Under Santa Fe Skies

by Susan Tungate

Got Your Ducks In A Row?

I’ve got all my ducks in a row now. You?

Spring Flowers and Cinnamon Coffee Cake

I made a cinnamon coffee cake last Saturday, prompted I suspect by the spring flowers in Santa Fe.


My Mother loved flowers. She wanted me to know the names of flowers. It was important to her.


When we lived in Georgia, at the first hint of spring we began our hunt for green leaves and buds. Mother and I toured the yard after dinner, wandering from spot to spot as she pointed and said, “These leaves will be purple iris. Look, the red and yellow parrot tulips made it through the winter.  These are the purple crocus. White snow drops. Daffodils. Cherry blossoms.”


She would have loved spring in Santa Fe. Georgia and I walked to the Plaza last weekend and along the way I saw all of the flowers I met with Mother: iris blossoms, red tulips, forsythia, pussy willows, cherry blossoms, apricot blossoms.


“Flowers are for the living,” Mother would say. I am the one living to see them and remember her, which brings me to the coffee cake. Mother had many wonderful qualities and skills but cooking wasn’t one of them with a few exceptions. One exception was her cinnamon coffee cake.

On occasion she made one for Sunday breakfast. The fragrance drew me to the table and the cinnamon and butter and brown sugar melted into the warm cake kept me there until the last crumb. That coffee cake was love.


So after Georgia and I toured the flowers, I went to the grocery store. A few hours later a friend of mine and I sat at my table with a vase filled with daffodils and ate warm cinnamon coffee cake at 3 P.M.  Flowers and cinnamon coffee cake are for the living and for remembering those who loved us and taught us all we ever needed to know.

How to Tell a Santa Fean from a Tourist Part I

If at a stop light when the light turns green, Santa Feans will not attempt a left hand turn before the oncoming cars. Those drivers are from Pittsburgh.

If your refrigerator stops running in Chicago, the owner will call a repair person. A Santa Fean will shake her head and say, “Damn, Mercury must be in retrograde. I hope the milk won’t spoil before  it goes direct.”

If you are  in a grocery checkout line in Santa Fe and you live in Santa Fe, you and the clerk will chat, saying, “Hi, how are you? What a cute dog! Is your mother feeling better today? Ohhhh, what a pretty dress! Are you making salsa with the tomatillos?” The person standing next in line pounding her fist on the counter is from NYC.

If you are walking around Santa Fe in shorts in summer, you are a tourist. If you are a man walking around in shorts in the winter, you are a Santa Fean.

If the host of a party says “dress is casual,” men in Atlanta will wear chino pants, a blue oxford cloth shirt and navy blazer; the women will wear a floral print dress with strappy sandals. In Santa Fe, the men will wear a tee shirt without a logo as will the women.

If you are visiting Santa Fe and mindlessly reading a map as you cross Canyon Road without looking out for traffic, let me say in all seriousness, don’t. The passenger in the car coming straight at you is saying to the driver, “Five points for the man in the chino pants.”

Now, your turn. Write me. How can you tell a Santa Fean from a tourist?

Have A Good Week


KINDNESS by Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is

you must lose things,

feel the future dissolve in a moment

like salt in a weakened broth.

What you held in your hand,

what you counted and carefully saved,

all this must go so you know

how desolate the landscape can be

between the regions of kindness.

How you ride and ride

thinking the bus will never stop.

the passengers eating maize and chicken

will stare out the window forever.


Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,

You must know sorrow as the deepest thing.

You must wake up with sorrow.

You must speak to it till your voice

catches the thread of all sorrows

and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,

only kindness that ties your shoes

and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,

only kindness that raises its head

from the crowd of the world to say

It is I you have been looking for,

and then goes with you everywhere

like a shadow or a friend.



Rest in peace, Eric.

Harry’s Revenge: Ode to Georgia


Harry the Humble

Hi, Harry the Cat here. I am taking command of Georgia the Dog’s column while she and our person are on a walk. I am outraged at Georgia’s unwarranted and vitriolic attack on my character in yesterday’s column. I must respond to her spurious comments.


Obsequious Georgia

Since I was adopted I have made every effort to be kind to Georgia, playful yet respectful and basically a good brother to her. How does she repay me? She makes a mockery of me! So. Without further ado, my Ode to Georgia the Dog.



Indolent Georgia

I hope that I shall never see,

A dog more indolent than Georgie.

Who spends her days lollygagging around,

Eating dried up chicken bonbons from the ground.


Who smiles and coo’s so sweet for adoration,

Yet turns on me when mom’s on vacation.

Oh, the treacherous path she’s taken,

Even though her feet are knarly and misshapen.


My what a wicked web she weaves,

As she blithely practices to deceive.

I, the humble Harry, noble to the core,

Vow to set my course, Miss Georgia to ignore.


Evermore. Evermore. Evermore!

Self Absorbed Georgia

Georgia’s Ode to Harry the Cat

Hi Georgia the Dog here. My person says April is poetry month. I decided to write a poem about my brother Harry the Cat. First, a bit of background. About three years ago my person and I drove to the pet store for the sole purpose of buying dog food for me. As we walked in the door we saw a woman from the Santa Fe Humane Society pulling little kittens out of a crate. I must admit they were cute, just like the stuffed duck I play with only in a different form.

I sniffed them all. At that point the woman reached into the bottom of the crate and pulled out one more kitten. The kitten was 2 1/2 months old and 2 1/2 pounds. She said this kitten was the calmest kitten she had ever seen. Since he barely moved and was most like my stuffed duck and since it seemed inevitable that my person was going to bring one of these things home with us , I made a big deal out of the last kitten.

And so it was that calm Harry the Cat came home with us. And then he woke up the next morning a full on crazed kitten, zooming around the house and up the windows. Seems the day before he was still groggy from the sedative given to him for his operation.

Today he is a huge cat with a raccoon tail who frankly irritates the heck out of me. Harry never leaves the house except for vet appointments, so we are stuck together most of the day. I could go on, but without further ado, my Ode to Harry the Cat.


He is her bundle of joy.
He is my kitty cat toy.
He lives his life to annoy.
He’s Harry.

He roams and rambles around.
But rarely goes into town.
Stays home and acts like a clown.
He’s Harry.




Forrest Fenn Yet Again


The Chest! photograph by Forrest Fenn


Today I bring you a harmonic conversion of several prior posts. 

I have told you about descansos, those road side memorials so prevalent in New Mexico that are placed where someone has died: crosses decorated with flowers, teddy bears, photographs, Christmas decorations. By law in New Mexico it is illegal to knowingly or willfully deface or destroy “a memorial placed alongside a public road or right of way to memorialize the death of one or more persons.” Descansos may be removed by the state under certain circumstances, but it would be a rare occurrence. Descansos are sacred here. In New Mexico even when roads are under repair, the descansos are treated with great respect by construction crews. 

Enter Forrest Fenn’s treasure. Forrest is the man who has gained national publicity of late for (allegedly) burying an antique bronze chest (allegedly) chock full of gold and jewels and treasures (allegedly) valued at $2 million. In his book The Thrill of the Chase, Forrest offers clues to where he buried the box. Collected Works bookstore in Santa Fe is the only place you can purchase the book, and they have sold a whole lot of copies. 

In early March I told you about a woman from Texas who, in searching for the treasure, got lost and spent a freezing night lost in the mountains north of Santa Fe. 

In today’s episode, the New Mexico Department of Fish and Game warden discovered a man digging with a hand tool under one of those sacred descansos. When they spotted him he had reached about 18″ under a 12″ by 12″ concrete base supporting an iron cross on state land along the upper Pecos River.

When asked what he was up to the guy volunteered that he was in search of…drum roll..Forrest Fenn’s treasure chest. The guy was told to restore the spot, and he did. He will now be charged under state law which makes it a misdemeanor to “excavate, injure, destroy or remove any cultural resources or artifacts” on State Game Commission land.

We have not been told the guy’s name or place of origin but my hunch is he is not from around these here parts. First we know you do not mess around with a descanso. Second most of us know by now that even if you find the treasure, if you find it on state or federal land you are not allowed to keep it.

So dear readers, in addition to the clues to the location of the (alleged) treasure box offered by Forrest in his book, I offer you these clues: Do not go wandering out looking for treasure without telling someone where you are and be sure to bring warm clothes. Do not dig on federal or state land. Above all else never ever ever touch a descanso.

Stay tuned…



Hardy Bits of Spring in Santa Fe

Despite the drought and cold nights,  hardy bits of Spring appeared seemingly overnight in Santa Fe: yellow hyacinths, Iris, and apricot blossoms.

“Sitting quietly, doing nothing, Spring comes and the grass grows, by itself.” Basho



April Is Poetry Month: A Tribute to Dr. Maya Angelou and Her 1993 Inaugural Poem


My article in tribute to  Dr. Maya Angelou’s 1993 Inaugural poem “On the Pulse of Morning” was posted on Maria Shriver’s website www.mariashriver.com on Monday. They are celebrating April Poetry Month. I had the honor of starting off the series.

Be sure to watch the video of Dr. Angelou reading her poem. It was quite a moment. I am standing way over to the right, invisible, witnessing it all.

Click here to read my article.