Under Santa Fe Skies

by Susan Tungate

Deluxe 1950 Plymouth Turtle Back Business Sedan

A very long time ago, I lived in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. There was not too much going on in Carlisle at that time despite the fact the town was home to the Army War College, Dickinson College and Dickinson School of Law. The natives pretty much chose to keep life simple. Growing white asparagus was the highlight, with one notable exception: The Carlisle Auto Fair.

Every year the muddy Carlisle Fairgrounds was over taken by miles of muddy men selling hubcaps for Oldsmobiles made in 1954-1962, tires for Fords from the 1960s, Corvette hood ornaments, Tbird steering wheels, you name it. Quite the subculture. My Pittsburgh brother, a corporate lawyer, was into restoring vintage cars as a hobby. Once a year he would trade in his dress shoes for boots and drive on over to Carlisle to peruse the hubcaps. I went with him.

“Not original paint on that Ford,” he would whisper to me with a hint of distain.

“How much for that trim?” he’d ask a guy in dirty jeans smoking a cigarette hovering over odd shaped pieces of steel. On hearing the answer my brother would shake his head and say, “Nahhhhh, you’re kidding me! That’s way too much.” Then after about 15 minutes of faux haggling Brother would walk away holding some curvy chrome item purchased at the price they both had in mind at the beginning of negotiations.

One year we were walking around when we spotted a group of tough looking dudes all in black sitting up on the hill. They spotted us first. “How much for the woman?” one guy asked my brother. I pretty much put my feet into 5th gear. Brother had spent a lot of money that day and might want to off set costs.

I thought of all this today when I took my car to the New Old Santa Fe Trail Garage for a new brake light. Ranger and Joe have been praying over my car, that would be the same car, for 15 years. After Joe quickly popped in the new light, I looked over at the garage and saw a very shiny black vintage car.

“Was that car made in about 1950?” I asked. Joe about fell to the ground. He knows I do not know how to add windshield wiper fluid.

“YES! I restored it. It’s a 1950 Plymouth Business Sedan, Turtle Back Deluxe model. Very rare.”

So here you go Brother, complete with dice and cherries:




Hare of The Dogs

Georgia the Dog, here. Sorry but I cannot talk right now. Too busy reading The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think by Brian Hare. I’m thinking he should upgrade his name to Brian Dog…

Pilgrimage to Chimayo


Last Friday I saw one lone man with a cane making the annual Easter pilgrimage to the small adobe chapel known as the “Lourdes of America” in Chimayo, New Mexico. By Sunday, the numbers will swell to as many as 50,000 people.

Some will walk the 90 miles from Albuquerque, the 14 miles from Chupadero, the 40 miles from Taos or the 25 miles from Santa Fe. They will line the highways bearing crosses and carrying photographs of  loved ones who are ill or who have departed. Some will walk from Espanola as their parents and grandparents did before them, pushing baby strollers and holding statues of saints. Some will park their cars along the highway and join the others as they walk the last few miles on the winding two lane highway that leads to the Santuario de Chimayo. That’s what I did last year.

People of all religions make the pilgrimage. They walk as an act of gratitude or in memory of a loved one or as a prayer to end wars. I am sure some people make the walk just to be a part of what is called the nation’s largest public display of devotion, a tradition that goes back to the early 1800s.

The safety of all is overseen by members of 26 organizations who have joined together as part of a  ”catastrophic incident management plan.” Law enforcement will place orange barrels on a section of  U.S. 84/285 to mark the walking path and erect electronic signs to caution drivers.

When they arrive at the Santuario, they will likely scoop up the “holy dirt” thought to bring forth miracles. They will walk through the grounds or sit for a few minutes in the Chapel. Leona’s, which stopped serving food a few years ago, will be open this weekend to serve drinks, tomales and frito pies.

I leave you with a few photographs of the grounds. For a glimpse of the Easter walk of pilgrims, click here. Happy Easter. Happy Passover. Happy Spring to all.



Eat, Pray, Write, Relax: A Rejuvenating Weekend in Santa Fe


It’s Spring! What better time and what better place than Santa Fe to nurture, center, and revitalize body, mind and spirit than a weekend in April or May immersed in the inspirational beauty of Santa Fe, New Mexico. My friend and Southwest tour guide extraordinaire Patrizia Antonicelli, who owns Seven Directions Tours, is offering this Santa Fe experience in April and May.

Offered the weekends of  April 13-14, April 27-28, May 11-12, and May 25-26, the Seven Directions Tours experience begins on Saturday morning at 10:00 a.m. with my writing class “Writing Your Memoir: One Vivid Story at a Time.”

Memoir writing offers you the opportunity to observe the past with fresh eyes, reflect on your life purpose, clarify your future path and preserve your unique stories. Always with humor, I promise to demystify the process of memoir writing and provide the simple tools you need to begin. The class will end at noon.

From 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., you will be immersed in Native American culture by spending this afternoon with a Native American healer who will offer a blessing and healing ceremony which is sure to nourish and renew the spirit.

Saturday dinner, held from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., will be a memorable experience. A premiere Native American chef will prepare centuries old traditional dishes for you in her home using organic ingredients. The history of each dish will be explained. To end the evening, her Navajo sous chef will drum and sing for you.

Sunday morning from 10:00 a.m. to noon will be spent writing with me.

The experience will end Sunday afternoon with an herbal massage and flower and mineral essences with the Native American healer. Massage sessions will begin at 2:00 p.m. You will return home with flower and mineral essences as a remembrance of this special weekend.

I urge you to make this peaceful, revitalizing weekend a gift to yourself. Patrizia will not disappoint, and I would love to write with you. Locals are welcome to join in, too.  You may even get to meet the beautiful and talented Georgia the Dog!

You will stay in town at a typical southwestern accommodation. Upon request, for this weekend, Seven Directions Tours will provide ideas and itineraries for anyone wanting also to enjoy the beautiful surroundings and the art and culture for which Santa Fe is famous.

For further information and media inquiries call Patrizia Antonicelli at 505.820.3305 or visit www.sevendirections.net .

The Zen of Baseball, White Pants and A Worm

Slugger Ben

Big day yesterday for my great-nephew Ben. Time to put on the new uniform, complete with team shirt and pants too big for his skinny little self, and play ball. Saturday was the first game of the season. Actually, it was Ben’s first game, period.

Evidently practice at this point has more to do with teaching the kids to run to first base if per chance they hit the ball. At practice, the kids hit the ball off the tee and the coach runs along with them to first base where another person is waiting to give the kids a high five. This is zen beginner’s mind for real.

The highlight of yesterday at the ball field was finding the team worm. Everyone paused to give the mascot a  thorough inspection.


The Worm

Then the game was rained out and everyone went home, pants still white.

I asked Ben’s mother if he was disappointed the game was a wash out. “No! He just had fun being out there and running around for a few minutes.”

“Baseball was made for kids, and grownups only screw it up.”  (Bob Lemon)  I hope Ben always finds the wonder in the worm.

Memoir Writing Classes for March, April: It’s Promo Time!


You have a story to tell. Whether you have lived your life quietly or on a more public stage, memoir writing offers you the opportunity to observe the past with fresh eyes, reflect on the major events of your life and your life’s purpose, clarify your future path and preserve your unique stories. Here is the bonus: When you are open to telling your individual stories in the most authentic, truth seeking way, you will touch the universal truths that have the power to transform both you and the reader.

So often people feel called to write their life stories but have no idea how to begin. Let me be your guide:

  • With compassion and humor, I will demystify the process of memoir writing.
  • Through writing exercises and discussion, I will provide the simple tools you need to capture the stories of your life, one small vivid story at a time.
  • While the classes are specifically structured to teach memoir writing, participants will gain helpful information for writing informal family histories as well.
  • Both beginning and seasoned writers are welcome.
  • A sense of humor is mandatory.

This is a gift to yourself, an opportunity to get in touch with your purpose, your story.  The classes will offer you a sense of inquiry and focus.

“Susan is a storyteller of unparalleled substance. She will help you find the unique threads of your life and teach you how to weave them into a beautiful tapestry. You will not be disappointed.”  Elizabeth  M.

“Susan’s class really turned me loose!” Susan M.

For information about new workshops in March and April, please email me at susan@susantungate.com. 

Forrest Fenn’s Treasure: Be Careful Out There!


The Chest! photograph by Forrest Fenn

In my January 13, 2013, post I told you about the $2 million treasure chest hidden in Northern New Mexico by antiquities dealer Forrest Fenn. Seems at least one person threw caution to the wind last week as she searched for the pot of gold, rubies and diamonds.

A woman from Texas hit the trail searching for the illusive treasure, first hiking the area around Bandelier National Monument and then climbing down the Rio Grande and up the Falls Trail.  When she turned around to head home, the rain began, the sun went down and she became lost. After spending a very cold night outside, she retraced her steps and found her way back to her car.

Search and rescue brought dog teams, three aircraft and people power to the rescue before she found herself.

So the moral of the story is this: Treasure hunters beware! Stay on the marked trails, remember that the weather in New Mexico can change on a dime, and always tell someone where you will be hiking. The monument officials add the reminder that it is illegal to dig or bury an item on federal lands, but I have to wonder if that law  deterred Mr. Fenn.


National Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day


Chief Justice Pamela Minzner

Happy National Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day. Time to applaud some of the women pioneers of New Mexico. These women did not traverse the plains and hurl themselves down gorges to arrive in the mountain desert. No, they climbed a different mountain. These women became lawyers at a time when the culture (ok , men) tried its best to block them at every step.

Let’s first start with the shocking statistic that it took 82 years, between 1892 and 1974, for the first 100 women to be admitted to the New Mexico bar. All of those women faced a rough road.

The  first woman to be admitted to the bar was Henrietta Pettijohn in 1892. New Mexico was still a Territory. Evidently the fine gentlemen of the bar did not believe it possible for a woman to be “well qualified for admission” since those words are crossed out on her bar certification. Sixteen years later Nellie Brewer Pierce was admitted to the bar and proceeded to form the first husband and wife law firm in the state. Katherine Burns Mabry, admitted in 1917, practiced with her husband. Then came Gladys Brice Watts in 1919.Think about this. The first four women to be admitted to the New Mexico bar practiced law prior to even gaining the right to vote. These women had chutzpah!

I have a few favorites on the first 100 list. Mary Coon Walters started off on the well worn path of studying home economics in college but the chain smoking Ms Walters veered off to be an Air Force Pilot in WWII followed by admission to the bar in 1962. Then she added three “firsts” in New Mexico:  the first female District Court Judge, the first female Chief Judge on the Court of Appeals and, in 1984, the first female Justice on the New Mexico Supreme Court. Rumor has it her colleagues did not want her to have the ultimate honor of Chief Justice.

That honor went to the much revered and beloved Pamela Minzner, pictured above, who was admitted to the state bar in 1972. She served as Chief Justice from 1999-2001.

Chief Justice Petra Jimenez Maes, our current Chief Justice, was the first Hispanic woman to become Chief Justice in 2003. She is currently serving her second term as Chief Justice. She and a classmate were also the first Hispanic women to graduate from the University of New Mexico School of Law in 1972, not so long ago.

Each of these women broke ceilings and climbed over barriers, showing us all, young and old, what is possible with focused determination, a drive for excellence and just plain perseverance despite all the ruckus. It was challenging enough when I graduated from law school in Pennsylvania in 1981. My hat is off to them.

Buy a Table, Save a Dog

Georgia the Dog here. My person says consignment stores are the new growth industry of Santa Fe, perhaps a sign of the times. I have no idea what that means, but I do give 4 paws up to the latest consignment store that opened last Saturday, “barkin attic” located at 851 Saint Michael’s Drive in the Candyman Center. Besides the fact it truly has lovely cabinets and couches and fine art and dishes and more, proceeds benefit the Espanola Valley Humane Society. How great is that! You can buy a table and save a dog, or even a cat like my arch nemesis and roommate Harry.

The manager said they sold half the inventory on opening day, but don’t despair. As we were visiting the shop, more pieces were arriving. Come take a look. Store hours are Monday-Saturday, 10 A.M. to  6 P.M.; phone number is 505.428.0223.






A Drive to Taos on Sunday Morning

Santa Fe has been cold and windy but on Sunday morning the sun emerged and I did, too. I drove to Taos and back in the morning, just to see the Rio Grande curve with the mountains, to view wild sky extend forever, to feel my small place in the midst of it all.

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” Albert Einstein