Under Santa Fe Skies

by Susan Tungate

Zozobra Burns, Your Troubles Are Toast!

This is Fiesta Week. We in Santa Fe all know the kick off for Fiesta Week is the burning of Zozobra, that 50 foot tall marionette that symbolizes all the gloom and doom in our lives. Since  Friday people have been stuffing his skirt with mementos of their worries–divorce filings, bills, job termination notices, bad report cards and photos of lovers who have done them wrong. On Thursday Zozobra and our worries are toast. Good riddance to bad jujus. I say burn ‘em!

At the moment, though,  Old Man Gloom is eviscerated about two blocks away at the El Museo Cultural Center in the Railyard area. His massive decapitated head sits next to his 40 foot long body. I like the idea  that Zozobra has been neutralized. Burning seems like over kill, but burn he will on Thursday after sunset.

At dusk at Fort Marcy Park, small fires are lit to surround Old Man Gloom. “Glooms,” played by children dressed in white, surround the base of Zozobra. Then with great fanfare the official Fire Spirit Dancer dressed in red tights and a cape appears at the top of the stage and dramatically swoops down to scare  away the Glooms. The dance between the Fire Spirit Dancer and the Glooms continues for quite some time as excitement builds and the crowd, which can be upwards of 30,000 people, gets all fired up so to speak, and yells, “BURN HIM! BURN HIM!”

And burn he does until he is one big pile of ash. The whole thing is one great big pagan ritual and a little horrific with the moans of distress that freak out me and Georgia the Dog, but with any luck our worries will be burned along with him, and Friday will be a brighter day, at least for us. Zozobra may have a different view of the experience.

I wish you joy and happy days.

PS I just learned about this new Zozobra website where you can record your worry and watch it virtually burn. Take a look here.

Milles Merci!

Thursday afternoon I returned home from teaching a memoir class to find this bouquet of gorgeous stargazer lilies on the patio in all their glory. What a nice surprise. But no note identifying the sweet soul! So, in hopes the person who brightened my day is a reader, MILLES MERCI and a big virtual hug to you. I placed the lilies on my dining room table where they fill the house and every breath with that scent of all scents. I hope you will let me know who you are.








Santa Fe is a place short on parking spaces, a place where you say a deep thank you to the

parking fairy every time you successfully find a place within walking distance of

your destination. Because of that, shop owners guard their designated spaces.

The message on their NO PARKING signs may reflect their level of frustration with

the parking issue.

For example, my bank WILL TOW YOU QUICKLY! Seemingly, if you allow your tires to

hit their real estate a trip wire will activate the phone number of the towing

service and your car as well as the remainder of your day is history.

The athletes who run this bicycle store will indeed tow you, but not so quickly. You

may have  time to race to Trader Joe’s for less than 15 items and run through the

express line in time to avoid the dread tow truck.

Now the amicable owner of Mail Call posted this sign in front of his store before he

moved. A certain civility prevails here, and you at least have options.

My favorite is Chico the Dog’s sign. I am pretty sure you will have time to

saunter down to Tia Sophia’s for a load of cheese enchiladas before Chico wakes up.

Even better, bring him back a treat and your car can stay put until midnight.

Advice to Your Younger Self

In my memoir writing and family memoir writing classes, I often ask participants to pause for a moment and remember some of the turning points of their lives after which everything changed. You may not have known at the time the moment was pivotal, but it became clear afterwards: a favorite English teacher praised your writing in third grade, your parents moved you to another state, you declined a marriage proposal, you spent a year abroad, you became ill, you lost your job, you became a parent, you wanted to be a doctor but you learned one summer you couldn’t handle the sight of blood.

Then I ask this question: What advice would you give to your younger self? I ask this question to bring them back in time to their younger selves and to give the experienced self something to ponder as they move forward. Mostly I ask the question because I want to know the answer.

In one class, a 97 year old woman offered this answer to the question of what advice would you give your 18 year old self: “Well first, I would run up to her and give her a big hug. I would tell her I LOVE YOU. Then I would tell her not to be afraid. I would tell her to go ahead, just do what you need to do despite what everyone else is telling you to do.”

How about today you ask yourself the question and listen to your answer. Then ask one person to answer the question and share his or her response with you. The answers will touch your heart and get you thinking. I promise.

92nd Annual Santa Fe Indian Market: The Crescendo of Summer

copyright SWAIA

The end of summer in Santa Fe is a bit like the grand finale of a firework extravaganza on the Fourth of July. The events of the summer build and build until kaboom!, mid August hits and it is  time for Santa Fe Indian Market week.

Surrounding  Indian Market, Santa Fe is filled with gallery openings and trunk shows for everything from art to hand tooled custom boots and handbags to turquoise jewelry in every shade from green to light blue to, well, turquoise.

The 92nd Annual Santa Fe Indian Market will be held on the Plaza this Saturday 7a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 8a.m. to 5p.m. I like to arrive early on Saturday before 7a.m., before the crowds, just to feel the excitement and anticipation of the over 1,000 artists from all over North America who are showing their pottery, paintings, jewelry, textiles, beadwork, baskets and sculpture, some traditional, some contemporary. Grab an Indian taco or fry bread and forget the guilt because this is tradition, watch a fashion show, watch little bitty sweet faced kids and big kids wearing traditional native clothes, listen to the music and feel a part of a 92 year old Santa Fe tradition and so many more years of Native American heritage.

And breathe deeply because this is also chile roasting time in New Mexico, another part of the crescendo of summer. Hermes’ Eau de Merveilles cannot compare to the sensual fragrance of fresh roasted chiles. Just can’t.

This week explodes with the fullness of summer and the joy of being present for the cycle of tradition in Santa Fe.

Singing, Dancing and Sisters on the Fly

On Saturday morning I woke up fogged in with  sad stories. This week three  long time Santa Fe merchants told me July was their worst month ever in twenty or thirty years. For those of you of a certain age, you’ll understand when I say I heard the refrain of Peggy Lee’s “Is That All There Is” playing in my ear.

So what to do on a beautiful blue sky Santa Fe Saturday morning to turn the mood around? The answer is always to head to the Farmers’ Market, only a few blocks from me in the Railyard area. On the way there I spotted one of my favorite things on the planet: small vintage trailers from the 1950′s and 1960′s. And there were three of them.

I met Susan from Colorado who recently retired from her practice as a pediatrician, bought a 1957 Airstream Bubble, refurbished and decorated it, and joined Sisters on the Fly, a group of women of all ages who on occasion leave their families behind to caravan around the country in their restored trailers for adventures in fishing, cooking, shopping, imbibing a bit and laughing a lot. Sign me up.

My brothers had matching bedspreads by the same manufacturer in 1957.

Of all people, Forrest Fenn, the man who allegedly buried the treasure box in the mountains of Northern New Mexico ,was sitting outside this cute trailer. And, no, I didn’t ask.

Then I moved along to the Farmers’ Market.

Amongst the vegetables and flowers and soaps and candles, the woman in pink was singing gypsy-ish songs, which was appropriate since she looked gypsy-ish.

This man was playing  classical music

as this man fashioned balloon animals.

Further down the aisle a farmer who grows flowers and makes corn dolls yelled out to me in a thick Spanish accent, “Come here! For you who are a sweetie I have these flowers as a thanks you for listening to me last week.” I know money is tight for her and she sells these flowers for $15, but as I start to say “oh, no, I couldn’t” I hear my niece’s voice in my ear saying, “Aunt Susie, just say thank you,” and I did.

At the end of the aisle these guys were playing music heavy on percussion and sax.

I stood listening for a bit. Then my friend John, who I have not seen for a year, came up to me with a big smile, placed my flowers on the ground,  and we danced in the middle of it all.

Ask Georgia

Dear Georgia,

My wife and I are wondering how things are going with the new dog Sofie.

We are considering adding another dog and are looking to you for inspiration.

Is Sofie adjusting? Everybody getting along?


Wondering in Washington


Dear Wondering in Washington,

Sofie did get stuck in Harry the Cat’s house this week which cracked me up.

But she is really happy to be out of the shelter.

And we are all getting along just fine.

Go save a dog (ok, or even a cat) from prison today!

Love, Georgia