Under Santa Fe Skies

by Susan Tungate

A Piece of Cake

It has never been a piece of cake earning a good living in Santa Fe by national standards. It has been possible to build a rich life here, though, with sufficient income, a sense of community and history, art, pollution free skies and mountains to explore. Since the recession hit five years ago, earning even a sufficient income is impossible for many. Not even Mississippi has saved New Mexico from the bottom of the list for economic recovery. Forget job growth. New Mexico is still losing jobs, and our elected officials don’t have a plan to change things.

So there is a lot of grim talk and tough choices. Yesterday at the Farmers’ Market I heard more grim talk. The hard freeze in April destroyed the fruit tree crop for many of them.

Two weeks before at the Market I spoke with a woman I have known for 15 years who makes ristras and dolls from corn husks. After the usual exchange of pleasantries when we both say we are doing just fine, the veil dropped and she said,” Susan, I am an animal in a cage.  I don’t know what to do. I pray and pray and I work hard but I can’t earn enough money. I think death is better.”

We have a long talk. I say everything you would have said to encourage and support. Then she says, “You know what, Susan? I want to give you this doll. Thank you. Thank you.” Despite my protests, she wraps up a beautiful little doll wearing a white lace blouse and a flowered skirt, holding a bouquet of dried flowers. We hug and I continue down the aisle.

At the end of the aisle three women dressed in fairy costumes are handing out cake in celebration of May Day and the first Saturday the Market has moved outside. Actual kids and adults who turn into kids at the sight of cake are laughing and taking the biggest piece of cake they can find.  I take a piece of cake and walk back down the aisle. As I approach my friend, I see she is speaking with two women as she wraps their new purchases. We smile at each other. I hand her the piece of cake and walk home.

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