Early spring in Santa Fe, right outside our window.

We have yet to meet our first Santa Fe resident—shopkeeper, Uber or Lyft or bus driver, museum docent, restaurant server, grocery clerk, bus commuter, fellow walker I meet on my daily outing—who dislikes this town. Even stronger: who isn’t enthusiastic about this town. Our probing ploy sounds something like this: “We’re checking Santa Fe out as a possible landing site when our ontheloose days are over. What do you think?” It’s as if the local Chamber of Commerce has dispatched an army of unpaid boosters, all eager to insist they will never consider going back to wherever they came from. Even bona fide natives display an urgency—of course it’s a casual-seeming, laid-back kind of urgency—to explain why, though they might have tasted the temptations of another place or two when they were young and foolish—they’re now here for the duration. Theirs is a fever that’s easy to catch. Especially when winter begins its promising slide into spring.

An afternoon snow greeted us when we returned from Mesa on Tuesday of Holy Week.
The touch of snow can’t prevent redbuds from budding.

When we arrived everything natural wore varying shades of brown—tan, ecru, beige, chocolate, Grey Poupon. Everything was asleep for the winter, dry, crinkly, as if in readiness to return to the dust from whence it came. But then, of a sudden as I made my way around the neighborhood on my daily constitutional, I began to spy sprigs of green and blossoms of bright yellow and “cherry pink and apple blossom.” (I just gave away my age, didn’t I? That’s a very old song.) Even the cacti are donning their waxen spring hats. Every day displays more color, not in the lush spreads you see in wetter climes but as stand-alone treats to be savored individually. Looking out at the still mostly brown terrain, Joy asked a driver, “Does it ever get green here?” Pause, as if never having considered the question before. Then, “No.” But it’s OK. We lived in Arizona for 28 years. You can adjust to the sun and subtle beauties of the high (or low!) desert. Adjust, you may, but you will never take for granted nature’s annual spring decorating job, either.

Two consecutive weekends, two very different experiences.

Last week we reported on our return to Central Christian Church in Mesa on Palm Sunday weekend. The joy of being once again with our Arizona people will live in our memories as long as we have memories. At our retirement party on my last Sunday as the pastor in 1999, it was pointed out that I had given “my most productive years” to the church. I remember thinking at the time, “You mean this is the best I can do?” It was a little disheartening to hear myself described–even if lovingly–as over the hill. Well, that was almost twenty years ago. The slide down the other side of the hill has been a long one. On these pages you’ve already met our Velcro son Brian. He’s the one who offered that probably obvious but certainly unnecessary appraisal. He was one of Central’s pastors then. He’s told many people that after the church got rid of that old minister the things really took off. And they did!

Now Central’s an even larger and in many ways more effective congregation today than the one we left in 1999. (By the way, I misreported the attendance. I said 9,600 worshiped there on Palm Sunday. The count was 10,300.)

Easter Sunday worship at Church of the Holy Faith

Our church experience in Santa Fe on Easter could not have been more different, but it gave us another valuable memory. We haven’t settled in a Santa Fe church yet. Between our travels and Joy’s battle with that pesky vermin she picked up somewhere, we haven’t had the opportunity to plug in. Where to go for Easter? I called on Google for help, then chose The Church of the Holy Faith in city center. One of our travel goals has been to learn something of the culture in each of our briefly adopted hometowns. This church served that purpose, since its history goes back 150 years, well before New Mexico gained statehood in 1912.  Can a church that old still be vibrant? We wondered.

The answer is yes. Holy Faith advertises itself as “an Episcopal Church of the Anglo-Catholic tradition,” which entails a sung liturgy and robed choir, similarly vested clergy and lay leaders, incense, and a printed order of worship to be followed to the letter. (These visitors lost our place from time to time.) The choir was excellent, many if not most of the singers associated with the Santa Fe Opera and Santa Fe Desert Chorale. Joy and I never tire of a well-played pipe organ, and this one was played well. Probably most of the parishioners were grateful for the sermon. It took less than ten minutes. A dangerous practice, if you ask me, one not to be imitated. What the service lacked in sermon it made up for by generous readings from the Bible.

And then there was the Eucharist, much appreciated by us Christian Church types. In our low-church tradition we refer to it as Communion or Lord’s Supper. We are not accustomed to going to the altar and receiving the bread and cup at the rail; in most of our more democratic Christian Churches we pass the trays of individual cups and matso-like bread to our pew neighbors. Still, though the form was not our form the meaning was the same: “This is my blood… this is my body…  for you.” Wherever we’ve worshiped with Christians, we’ve heard these words and felt our oneness with others with whom we may not share skin color, nationality, language, or other incidentals that ordinarily separate us. In what matters, we are one. We were glad we went.

We won’t become high-church Anglicans. Still, The Church of the Holy Faith is a century-and-a-half old. It attracts and holds young people and children, not just us oldsters (who, it must be admitted, constituted the largest age group). Holy Faith will be here long after we’re gone, the members worshiping together and serving the poor and disadvantaged in their many service activities. It won’t boast of its many thousands in attendance, as Central Christian can, but like Central it lifts up Jesus and sends its people into the highways and byways to serve in His name.

Two weekends, two churches, one faith. Joy and I will continue to work and worship among “our kind,” but we’re glad to be in partnership with others wherever we go who love God and love people.

The Hat trying to understand art!

On Georgia O’Keefe’s coattails

Art is everywhere in Santa Fe. This dragon faithfully guards the gallery below. Enter if ye dare!
Colorful Downtown Santa Fe.

A Lyft driver assured me this is true: America’s Number One art colony is New York City. Santa Fe is Number Two. I checked him out with Google, and didn’t get the same report. However, I did learn that Santa Fe has boasted a thriving artists’ community ever since Georgia O’Keefe made Abiquiu, New Mexico (about 50 miles NW of Santa Fe) her home following 1929. I also learned that our adopted town hosts 240 art galleries; it’s the third largest art market in the United States, “a veritable Mecca for enthusiasts and collectors of historic and contemporary art of New Mexico…”

Artist John Jason Phillips was a most interesting fellow to talk with, one of the hundreds of artists at work here.

We’re slated to be here for three months. We’re in our second one already. We’ll have to visit almost four a day with no time off for good behavior if we want to check out all of them. I suspect one of us would like that. I haven’t asked. What I can admit is that the few we have scoped out so far offer some first class art work. That’s only my expert opinion, you understand. Here you see one of Santa Fe’s most recent additions to the art community hard at work:

Experimenting with encaustic class materials new to Joy. “So nice to be back into encaustics,” she says.


Winter pitch with the glow of sunlight.
Even aged doors are installed as art
in Santa Fe. This one is not in a wall but stands as an exhibit in a gallery.
Another gallery offering: Encaustics on paper with twigs. Do you think I should try this? (I hope not!)

CRUISE DATES FOR 2019. Join us for one or all of them!

January 13-21. Celebration Cruise to Cuba and the Caribbean
See www.eo.travelwithus.com for details. In the Search window, type Celebration Cruise.

January 30-February 21. Holland America’s South America and Antarctica Cruise.          See www.lawsonslooseinantarctica.com for details.

October 19-27        EO’s Blue Danube River Cruise – The Hat is the lecturer.
Web page for this cruise is not yet available.  Coming soon. Watch this spot.


8 thoughts on “SPRINGTIME IN SANTA FE”

  1. Peggy Scates and I loved visiting Santa Fe as often as we could, Roy. The mixing of Mexican, Spanish, Native American and Anglo cultures is indeed unique … to say nothing of the galleries! Glad you and Joy are enjoying life there.

    1. So good to hear from you, Tamsen. I thought of you and Peggy when we came here, remembering good conversations about this part of the world. Thanks for writing.

  2. Hey Roy and Joy, finally. . .you are somewhere I have been, and enjoyed immensely. Both Mesa and Santa Fe. Have you seen the stairway at the Sisters of Loretto? Worth a visit! The desert also offers such beautiful sunsets! Blessings to you both! How I would love to break bread with you again!

    1. Quite a change from Tillamook, isn’t it? Good for a Duck to spend a little time in the desert, just for balance!

  3. OK, I have to make a number of comments, so bear with me.
    First, Roy, you have repeatedly suggested you are no artist. Where I can agree with you in part (I’ve seen you put together your own wardrobe before–it wasn’t pretty), I contend that the 2nd paragraph of this post qualifies as art. I mean that. I hate being nice (at least to you), but I’m focused on good writing these days (half way through Pinker’s style manual) and I was immediately caught in the beauty and style of your story telling. I can’t escape admitting that that paragraph reads like conversational poetry. I wish I could write like that. (That was painful to admit in public. I think I tasted something unpleasant as I typed those words. I need to brush my teeth before I can continue….)
    OK, I’m back.)
    Second, Joy, the abstract picture “Winter pitch with the glow of sunlight” wins a prize. That one deserves a special treatment and a nice frame. The blue background is so vivid on my screen, and the foreground actually looks like one of your encaustic designs (saying nice things to you isn’t so painful). I think you should memorialize that one somehow.
    Third, for the record, I distinctly remember when the first time I suggested to you, in front of a number of people, that it wasn’t until we got rid of our old senior pastor (you) that Central *really* took off, that you in turn offered, “Wasn’t that about the same time that *you* left the staff, Brian.” That really hurt. You can be so mean.

  4. Santa Fe clearly has much to offer to the artistically inclined, including the two Lawsons still theoretically “on the loose.” And with the sun, the dry climate, and the art galleries you have found universal enthusiasm among its inhabitants and treasured experiences like Easter at The Church of the Holy Faith and the conviction, “In what matters, we are one.” Still, we in the lush, green mountains of East Tennessee continue to hope you will land once again in our midst!

  5. I do agree with your search on where to land and the way you guys are going about learning about a town …. three months … a great way to explore all the aspects! I do hope someday you might want to come back to the green parts of the country ….. Tennessee!!! Enjoy you time in beautiful Santa Fe ….. a haven for Joy and her artistic talents to be sure.

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