Memory defines us
Just as surely as
The outline of a face, a hand,
The preferred brand of a breakfast coffee,
The feeling that the caprice of autumn elicits
All of this & memory
Tells us who we are
Last May, several weeks before I relocated from New Mexico to the Pacific Northwest, a friend who was visiting town presented me with an interesting task. She was aware that I would be leaving town soon and so she wanted a tour of some of my most personal and most memorable places in Santa Fe. These are places of impressionable human construction and natural landscape. A type of memory tour, I suppose. While it was an endearing task it was also problematic, quite simply it was difficult to choose where to visit, among numerous possibilities, within the short period of one quiet warm morning in the month of May.
Nonetheless I improvised a short list as we enjoyed a quick breakfast, that morning, at a coffee shop in mid-town. We drove initially to St. John’s college in the hills, actually I drove & she was the passenger. St. John’s is a small private college with a great books program. It was founded in the 1960’s and it is the sister campus to the much older St. John’s in Annapolis MD. The original Maryland campus was founded in 1784. St. John’s in Santa Fe features wonderfully sculpted territorial-style architecture and lots of quiet students walking and sitting about with books.
Next we travelled downtown to the Cross of the Martyrs’ hill. This is a low lying hill just above downtown and it offers an impressive 360° view. There are the Sandia mountains to the south, 50 miles away, and the Jemez mountains to the west, 35 miles away. To the east, behind us, was the Santa Fe mountains and, of course, spread below us was the city. Because of its blend of abode, territorial, and other southwestern styles, it has a feel of a foreign city and a difference ambiance from a typical municipal locality in the United States.
Motoring out of the city, into the suburb of Tesuque, I had wanted to stop at a generous-sized outdoor sculpture gallery, Shidoni foundry, but I elected to bypass it because of the constraints of time. We landed instead in the foothills of Tesuque, on a road leading into the Santa Fe National forest, route 592. We stopped on the broad shoulder of the road in order to stand out and to marvel at the mountains behind us and at the shining desert valley before us.
Our last stop, it was now after 11.00 am and we only had until 12.00 noon, was a condo development on the north edge of the city, Zocalo condo community. This angular community was designed by the famous Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta and it features an unusual element, in regard to typical Santa Fe design, and that would be the element of vibrant color. The condos do maintain the traditional brown/tan facades but many of the interior walls feature strong bright colors.
As it turns out the Zocalo condos became our second to last stop because I became determined to show my traveling companion another Legorreta building complex in yet another part of Santa Fe. We drove back to mid-town to the campus of the old College of Santa Fe, my alma mater, which is now the new campus of Santa Fe University of Art & Design. The campus is little schizophrenic; it architectural footprint is a mix of 1950’s styled buildings and the newer cutting edge work of Legorreta, His campus art complex is a collision of strong modern Mexican design sensibilities and southwest territorial.
The textures of memory define us. But perhaps I tried to fit in too much memory for one slender morning. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, my traveling companion was slightly late for the next part of her day.