No picture for you. Sorry. You’ll soon hear why.
It’s been months since I’ve posted here. From mid October to now, I’ve been settled into a trough of being home: everyday work, attention to house, family, dog and friends, rediscovering daily walks in the open space near my house, investigations into how to eat healthier, scheming on sweater designs, endless emails, taking out the trash. You know, the stuff of life.
I’ve even become something of a hermit. Doesn’t sound like me at all, I know. Something about this work I do now, with its intense social interaction combined with the effort required to maintain yourself in unfamiliar environments compels me to make my time at home a retreat of sorts. Plus, in all honesty, creating and running trips takes a great deal of effort. I can’t remember the last time I (willingly) worked such continuous hours. No matter how much work I put in, there’s always more to do, deadlines approaching. Yikes, the haystack of tasks involved with travel planning is immense. I now understand the deer-in-the-headlights look my colleague Heather often has on her face.
That being said, I wouldn’t trade this work for any other. The learning curve is steep, the pile of tasks immense, but the rewards are well worth the effort. I just spent a little time looking back at posts from Scotland, England and Ireland. Have I done all this? Really?!?!?
So time at home lays the groundwork for all that travel and opportunity for amazing experiences. But I have to admit, its been getting a bit gray around the edges. A LOT of time in front of the computer. In fact, I’m sick of staring at the thing. I’m even just a teensy bit sick of my wonderful home. And if you know me at all, you know that I love my home.
I think that gray may have been what pushed me out of bed early this morning. Even before coffee (gasp!), I was pulling on clothes and looking for my car keys. It’s Saturday. That means the Farmer’s Market is going on downtown. I’ve had it on my mind to take yet another look at what’s being grown locally and to hope for inspiration among the greens and eggs and beans and chicos and chiles. I poured coffee into a travel cup, poured myself into the car, and drove tward downtown.
I have a love-hate relationship with the Farmers Market. I’ll admit that right here and now. I love the idea of it. I love the thought of all those farm folks having direct access to their customers. I love the idea of fresh food, grown mere minutes from my door. I love that Santa Fe has enough people, both customers and purveyors, to keep a market like this one alive and thriving.
Now I’ll tell you why I almost never go there. The Farmers Market doesn’t make sense for a regular person living a regular life in this regular American city. At least, it doesn’t make sense for this one. My Saturday mornings are sacred, even when I work from home. They are one of the few remaining times in the week which still feels full of possibility. I don’t usually have anything scheduled. I try not to have anything unscheduled as often as possible. That leaves the day to unfold as it may, without agenda or restrictions. I love that so very much.
Sacrifice my freeform Saturday mornings to the task of grocery shopping? Even if it’s grocery shopping in the hippest, freshest, most worthwhile venue in the city? I think not! Food shopping gets done in the less precious chunks of time: after a must-do errand in town or mid afternoon, after the lunch rush but before the post-work, on-your-way-home grocery stop. Buying groceries is for random, leftover and utterly utilitarian chunks of available time. They happen with no specific schedule and in no regular rhythm. The Farmers Market happens with astoundingly organized regularity. I’m sure that’s important for it. What’s important for me is availability and accessibility whenever I’m on the hunt for food. My life and the Farmers Market are a complete mismatch.
Then there’s parking. I hate to be a car-centric American, but there you have it. I am one. Parking at the market is always a challenge unless you go at 8 am. I arrived today at 8:30. It was only mildly challenging. But then again, it’s winter – a time when the market is a third the size and has far fewer visitors. Now add in prices at the market, which are actually pretty steep. Add in the hubbub of the crowd. On a good day, and in the right headspace, it’s invigorating. When I’m tired and just want produce, it’s a hassle. If Smith’s or Whole Foods or Sprouts was this crowded when I went in, I’d turn right around and leave. “Whew! Best to come back when it’s less busy!” But busy is the life blood of the farmers market. It’s essential. And aggravating.
The above reasons, plus many more unmentioned, are why I’ve relegated Santa Fe’s Farmers Market to the realm of “entertainment” rather than “food procurement”. It’s really a better fit. Getting up on a Saturday morning to go there is more about a need for stimulation than for sustenance. Nevertheless, good greens, cota tea, and breakfast were purchased this morning. I watched the mass of people wander among the sellers. I wondered if any of them were really there to buy food. I watched a local figure I know hold court at one of the picnic benches. Parents with children. A panoply of colorful shopping bags. More fresh eggs than you can ever eat in your wildest dreams. Coffee. Cowboy hats. Women in leggings and furry boots. Rows of bright carrots, kale and potatoes. Bags of pinto beans. Apple cider.
And then suddenly I was done. I stopped to pet a dog on my way out of the hubbub. He was gentle and brown and lying quite placidly at his owner’s feet. I scratched his ears and enjoyed the sleek feel of his coat. He, like me, didn’t really belong here. He was just biding time. Apparently, so was I. And it was time to go.
With a full bag in one hand and my big white Aran sweater in the other, I headed out the door. Once outside, the noise instantly hushed. The sky was overcast. The day looked like a good one for cozying up to the fireplace with a book and a nice cup of tea. (Ha! Sounds good, but really I knew I was going home to do tax prep. Okay, maybe an hour of cozying and tea? Twenty minutes, perhaps?) I walked a few paces and then thought I’d walk through the market at El Museo on my way to the car.
Just to let you know, my car was NOT parked on the other side of the Museo. In fact, going in here was only adding to the walking distance, not shortening it. Nope. Going into the market, or mercado, had no utilitarian agenda whatsoever. I just wanted to see.
The weekend mercado at El Museo has slowly and relentlessly become the reincarnation of the Santa Fe Flea Market. Remember the Flea Market, out in Tesuque? For years it was the greatest gathering of hand crafted items, imports, fine art, garage sale treasures and all manner of things fantastic and groovy. It was all the best stuff in Santa Fe, offered in a makeshift setting. No rents paid, save the cost of booth fee, meant great prices for shoppers. I remember amazing consignment clothing and furniture, jewelry and antiques. When it closed, the city lost an essential part of its character. Folks tried to resurrect the flea market at a few different places, a few different times. But I never saw anything that led me to believe in a true reincarnation. Until today.
I’ve been in the mercado at El Museo before. But it’s been a long time since I visited. And I don’t remember being so wowed as I was today. It’s not a huge market. But it’s good. Very good. I walked the aisles, taking in the colors, textures, smells and sounds of painters, collectors, jewelers, rock hounds, bead purveyors, textile importers. A craftperson’s Mecca. Not because there was so much to look at or even buy. But that the quality of the work was so good. There are even two tiny restaurants in the mercado with beautiful baked goods and lively lunch offerings.
In this modern, American life, where so much of what we seek and obtain is utilitarian, about which we’re mightily concerned with cost and whether we can afford it, and so often make purchases to assuage some compulsion for “stuff”, a few snatched minutes in a place like El Museo is a wonder to me. It’s not about everyday maintenance. It’s definitely not about getting stuff you need. For me, it’s a reminder of how wonderful humans can be. What they can make! What they can think of! How they offer up beauty and ingenuity at every turn! My gosh. Magnificent.
My favorite find from the morning was the work of a photographer. I stopped to admire his black and white prints and soon found myself drawn into looking at every single one. Each was so fine an example of technique, composition and finesse. But even more, each was a whole story unto itself. You could spend hours gazing, if time allowed. Some were humorous, others thoughtful. All were reverent. I don’t know the photographer’s intent – only my own reactions.
I talked briefly with him. Of our conversation, I remember this the most:
He asked if I had any favorites or liked any particular one. I stumbled over providing a response. There were so many. In fact, I could have answered “Every single one!” But I refrained from gushing, instead pulling out a mounted photo of a zebra, central in the frame, with horizontal lines of black and white echoing behind him on the surface of a lake. I said “This one. This one is…”
He finished the sentence for me. “Yes, this one is… well, it captures a moment. The landscapes and other objects, they’re always there. They’re eternal subjects. But this one – and there are others here like it – they capture a moment that will only happen once.” He then went on to tell me about how it happened, traveling in Africa with a group, and how they’d stopped to photograph the zebra. At the far edge of the nearby lake, a hippo entered the water, sending waves out from his heavy intrusion. The photographer counseled the others “Wait. Just wait. Watch what happens”. And the photo, and several others, I assume, were captured. Not just an opportunity for beauty or for capturing something wild or for the juxtaposition of forms and light – but now a singular moment in time when all of that was brought together with opportunity. And with the human capacity to see, appreciate, record. Revel.
I wandered further, looking at more goodies. But the jewel of the day had already been found. I pondered that concept of moments.
I saw things, but mostly I thought. I turned that word “moment” over and over in my head. I thought of old drawings I’d done, and how each had the capacity to transport me right back to the time and place, even mindset, of their making. I thought of all my recent travels. How many singular, spectacular moments I’ve experienced in the last few years. I thought of writing, and how it’s my opportunity to record and share those moments with you. I thought of all the creative people everywhere, spending countless hours perfecting their crafts until suddenly, and often without realizing it, they have a synchronistic moment of making something soul satisfying, either in its making or in what it brings forth from the heart of the recipient. In the best cases, both.
It’s this insight, this opportunity for learning and wonder that sends me out of bed on a gray Saturday morning. It sends me on hours-long, scrunched up international flights. It sends me out of my home when I’d really rather stay put. I don’t mind the hours of staring at a computer screen, or the trials of bookkeeping. I don’t mind grocery shopping or cleaning the house or getting the oil changed in between doing 17 other daily tasks. I don’t mind working long hours for merely adequate pay. As long as I get to gather these kinds of moments, I’m satisfied. Moments of learning and quiet joy. Moments when circumstance brings together beauty or insight or exuberant enjoyment with a little something special because it could only happen at this time and in this way. And the moment, well – I’m there to experience, appreciate, and record it. The moment is life’s very best offering. Absolutely.
If you’d like to be wowed by this photographer’s black and white work, take a look here: http://www.rdavidmarks.com You’ll find the zebra photo among his Africa collection. I would have swiped an image to add in for this post, but don’t want to subject his photos to easy re-use via the right-click-and-save-as. Do have a look.
And I’ve not included my own photos of the day as I usually do for blog posts. I had no idea I was back in writing and posting mode! Random thoughts of catching images of the day were dismissed with “Oh, no one needs to see this or hear about this…” Which reminds me that everything is grist for the sharing mill. I’ll take pics next time I’m out for an adventure. I promise.