Under Santa Fe Skies

by Susan Tungate

The Season of Transition

Things out there in the world are unsettling at the moment, I think. So much noise—politicians in the Presidential race yapping at each other, gun shots all over the country, road rage, a general sense by some of entitlement coupled with a lack of boundaries.  New Mexico was recently crowned the second most dangerous state to live in the United States. While New Mexico offers the cleanest air to breathe and inspiring vistas, heroin and alcohol mixed with guns, cars, poverty and anger are not a healthy combination.  The good news is that pretty much all of the above is manmade. We created the problems. We can solve them.

And what better time than now, the season of change,  to “be the change that you wish to see in the world,” as Gandhi said. In Santa Fe, nature has signaled the transition from summer to autumn with leggy sunflowers, aspen leaves turning from green to gold and enough ripe tomatoes for each of us to make a year’s worth of salsa or pasta sauce. The kids are back in school. Labor Day is coming up. The boats are stored. These markers of transition urge a pause, a moment of reflection. What do we want in our lives? What must stop? What’s the next step?

And right in the middle of all that pondering we burn Zozobra on Friday night, right  down to his big duck feet. Old Man Gloom will turn to ashes along with our fears and worries! What perfect timing! How great is that!  So I suggest we each have our own little Zozobra ceremony. Write  down all your fears and mistakes and blunders and burn them to smithereens, keeping a bucket of water nearby. Then write down all your hopes and intentions and plans for action.  Keep those. Nurture them, even when it turns cold and dark and snow falls on the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

It Snowed Last Night

It snowed last night, and for just a bit of time, before the dirt and the slush and the traffic, the world was transformed.

Quan Yin

Canyon Road #1

Canyon Road #2

Canyon Road #3

Mardi Gras Parrot




When the Earth Smiles

When the earth smiles, the birds smile back.

(Photo copyright Google Pics)

Halloween Week

Fresh chile ristras.

The end of tomato season.


Horses fashioned from fresh sage.

Aspen leaves falling fast.

Georgia so very excited to wear her costume.

Little boys morph into cartoon figures.

And Mary Ann’s birthday!

Must be the last week of October. Big smile.




Brittle. All summer I held the  thought Santa Fe had turned from soft to brittle. The monsoons never came but the fires did. The drought continued.  Winds blew the smoke and dust into our faces and homes. The little Santa Fe River that curves through the center of town did not flow nor did the brick lined Acequia Madre, the Mother Ditch built hundreds of years ago by the Spaniards to irrigate the farms on the now historic Eastside.  The farms were long ago replaced by million dollar adobe homes, but seeing the dry bed of the Acequia Madre broke my heart. Things were out of kilter.

And all summer we were disheartened by the latest statistics that placed New Mexico last on the list for taking care of our children and on top of the list for violence against women. New Mexico placed dead last on the list for economic recovery. People are having a hard time paying their bills. Brittle.

Yesterday I decided it was time to take a walk on the Eastside to view the fall colors. The first hard freeze has hit the roses. The leaves are dropping fast. As the dogs and I walked from Canyon Road toward the Acequia Madre, I heard it– the soft rushing sound of water. I guess the rain that fell the last few weeks of summer added sufficient water to Santa Fe’s reserves to warrant opening the gates to the ditch. With the turn of a knob, the water brought the Acequia Madre to life.

A few blocks away, I saw a line of people standing next to the narrow banks of the Santa Fe River, cell phones raised taking photographs. The river is flowing.

Softness,  synonymous with adaptability, endurance.

NEWS FLASH: Government Shuts Down, Leaves Keep on Turning

A bean tree in Santa Fe: Nature’s version of the Sword of Damocles.

I don’t see a cat. Do you?


Santa Fe: No April Showers, Not Too Many Flowers



A reader asked for an update on the flowers now blooming in Santa Fe.  Early last evening Georgia and I brought the cell phone along on our walk and took a few photos. I can hear the sound of some of you clicking off right now, but undaunted and with a serious need to please, I present to you the flowers on our street. If some are blurry, blame Georgia. She pulled as I snapped.

While not a flower, this little mama dove is sitting on some eggs in a tree outside the house.













A footnote: I was unable to blast to subscribers Harry’s article called   “Harry Gives Four Paws Up to ‘Sad Cat Diary.’”Very funny video for you cat fans. Just go on undersantafeskies.com and look for Harry’s photo in Georgia’s Tips.

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.

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