. I wished her a safe evening and hoped she would not meet the cat next door.

The next morning Baby had progressed to the top of the bistro chair. Mom watched from a limb of the bean tree.

I watched as Baby hopped down from one chair and scaled another which was right under Mom’s limb.

At this point Baby started screaming. Right on cue another larger raven, let’s call him Dad, came out of a high limb of the evergreen, swooped  down and into the open mouth of Baby delivered breakfast.

This pattern was repeated for two more days. Baby screamed. Dad made a special delivery. Mom hovered. Baby’s wings grew stronger until she was able to make a rocky landing on top of the coyote fence where she would just hang out.

On the third morning I came outside and Baby was gone. I looked in the adjacent yard. I looked around the house. No Baby. I sat down on the patio step, thanked them all for letting me have this glimpse into their lives and wished them well. Right then, and I am not kidding, Mom swooped in and landed on her perch on the limb of the bean tree. Then a small raven made a very rocky landing next to her, followed by the arrival of a large raven. Mom, Baby and Dad sat there for 15 seconds, then all flew away.

For the Native Americans, raven medicine, their message to humans, is to inform us that we must become comfortable in our inner world in order to experience a change of consciousness. As stated by Keshi, a local store which sells Zuni fetishes, “Raven is comfortable there and offers us the opportunity to discover the personal fears and demons that are keeping us from our awakening and our magic. The black color of the feathers of Raven contain all colors, evoking creativity, not negativity. Raven medicine can help us to really look at the issues that frighten, anger and thwart us. Doing this can lead to understanding and integration so that the negative energy is magically lifted.” To that I say a big thank you to the ravens.

And a post script. Almost every day this summer, often in the morning and some days in the late afternoon, a raven sits on the limb of the bean tree for a minute or two.


Must Be Fall in New Mexico

Fruit stands along the highway are strung with ristras and sit chock full of tomatoes and squash and chiles.


Marigolds are strung, ready to decorate your fence, your house, and you.


Chamisa add splashes of gold on every turn.


Sunflowers have turned to birdseed and the pumpkins are waiting to be carved.

Must be Fall in New Mexico.


The Newspaper Vendor

For 14 years, I have purchased the Friday and Sunday editions of the Santa Fe New Mexican from this man, let’s call him John. Recently he added the New York Times, so I buy the Sunday edition of that paper as well. John stands at the busy corner of Don Gaspar and Alameda right in the center of town, in rain, sleet, snow and scorching heat, every day of the week except for his day off on Monday. In his late 70′s, he is more reliable than most of our mail carriers.

Usually when I drive up to the stop sign across from him, John is either looking down intently organizing his money or patiently helping some lost tourist with directions. I watch the confused and frustrated driver, usually a man, take five minutes of John’s time then drive away without buying a paper or giving him a tip for saving his day and likely his marriage. I tell John all the time that the Chamber of Commerce should have him on its payroll.

We always exchange a few pleasantries which last as long as the traffic will allow. Over the years as I have come to know John just a bit, the exchange has branched out from how are you today to a quick tidbit from him on the latest town gossip or an article I should be sure to read. He has a wicked sense of humor and the laugh to go with it, a low pitched hee hee hee. And he is very well read. He does not just sell those papers, he reads every inch of them.

Often in the summer he will take an entire week or even two weeks of vacation. One year he visited some place in Latin America. A few years ago, after an extended absence, I pulled up and asked whether he was just returning from a fun vacation. John responded, “No, it wasn’t a vacation. I had to deliver a paper in Japan.”

Now that scrambled my brain for a minute. I had two simultaneous thoughts: who the hell is that desperate to read the New Mexican that he would fly John over to Japan to deliver a copy, and, at the same time, oh no, this does not bode well for John’s mental health. Seeing my befuddled expression, John hee hee hee’d and explained, “When I was a scientist at the Los Alamos Laboratory, my area of expertise was moon travel. A group in Japan asked me to speak, to deliver a paper about my research.”

I had heard that John worked at the Lab for many years, many years ago. Seems he had a breakdown and had to rearrange his life. Along the way I also learned he had graduated from Andover. My neighbor’s father had attended the school at the same time. He said John was brilliant.

So here’s the point. Never ever judge a book by its cover. The contents may delight you despite the ripped jacket. And if you are ever in Santa Fe, stop by and buy your paper from John. Be sure to give him a nice little tip. He will, I promise you, say, “Well, thank you very much!”

Las Golondrinas Harvest Festival!

El Rancho de las Golondrinas is a living history museum located on 20 acres in a beautiful valley about 20 minutes south of Santa Fe. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Las Golodrinas was an overnight stop on El Camino Real, the famous royal road to Mexico City. In 1972, the museum was opened to preserve the history, heritage and culture of that period. Original structures were restored and historic buildings from other parts of New Mexico were reconstructed at the museum site to recreate life in early New Mexico. Villagers dressed in the styles of the times re-enact for visitors how life was lived.

Next Saturday and Sunday, October 6th and 7th, Las Golondrinas holds its annual Harvest Festival. The villagers will be crushing grapes for wine by foot, grinding sorghum with burros, making apple cider and tortilla, weaving, tanning hides, singing, milling, and stringing red chile ristras, all for your enjoyment and education. The kids can make a corn husk doll, adults can learn tin stamping or take a retablo workshop and everyone can take a wagon ride on the site.

In addition, Los Matachines de Lorenzo will perform their colorful dance.

For the schedule of events and additional information, contact the museum at 505.471.2261 or go to their website at www.golondrinas.org. All photographs are courtesy of the museum.