Tag Archives: Santa Fe

Statue of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha in Front of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe, NM

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During our early March 2020 trip to Santa Fe, we walked from the Plaza to the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi (more commonly known as Saint Francis Cathedral). One of the things we saw at the Cathedral was the 7 and 1/2-foot-tall statue of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha.

Statue of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha in front of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

I grew up Catholic, so I had heard of Kateri Tekakwitha before viewing the statute in Santa Fe. For everyone who doesn’t know, she was the first Native American canonized as a saint. According to Catholic Online,

St. Kateri Tekakwitha is the first Native American to be recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church. She was born in 1656, in the Mohawk village of Ossernenon [in what is now central New York state]…

The website says her mother was Algonquin and her father was Mohawk and gives more details about her religious life.

At age 19, Kateri Tekakwitha converted to Catholicism, taking a vow of chastity and pledging to marry only Jesus Christ. Her decision was very unpopular [among her community]…to avoid persecution, she traveled to a Christian native community south of Montreal.

Kateri was very devout and was known for her steadfast devotion…just five years after her conversion to Catholicism, she became ill and passed away at age 24, on April 17, 1680.

Her name, Kateri, is the Mohawk form of Catherine, which she took from St. Catherine of Siena.

St. Kateri Tekakwitha was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on Oct. 21, 2012. She is the patroness of ecology and the environment, people in exile and Native Americans.

Her feastday is July 14.

Wikipedia tells us the bronze statue of St. Kateri Tekakwitha in front of Saint Francis Cathedral was created by

Estella Loretto, a sculptor from the nearby Jemez Pueblo, and installed in August 2003.[3] A plaque noting Kateri’s canonization was added in October 2012.

According the to the sculptor’s website,

Estella Loretto is currently the only Native American woman working in monumental bronze sculpting. She is recognized internationally as one of the finest sculptors living today…She has studied and trained with mentors including her mother, her grandmother, and most notably with Native American sculptor Allen Houser-Haozous.

Estella was commissioned by Most Rev. Michael J. Sheehan to create a monumental bronze statue of Saint Kateri, which has welcomed visitors at the entrance to Saint Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe, NM, since 2003.

The 2012 article “Long Journey to Sainthood” by Staci Matlock in the Santa Fe New Mexican explains the look of Loretto’s Kateri sculpture.

While other statues and paintings of Kateri show her in traditional Mohawk dress with two braids, Loretto envisioned her more in Pueblo style. In her statue, Kateri has loose flowing hair, kind eyes and is holding four feathers with a rosary. “She’s in Pueblo country,” Loretto said when the statue was unveiled in 2003. “I’m an artist. I have to do her the way she comes to me.”

I’d often wondered why this station of Saint Kateri looked so different from other images I’d seen of her. Now I know!

I enjoyed visiting this statue and taking some photos of it. I hope if you ever travel to Santa Fe, you too can spend some time here.

I took the photos in this post.

Spitz Clock, Santa Fe, NM

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I like big clocks, and I cannot lie!

In January 2020 I wrote about the Town Center Clock in Mesa, AZ. I saw the clock in downtown Mesa and thought it was interesting, so I took some photos. Then I shared the photos of the clock and its story with you!

I had forgotten that Santa Fe, NM has a big clock of its own. I saw the clock again during a brief visit to Santa Fe last month (March 2020).

The clock is the Spitz clock, and it’s been all over the Santa Fe Plaza.

According to the plaque at the base of the clock, the “Spitz Jewelry Store was established on the Plaza in 1881.” A clock without works was placed in front of the store as an advertisement. Around the turn of the 20th century, the fake clock was “replaced by a functioning sidewalk clock which stood until 1915 when it was knocked down by one of the first motor trucks in Santa Fe.” The third clock is the one you see in my photos today.

The Spitz Clock is located almost in front of the New Mexico Museum of Art at the corner of Palace and Lincoln Avenues.

The third Spitz Clock…was purchased second-hand by Salamon Spitz in 1916 and was brought to Santa Fe from Kansas City. It stood in front of the Spitz Jewelry Story until the Plaza’s south portal was built in 1967. The clock was donated to the citizens of Santa Fe by Bernard Spitz, and was erected on this site in June of 1974.

(You can see a photo from that dedication of the clock in the New Mexico Digital Collections.)

According to the 2011 Albuquerque Journal article “Clock Takes A Beating” by Phil Parker,

The Spitz Clock was built by the clock makers E. Howard and Company. Howard clocks were ubiquitous around the country on city squares…but Santa Fe’s is believed to be the last one with its original gears still intact. Others around the country have had their inner works, which have to be wound, replaced with electronics.

The aforementioned 2011 Albuquerque Journal article was all about how the clock wasn’t doing too well.

The gold leaf around the face is cracking, and seeping water has caused the clock to deteriorate. Also, it becomes far less reliable in the winter.

The clock wasn’t running at all during my visit, and the protective covering over its face was quite clouded. In 2011, some folks wanted to find the clock a new indoor home, but nine years later, it’s still outside. At the time the Albuquerque Journal article was written, there was talk about renovating the Spitz Clock.

Santa Fe Parks Director Fabian Chavez said a small ad-hoc committee is looking into options, including a full renovation of the clock, or finding it a spot inside and putting a replacement piece in the same location…

A weather-proofing restoration of the Spitz Clock would run about $5,000, according to Mary Chavez, senior vice president of First National Bank…and a member of the committee.

I have mixed feelings about what I think should happen to the clock. On the one hand, I like having a piece of history right outside in public where locals and visitors alike can look at it whenever they want. On the other hand, this piece of history is deteriorating. Maybe the clock could be put on display inside of the Santa Fe Place Mall or the DeVargas Center.

The committee that was trying to find a solution for preserving the clock in 2011 wanted it to be donated to the New Mexico History Museum, but the museum turned it down.

[A] museum spokesperson said it’s too tall to fit into an exhibit, and doesn’t fit in “architecturally” in the lobby.

Wherever the clock ends up (and probably the best and easiest way to preserve it is to move it indoors), I hope a replacement clock is put in the Spitz Clock’s present location, and I hope any replacement is a replica of the current clock. Otherwise, I think visitors to the Santa Fe Plaza would miss seeing an old-fashioned clock on the corner of Lincoln and Palace Avenues.

The original Spitz Clock cost $315 in 1881, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

Santa Fe March 2020

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We went to Santa Fe early in March.

Santa Fe Plaza was festooned with chiles.

This was before we realized how bad COVID-19 was going to get. We had a vague awareness that maybe we should stay at home, but our friends The Poet and the Activist from Las Vegas (Nevada, not the closer Las Vegas in New Mexico) were going to be in Albuquerque and asked if we would meet them in the middle. I had Monday off work, so we made plans to get together then.

The friends were on a pilgrimage of sorts. The Poet’s grandmother had been born in a small New Mexico town; The Poet wanted to see that place from which her ancestor had come. Of course The Activist was part of the excursion, as was a friend who’d come for the fun and to help with the driving.

The pilgrimage was also a vacation of sorts. On their way to New Mexico, they’d visited Arcosanti and stayed the night. They’d spend three nights in Albuquerque, taking a side trip to visit me and The Man in Santa Fe as well as the journey to the ancestral home.

We met at my favorite place to get lunch in Santa Fe, El Parasol at 1833 Cerrillos Road. There’s no place to sit and eat inside the restaurant, so I had suggested that we buy our lunch at the counter, then take it to a park or to the Santa Fe Plaza. However, The Poet had gotten permission for us to sit at the picnic table in front of the Baskin-Robbins next door. The Man and I each got our favorite, the vegetarian burrito with guacamole. I don’t know what the others ate, but the five of us sat at the outside table and had a leisurely lunch while chatting.

We spent most of our day sitting on benches in the Plaza.

Our next destination was the Santa Fe Plaza. We drove over in our truck and our friends drove over in their car. We met near the bandstand.

According to Wikipedia,

The Santa Fe Plaza is a National Historic Landmark in downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico in the style of traditional Spanish-American colonial cities.

Santa Fe Plaza has been the commercial, social and political center of Santa Fe since c. 1610 when it was established by Don Pedro de Peralta…In 1822 the famed Santa Fe Trail, a trade route connecting New Mexico with Missouri, was opened with its western terminus at the Santa Fe Plaza…[3]

The Plaza is Santa Fe’s historic, cultural and geographic center. In the early days, it was found at the end of El Camino Real (the Spanish Royal Road from Mexico City), the Santa Fe Trail, and the Old Pecos Trail.

The problem with hanging out in the Plaza is that parking is a real pain. We were lucky to get a parking spot only a few blocks away. However, it was just a four-hour spot, so it was a good thing we planned to hit the road in a few hours anyway. The other problem was that I hadn’t brought enough change for the meter. I had forgotten how expensive parking can be in the tourist area of a big city. We had to ask for change at businesses three times over our four hour parking period. Groan.

We saw this mysterious portal as we walked from our parking spot to the Plaza.

We spent most of our visit sitting on benches and chatting. At one point I remembered that the Five & Dime General Store across the Plaza from where we were sitting sold souvenirs. The Poet is also a snail mail enthusiasts, so I told her that if we wanted to get postcards later, the Five & Dime would be the place to go. In fact, we did end up walking over to the store to pick out postcards. I regret not taking a photo of their great wall of postcards. Trust me, that place a huge selection of postcards representing not just Santa Fe, but the entire state of New Mexico.

These are the Santa Fe postcards I picked out to send to friends.

At one point I left my friends briefly to take some photos of the Spitz Clock. I got several nice photos while I was on that side of the Plaza.

Later in the afternoon, my friends were ready to visit The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, commonly known as Saint Francis Cathedral. According to Wikipedia, it is

a Roman Catholic cathedral in downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico. It is the mother church of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe.

The cathedral was built by Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy between 1869 and 1886 on the site of an older adobe church, La Parroquia (built in 1714–1717). An older church on the same site, built in 1626, was destroyed in the 1680 Pueblo Revolt. The new cathedral was built around La Parroquia, which was dismantled once the new construction was complete. A small chapel on the north side of the cathedral was kept from the old church.

The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi

If you want to learn more about the history of the The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi and the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, see the Parish History page of the Cathedral Basilica’s website. The page also includes a list of the archbishops of Santa Fe.

If you, like me, have wondered about the difference between a cathedral and a basilica and how one building could be both, here is some information on the topic from Busted Halo, a website with the mission to help people understand the Catholic Faith.

A cathedral is the home church for the bishop or archbishop of a Catholic diocese…

A basilica is simply an important church building designated by the pope because it carries special spiritual, historical, and/or architectural significance. Basilica is the highest permanent designation for a church building, and once a church is named a basilica, it cannot lose its basilica status.

A basilica may or may not also be the cathedral of the diocese.

I enjoy the adobe buildings in Santa Fe because they’re so different from buildings in most place. The Tourism Santa Fe website says of Santa Fe Architecture,

Santa Fe has a distinctive architectural style all its own. No other city in the country has so many low-slung, earth-colored buildings made of adobe bricks, which consist of a mixture of sun-dried earth and straw…

Santa Fe’s historic adobe architecture evolved from early Native American dwellings that impressed the Spanish when they first arrived in the region in the 16th century…

As the Spanish settlers established communities in the region, they sought to improve the Pueblo construction methods using adobe. After all, the essential materials—mud, earth and straw—were plentiful and readily available…they designed wood molds to shape uniform adobe bricks.

Soon it was time to start heading home. We had a long drive ahead of us. It was nice to spend a day in the state capital, visiting our friends from far away.

I took the photos in this post.

Art at Meow Wolf

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This is what the outside of Meow Wolf looks like. Even the exterior of the building is art.

I’ve already written two posts about my recent visit to Meow Wolf, one a general review and one about buying a piece of art from the Art-o-mat® in the lobby. Yet, I still have a lot of photos I haven’t shared.

What’s weird is that while I felt as if I took a lot of photos while in the House of Eternal Return exhibit, when I look through my photos, I realize there were so many photo opportunities that I missed. I was trying to experience the experience and not live behind my camera, but it seems like I left out so much.

Of course, it would be difficult to adequately explain Meow Wolf to you even if I had carefully photographed every single different thing I saw. (Such a task would take a very long time.) There’s so much going on in the place. There are not only objects and paintings to look at, but there’s music happening and ever-changing lights. Some of the lights and music change because of something someone touches. In some places one can play music by touching lights. Almost every aspect of the House of Eternal Return is a multisensory extravaganza.

The only way to even begin to understand Meow Wolf is to make your own visit. Actually, there may be no way to understand Meow Wolf completely. But I certainly can’t explain it to you.

One of the most fascinating aspects of Meow Wolf for me is that those people have an entire bus in there! Is it a reference to Ken Kesey’s bus Furthur? Are the Meow Wolf artists on the bus or off the bus? Did I mention the bus is vertical, with its engine and front wheels in the air? We first encountered the bus on the ground floor. I was beyond pleased when we went upstairs and found the front half of it sticking up through the floor.

But is it art? Who cares? It’s an entire bus (or most of an entire bus…I couldn’t tell if it was all there) inside a building sticking up through the floor. What is there not to love?

Here area few more random things I saw during my visit to Meow Wolf.

Even the long hallway between the ticket counter and the restrooms was full of art. The whole place was about art and life and thought and coolness.

When I go back to Meow Wolf, and I do plan to go back, I will take more photos.

I’m doing something a little different today. Maybe you noticed. I’m using galleries for the first time so I can share many photos at once with you. If you click on the smaller photos, they’ll enlarge so you can see the better. I’d love to know what you think about this format. Tell me what you think in the comments.

I took the photos in this post unless otherwise noted. The low light in the exhibit made for substandard image quality. My apologies.

Art-o-mat at Meow Wolf

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This is one of the postcards I bought in the Meow Wolf gift shop.

After a little more than two hours in Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return in Santa Fe, NM, The Man and I thought we had seen all there was to see. (Spoiler alert: We didn’t. The Man saw a photo of a ship on a magnet in the gift shop and realized we hadn’t laid eyes on the actual structure. We had no idea how to get to the ship at the time, so we decided we were ready to leave. We think we know how to find the ship now, which is one of the reasons we want to go back.)

Anyway, we were on our way to the Meow Wolf gift shop so I could pick up a couple of postcards (and two is all I bought since they cost $1 each), when I saw it: the Art-o-mat®.

The Art-o-mat® in the Meow Wolf lobby. Isn’t it lovely? I think the color scheme is fantastic! And that sugar skull…swoon!

I’d heard of Art-o-mat® machines, although the term for them in my brain was “art vending machine.” I’d maybe even seen one, somewhere, but I’d never bought art from one before. I figured if there was ever a time and place for buying art from a vending machine, that time and place was now, in the lobby of one of the greatest art spaces I had ever experienced.

What exactly is an Art-o-mat®, you may ask? According to the Art-o-mat® website,

Art-o-mat® machines are retired cigarette vending machines that have been converted to vend art. There are over 100 active machines in various locations throughout the country.

The site’s About page says,

The inspiration for Art-o-mat® came to artist Clark Whittington while observing a friend who had a Pavlovian reaction to the crinkle of cellophane…

In June 1997, Clark was set to have a solo art show at a local cafe, Penny Universitie in Winston-Salem, N.C. He used a recently-banned cigarette machine to create the first Art-o-mat®…The machine sold Clark’s black & white photographs mounted on blocks for $1.00 each…

AIC [Artists in Cellophane] is the sponsoring organization of Art-o-mat®. The mission of AIC is to encourage art consumption by combining the worlds of art and commerce in an innovative form. AIC believes that art should be progressive, yet personal and approachable…

My fortune as given to me by Alva, a robotic soothsayer from Portals Bermuda.

Do you have a $5 bill, I asked The Man. I’d broken my fiver to buy a pair of Meow Wolf chromadepth glasses (a waste of $1, as far as The Man and I were concerned) and spent another buck to have my fortune told by Alva, a robotic soothsayer from Portals Bermuda stationed in a glass cube in the arcade. I was now $2 short of buying a small piece of art from the Art-o-mat®.

Alva the soothsayer from Portals Bermuda

The Man pulled out his wallet, rummaged through it, and produced a $5 bill. Yes! Now we could choose which knob to pull.

Oh! What a decision! We had twenty choices after all! Twenty. Choices.

The top row had the name of a specific artist above each knob. Of course, I didn’t recognize any of the names. There was even information about what kind of art would be dispensed above some of the knobs. Did I want a leather key ring? Did I want matchbox art? I was overcome by choices.

On the second row, each knob was labeled “Random Art.” Maybe I would be better off if I let the Universe decide what piece of art I needed. Of course, there were still ten “Random Art” choices. I managed to narrow my choices down to two.

I narrowed my random art choices down to these two.

Should I go with creating a rainbow by buying art? (Note: I knew that buying art doesn’t really create rainbows even before I read the disclaimer.) Should a take a chance on an unknown artist? Although I’m not much of a gambler, I decided to go with taking a chance.

The Man fed the money into the bill acceptor of the sort one uses to get change at a car wash or laundromat. Now was my moment to pull the knob.

The aforementioned Art-o-mat® website answers the question What do you get? [from the dispenser] this way:

The experience of pulling the knob alone is quite a thrill, but you also walk away with an original work of art. What an easy way to become an art collector.

Pulling the knob was a thrill. Those old machines were built to be sturdy, so I had to give it a strong tug. I was rewarded with a hearty thunk! when the art fell into the tray at the bottom of the dispenser. I reached in and grabbed something the approximate size and shape of a package of cigarettes, although this item was heavier than the packs of cigarettes I’ve held. I thought the art would come in an old cigarette box, but instead it was wrapped in paper to keep it from getting scratched. I peeled off the paper and found a small painting (or maybe the image was created with markers) on a block of wood.

This is the art I received when I took a chance.

I’m not sure what exactly is depicted here. Like all good art, it leaves the viewer with some questions. Is that the sun in the upper left? Is that water on the bottom? Is it a lake? An ocean? Why is it jagged? What’s in the space between the sun and the water? The middle space looks really hot. Is it hell? Phoenix in July? What does it all mean?

This is the artist’s signature on the side of the little art piece. I took a chance on you, Jack. Thanks for this beauty.

You can answer those questions for yourself. You can ask more questions if you like. As for me, I appreciate this piece of art and its randomness and mystery. Most of all, I enjoyed the experience of buying art from a vending machine.

I took the photos in this post.

Meow Wolf: A Review

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Why is the Meow Wolf sign shaped like a bowling pin? Keep reading to find out.

The Man and I finally visited Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, NM, and we had an awesome time. I want to tell you all about it, but please know that my words and photographs simply cannot do the place justice.

Actually, even if I could tell you all about Meow Wolf and show you all of my photos, I probably shouldn’t. Part of the fun for me was going in fresh, not really knowing what to expect. Before I went, I purposefully avoided doing a lot of research on the place. I wanted to experience what was there without a lot of foreknowledge.

I did know a little bit about Meow Wolf before I went, and I will share some information with you.

According to the Meow Wolf “About” page,

Meow Wolf is an arts and entertainment group based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. [The group was] established in 2008 as an art collective.

One painting inside Meow Wolf. It reminds me of art by my favorite surrealist artist, Remedios Varo. That bird does not look happy to be held by that orange and yellow avocado with arms.

The aforementioned webpage says,

Meow Wolf is comprised of over 400 employees creating and supporting art across a variety of media, including architecture, sculpture, painting, photography, video production, cross-reality (AR/VR/MR), music, audio engineering, narrative writing, costuming, performance, and more!

Our first permanent installation, the THEA Award-winning House of Eternal Return, launched in March 2016 with support from Game of Thrones creator, George R.R. Martin.

Also, Meow Wolf is housed inside an old bowling alley! According to the Meow Wolf FAQs, the bowling alley closed in 2008 and sat empty for several years. There is no bowling there now and the lanes have been stripped out.

Is this a Meow Wolf?

While reading those FAQs to learn more about the old bowling alley, I learned how Meow Wolf got its name.

At the very first meeting of the collective in 2008, everyone put two words into a hat. Then they picked two random words out of the hat and got “Meow Wolf.”

There are some things you should know about Meow Wolf Santa Fe before you go. It is located at 1352 Rufina Circle, just off Cerrillos Road. Regular hours of operation are Sunday through Thursday from 10am to 8pm and Friday and Saturday from 10am to 10pm. Meow Wolf is closed on Tuesdays. Check holiday closures here.

The parking lot at Meow Wolf is rather small, but parking is also available on nearby streets. The Man and I visited at noon on a Sunday and had to park about two blocks away. The parking lot is not available to RVs, trailers, or other oversized vehicles; such vehicles must be parked on the street. Vandwellers traveling with companion animals should note that animal control may be called if animals are left unattended in vehicles in the Meow Wolf parking lot. Vandwellers should also note that overnight parking is not allowed in the lot.

The Man is trying to decide if he wants to walk through that door.

Strollers, backpacks and oversized bags are not allowed in the exhibit, but the items can be securely stored for you for a small fee. Stroller/walker/wheel chair storage is complementary.

An important concern for many people is the accessibility of Meow Wolf. This is what the FAQ page has to say about accessibility:

[T]he first floor of our exhibition is ADA accessible and navigable by crutches, walkers, wheelchairs or scooters, but some areas may require additional navigational guidance from our docent staff (they are here to help!). There is almost always more than one way to access to an area…We do not have elevators…to the second floor, though, and the second floor is much more difficult to navigate as well (more single steps up/down and narrow passageways). Areas with flashing lights are located behind clearly labeled doors. You do not need to coordinate ADA accommodations with staff prior to your arrival – just know that we are here to help however we can.

Also note that there are many places throughout the exhibit to sit and rest. From cushions on the floor to sofas and chairs, you do not have to be on your feet for hours on end. There are also several points where it is possible to exit to the lobby so you can visit the restroom, get a snack or beverage at Float Cafe & Bar, browse in the gift shop, or quietly create art in the David Loughridge Learning Center. You can decide to go back into the thick of things as long as you haven’t left the building.

So many pretty lights…and music too.

If you’re concerned about getting overstimulated at Meow Wolf (and this is a distinct possibility for many folks), consider picking up a sensory bag at the front desk. What is a sensory bag? The FAQ page says

[s]ensory bags are a tool guests can utilize to aid in their experience inside House of Eternal Return. Each bag can be checked out upon arrival and has items inside to help ground and re-center folks who might feel overstimulated or overwhelmed while inside the exhibit.

Looks like somebody puked up filthy lucre and glitter.

Admission to Meow Wolf is what I consider pricey. The regular adult admission price is $30. The regular admission price for a child over the age of four is $20. Children ages four and under enjoy free admission! (Anyone under 14 needs to be accompanied and supervised by a guardian over 18 years old.) Students, seniors 65 and older, and members of the military pay $25 to get in.

If you’re a New Mexico resident, you’re in luck because you get a discount. Cost of admission for adult residents of New Mexico is $25. Children who are residents of New Mexico pay only $15, and the student/senior/military rate for New Mexico residents is $20. However, every Monday and Wednesday night (4-8 PM) and Second Sunday of the month New Mexico residents pay only half off the New Mexico resident admission rate.

While I typically enjoy activities that are free and cheap, I recognize that my admission fee is helping to pay artists and maintain the Meow Wolf facilities. I can tell you that every aspect of Meow Wolf from the restrooms to the tree houses to the cushions on the floor were clean and in perfect working order.

I don’t know who these little creatures are, but I love them.

I was also pleasantly surprised that I did not encounter a single person behaving in an obnoxious way. Although there were lots of people at Meow Wolf the day we visited, people were being respectful of one another. Children were having a good time, but no one was screaming or running or annoying strangers. Adults were well-behaved too, and not once did the word asshat run through my mind.

If you haven’t already figured it out, there’s a lot going on at Meow Wolf House of Eternal Return. There is an actual, full-size house, complete with portals (hint: there are five) to other dimensions. (And here’s another hint for you: start with the house. You can start in the other dimensions, but for your first time, I HIGHLY recommend you start with the house.)

There’s a wrinkle in the reality of the bathroom floor.

You will see people stepping into and out of household appliances; you can step through some of them too, if you wish. There’s a mystery you can try to solve as you move through the house. (I’m not sure if it’s possible to solve the mystery or if it is meant to remain unsolved, but look for the clues and decide for yourself.) You can open cabinets in the kitchen and find wondrous things. You can sit in the bathtub or on the toilet of the wavy-floored bathroom. You can look into the cookie jar and see what awaits you there.

A fantasy world awaits you when you step through the refrigerator portal.

Once you move through the portals, you enter fantasy worlds filled with art and music and soft lights and magic. Well, maybe not magic; maybe what you experience is technology cleverly disguised to seem like magic. Even if you’ve never dabbled in psychedelics, you will know you’re in a the midst of some trippy shit.

There’s an entire bus in there and a dinner you wouldn’t want to eat even if you could. There are beams of red light you can play like harp strings (or drums), giant birds, and a multitude of items that will make you wonder WTF? Is it art? you may ask yourself. Does it really matter? It’s beauty and fun and color and experimentation and the chance for childlike wonder.

When we left Meow Wolf (after realizing we’d missed an entire reality but too tired to figure out how to get to it), The Man said he’d enjoyed himself but didn’t really feel the need to ever go back. But the next day, we were still talking about our experiences in the House of Eternal Return, and we both admitted we were excited to explore the place again. (Maybe it’s called the House of Eternal Return because so many visitors want to go back.)

The Man took this photo of me photographing a tiny portal in the bathroom medicine cabinet.

I can’t speak for other people who’ve been there, but The Man and I are saving our pennies so we can visit Meow Wolf again.

I took the photos in this post, except for the very last one. The low light in most of the exhibits and the camera on my cheap phone made for substandard photographs. My apologies.

The Best Dog Park Ever & a Little Free Library

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The Man and I were in Santa Fe, and Jerico the dog had been spending a lot of time in the van.

Jerico’s a puller when he’s on his leash, so he’s not much fun to walk with. His leash is attached to a harness instead of a collar so he doesn’t choke himself with his pulling, but still, The Man has to keep an iron grip on the leash so Jerico doesn’t drag him around.

One day we put Jerico on his leash after we ate our lunch, and we walked with him around The Plaza. Jerico enjoyed being outside and meeting other dogs, but it was embarrassing when he ducked under the ropes cordoning off the lawn and took a giant dump on the lush, green grass. Also? It wasn’t much fun for The Man to feel as if he were risking having his arm pulled out of its socket while Jerico tried to go his own way.

The next morning, after The Man had his coffee, I reminded him that we’d talked about taking Jerico to the dog park. We decided to do it, to let Jerico have some special doggie fun.

As I drove us to the park, The Man told me it was the biggest, the coolest dog park he had ever seen.

How cool could it be? I wondered. Aren’t dog parks just a patch of grass where dogs get to run around off leash? A big patch of grass would make a better dog park than would a small patch of grass, but a big patch of grass is still just a patch of grass.

However, I was surprised and pleased when I saw the Frank Ortiz dog park.

First of all, it’s huge. According to the City of Santa Fe website, the dog park consists of 135 acres.

Secondly, the Frank Ortiz Dog Park is not just a big patch of grass. The 135 acres consists mostly of natural terrain. Juniper trees dot the sandy, rocky land. Trails criss-cross the area and while there are a few benches scattered around and a large, flat, empty area good for playing fetch, most of the park is the way nature made it.

(Are you wondering–as I was–who the heck is Frank Ortiz? I couldn’t find much information about him, but according to Wikipedia, he was the mayor of Santa Fe from 1948 to 1952.)

We were at the park around eight in the morning, and it wasn’t very crowded. Of course, the park is so big, dozens–maybe hundreds–of dogs could be running around, and the place wouldn’t feel crowded.

The Man strapped on Jerico’s harness so he could grab the dog and pick him up like a suitcase if a fight occurred. Jerico might not start a fight, but he’d get into a scrap if another canine tried to boss him around. Once he was harnessed, Jerico was let loose to run around and sniff and scratch around in the dirt.

Usually, when The Man and I are on a nature walk and the dog’s off-leash, Jerico stays several paces behind us. During those times, The Man and I periodically turn around and call Jerico to catch up with us. Less frequently, he’ll run ahead of us and stop, then look back as if pleading for us to catch up with him.

On the day at the dog park, The Man and I had turned around a couple of times and urged Jerico on. We were plodding up a hill when Jerico shot past us, crested the hill, and disappeared over the top. The Man called him, but Jerico didn’t stop.

Come on, Honey, The Man said to me. We have to run.

I’m not running, I told him. I’ll meet you on the other side.

The Man jogged off while I continued up the hill. At the top, I found The Man snapping the leash onto the rings on Jerico’s harness.

Oh, the shame, I told Jerico, of having to wear a leash in the dog park.

We continued to walk around, and Jerico successfully made friends with other canines. One lady started talking to me and The Man while her dog and ours sniffed rumps.

Does your dog run away? she asked.

We admitted he did.

Mine used to run away too, she told us. But then one day I hid behind a tree. She looked around for me like she was worried, so then I came out from behind the tree. I told her no more running away from me, and she never did again. You have to treat them like little kids.

After we walked away from the woman, we decided Jerico probably wouldn’t even notice if we hid behind a tree while he was fleeing the scene. We thought we shouldn’t experiment with the woman’s technique to curb runaway dogs.

We walked around another ten or fifteen minutes, then let Jerico off the leash again. He behaved at first but then decided to ignore The Man when he called. It was back on the leash for the headstrong Jerico.

We went back to the van and loaded up.

I want to stop at the information board, I told The Man. I thought it might offer, well, information about the park or at least some sort to photo opportunity for a picture to go with this post. Alas, the only information was a couple of flyers announcing lost dogs and a couple of signs giving the name of the park and park rules. However, next to the non-information board, there was a Little Free Library. Yippie!

I love Little Free Libraries. This one at the Frank Ortiz Dog Park is only the second one I’ve visited in person. (My first visit to a Little Free Library was in Los Gatos, CA.) I was enamored with the concept of Little Free Libraries long before I visited one. I love both books and gift economies; Little Free Libraries combine both of these loves.

According to what was painted on the side of the library, this one was constructed by the SFCC Youth Build group. According to an October 2015 post on the YouthBuild USA Facebook page,

Students from Youthbuild at Santa Fe Community College [were] building mini libraries to install around Santa Fe, NM. Their work will add to the growing list of Little Free Library exchanges currently in 50 states and 70 countries!

As soon as I saw the Little Free Library, I started rooting around in the van hoping to find the Tony Hillerman novel I’d recently finished reading so I could donate it. Success came between the wall and the food of the bed, and I happily placed the novel among the other free-to-new-home books.

I didn’t find any books I was excited to read in the Little Free Library, but The Man took a couple. I wasn’t really even looking for free books because I currently have plenty of reading material. My pleasure came in spontaneously finding a Little Free Library and being able to leave a book I hope another reader will enjoy.

The entrance to the parking lot of the Frank Ortiz Dog Park is on the southwest side of Camino de las Crucitas at Buckman Road.

I took the photos in this post, with the exception of the cover of Skinwalkers. That’s an Amazon Associates link.

 

 

 

 

Free Camping at the Big Tesuque Campground

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The Man and I were going to be in Santa Fe for a few days, so I got on the Free Campsites website and found us a beautiful, free campground on the outskirts of the city.

If you’ve never used Free Campsites, you should check out the website the next time you need to stay somewhere overnight. Whether you want to boondock one evening or plan a multi-stop vacation, Free Campsites can help you find what you need. The website moves beyond Wal-Marts and truck stops and focuses on public land.

According to the site,

Our community provides the best free camping information available. Free campgrounds can be hard to find. Freecampsites.net makes it easy. We give you a simple, map based search engine to find free and cheap camping areas. Community reviews and ratings provide you with up to date information and help you select the best camp site for your next camping trip.

We believe that free camping areas are often the most beautiful and peaceful camp sites. Our focus is on public lands. You own these lands and you are entitled to use them. We especially like camping on Forest Service land, BLM (Bureau of Land Management) areas, WMA’s (Wildlife Management Areas) and county or city parks.

Contrary to the name of the website, not all camping spots listed on the Free Campsites websites are actually free. Some sites included cost up to $15 or so, which is still quite a bit less expensive than the average RV park. Of course, I’m cheap (like my mawmaw, about whom my father said more than once, she could hold onto a nickel so tight the buffalo would moan), so it’s a rare penny I spend to park my van and sleep. However, Free Campsites gives the option of inexpensive campgrounds to travelers who like the extra amenities offered and have a bit of spending money to put down.

I’ve used the Free Campsites listings on my laptop quite a bit but recently installed the free app on my (Android) phone so I can use it on the go. The app is a little slow, but I blame that on my 3G phone.

This photo shows NM Hwy 475, aka the Santa Fe Scenic Byway, as it snakes up the mountain.

When I looked at the options for free camping near Santa Fe, I found several spots on Highway 475, aka the Santa Fe Scenic Byway.

We chose to stay at the Big Tesuque (pronounced [tuh-SOO-key] Campground. It’s part of the Santa Fe National Forest. The campground’s GPS coordinates are 35.76917, -105.80861, and it’s located near milepost 13. It’s small but does include two pit toilets and bear-proof trash cans. There is no drinking water available there.

The campground is really intended for people in tents; there’s no space to park vehicles at the camp sites. The parking area has room for about a dozen vehicles. Campers are meant to park in the small lot, then carry their equipment and supplies up to the sites to unpack and set up.

We simply parked the van in the parking area. When we were ready to cook, we unfolded one of our tables next to the van and set up our stove and equipment. Only four or five cars pulled into the campground’s parking area during our stay, and nobody else spent the night. Even during busy times, I think it would be fine for a van dweller to take an empty parking space and stay there for the night.

Even if we had been tent campers, the entire campground was covered in snow while we were there! It was May 1, but there were several inches of snow all over the camping area. I guess at over 9700 feet in elevation, snow can come late into the spring. Despite the snow, it wasn’t too cold out, at least until the sun set. After dark, we hunkered down in bed and got to sleep early.

I was quite impressed with the cleanliness of the restroom I used. It even had plenty of toilet paper! (Were I a better campground reporter, I would have checked both restrooms for cleanliness and toilet paper.) Although Big Tesuque Campground has no camp host, someone was cleaning, restocking toilet paper, and scrubbing the pit toilet, even during the slow season.

My favorite feature of the campground was the brook/creek/stream/river (one of these days I am going to learn what makes those bodies of water different) running alongside it. There were even two small waterfalls of sorts where the water tumbled down to lower levels. The sound of flowing water helps me sleep peacefully, and I had a very good night in the parking lot of the Big Tesuque Campground.

Snow! Trees! Waterfalls! All at the Big Tesuque Campground, less than 20 miles from the Santa Fe Plaza.

I took all of the photos in this post.