The spa at Rancho Encantado yesterday
Winter in Santa Fe is all about staying warm despite the snow and ice glistening on adobe walls, crunching underfoot, and the temperatures dipping down to six and seven degrees. Souper Bowl XIX, where chefs compete for best soup awards, is gearing up for January 26. The usual suspects should get ready for some steep competition from two awesome new chefs in town: executive chef Andrew Cooper and sous chef Keith Smutny at Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado (try their chile rellenos).
I’ve loved Rancho Encantado since I first came to Santa Fe to work on the Filmmaking in New Mexico special issue for The Hollywood Reporter
years ago. The dude ranch’s founder and then owner Betty Egan reminded us of Barbara Stanwyck in "The Big Valley"– – a commanding cowgirl in jeans and Western boots who was just as at ease on horseback as at an entertainment business reception. She encouraged me to move here. I bought my horse Ryo from a wrangler at Rancho Encantado, and boarded him at Rancho Encantado for years, embarking on exhilarating rides into the Sangre de Cristos. He was a tough little mustang, and made me braver. And then there were the tranquil hours in the barn spent grooming him as the ravens cawed outside.
Yesterday I was back at Rancho Encantado, which is now the posh Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado (http://www.fourseasons.com/santafe/
). It's as gorgeous as ever – – 57 acres of pristine mountain foothills dotted with piñon pine and juniper trees, casitas sprinkled between the trees. Even though the architecture is now more contemporary than Western dude ranch, the ravens still fly through and the resort still exudes serenity, especially in the fabulous spa, where I had a Sacred Stone massage that sent me over the moon – – grounding, soothing, and healing. In the locker room afterwards, I chatted with a local who has a spa membership. "I come here almost every day. I work out in the fitness room, take a sauna or steam, have some apricots and pecans in the warming room, and meet the nicest people. It's a special place," she said. So true.
Up at the Santa Fe Ski Basin on Sunday
Tesuque’s apple trees are full of fruit, the aspens are turning yellow up at the Santa Fe Ski Basin, and by month’s end there will probably be snow flurries. October brings autumn to Santa Fe. It’s time to stock up on firewood, hike at Aspen Vista (I was there on Sunday, along with everyone else and their dogs), and enjoy dinners out on still-warm evenings when a sweater or hoodie suffices. So far, October is living up to its reputation as Santa Fe’s best month. The harvest is in full bounty, with nights dipping down into the forties and days in the seventies.
Last night I went out to Taberna, the new in restaurant just opened by James Caruso, chef-owner of the popular La Boca. Both Taberna and La Boca are Spanish-style tapas taverns, with similar menus (http://labocasf.com/taberna-la-boca/
). Despite being located in a tucked-away downtown courtyard invisible from the street (you can enter from Lincoln or Marcy), Taberna was packed last night. Santa Feans can be counted on to turn out for gourmet repasts like this at reasonable prices. Our favorite dishes? The grilled artichokes, salmon wrapped around goat cheese, roasted eggplant, and Spanish sausage.
Meanwhile, I’m gearing up for the Tony Hillerman Writers Conference, taking place November 8-10 at the Hotel Santa Fe (http://www.wordharvest.com/
). I helped develop the “Writing with the Stars” workshop where best-selling thriller novelist David Morrell (best known for the Rambo books) and agent Liz Trupin Pulli will take to the stage in front of the crowd to deliver flash critiques of selected works submitted by conference attendees. If Morrell is in as high form as he was last year, it’ll be a savvy and witty affair!
Kenneth Johnson at the gala with friendship necklace
Wild sunflowers are blooming everywhere in Santa Fe and this past weekend was our biggest happening of the year – – Indian Market, with artists’ booths sprawling all over the Plaza and thousands of visitors. At the fancy auction gala on Saturday night, the silver and turquoise friendship necklace collaboratively created by Indian art stars Tony Abeyta, Kenneth Johnson, Cody Sanderson, and others sold for a whopping $60,000!
I enjoyed meeting top-achieving realtor Ann Brunson, who just helped somebody buy a house for $80,000 but usually is wheeling and dealing on multimillion-dollar properties. It was fun to hang out with my Phoenix friends from Native Peoples Magazine, publisher of the in-depth Indian Market Magazine. And I bought a pair of silver earrings with channel-inlaid coral from Hopi-Assiniboine jeweler Steve Wikviya LaRance, who uses all natural stones and materials (nothing stabilized or enhanced with radiation to make the turquoise bluer). LaRance recently moved from Arizona to the Santa Fe area, and has been seen as a background player on the hit TV series “Longmire.”
It's been a busy summer. I spent time in L.A. just off Laurel Canyon at a rustic property a friend is considering turning into a small B&B for entertainment industry crew (email@example.com). The house is nestled deep in the canyon among California oaks and elms, walnut trees, avocado trees, and eucalyptus trees, the trees keeping it wonderfully cool, and the sounds of frogs and an owl helped me fall asleep. Then back in Santa Fe, I happily got busy working on a great indie film! One last thing – – what a perceptive 20-page article on Bruce Springsteen by David Remnick in the July 30th issue of The New Yorker.
Bloody Mary at the Biltmore bar
We’re looking at the high 90s for the next week in Santa Fe. At least we've got wonderfully cool Rocky Mountain nights in the 60s. I was just in Phoenix. Talk about hot! There are very few advantages to 110 degrees in the shade, but I enjoyed one: a great rate of well under $200 at the Arizona Biltmore, that sprawling Frank Lloyd Wright-designed resort. I saw grackles and mockingbirds darting among the colorful lantana, white oleanders, and bright hibiscus. Misters blew out the finest sprinkle of cold water at the porte cochere. The Biltmore Cafe had delicious lattes and almond-flour carrot muffins at breakfast. At the Biltmore bar, the best Bloody Mary I've ever had-- a spicy concoction with garnishes of olive, salami, pepperoncini, and mozzarella ball on a toothpick.
There’s a definite Santa Fe--Phoenix corridor. Spanish colonial revival architecture in both cities, and Pueblo revival adobes. Even more Mexican restaurants in Phoenix than Santa Fe! Accountants who double as farriers. Southwest art everywhere. Lloyd Kiva New got his start in Scottsdale, then moved to Santa Fe. Fritz Scholder went back and forth between the two. Sizable Indian populations in both cities, but probably more in Phoenix. I was there helping out on the editing and proofing of Native Peoples’ (www.nativepeoples.com
) July/August issue, its biggest ever and also the official Santa Fe Indian Market Magazine, with in-depth articles on contemporary Native arts! Plenty of art galleries with presences in Santa Fe and Phoenix, including Blue Rain, Riva Yares, King, Chiaroscuro, River Trading Post, and Altermann (plus Mark Sublette Medicine Man in Tucson).
Arriving back in Albuquerque at night, I had a tricky drive up I-25, what with all the construction and exit closures. Santa Fe keeps growing! Newest art gallery in town is Wade Wilson Art opening June 29, including works by contemporary artists like ranching photographer Barbara Van Cleve.
In the Matteucci sculture garden today
Cottonwoods and aspens are in potent young-green bloom everywhere in Santa Fe, the ponds are full in the Nedra Matteucci Galleries sculpture garden, and pink peonies are popping up on the patio at Restaurant Martín. So begins high season. Behind the scenes there’s action, too: Four Seasons Hotels takes over Tesuque’s posh Encantado Resort on June 1, and the beguiling La Posada de Santa Fe with its six acres of gardens is no longer a Rock Resorts property but remains owned by a Swiss bank.
I just went to the Michael McGarrity cocktail party for Hard Country, his sweeping historical Western which is a prequel to his captivating Kevin Kerney mystery series. The party was a benefit for the N. Scott Momaday Creative Writing Scholarship Fund at the IAIA. Looking handsome in his distinguished elder way, Momaday was flanked by his gorgeous daughters.
Me and Scott Momaday last night
Everyone wanted a minute with Momaday, and he graciously obliged. He’s been living in Florida but intends to return to Santa Fe. While in town this week, he’s recording some of his written works in his famous basso voice. McGarrity’s writer cronies turned out too, including novelist David Morrell, who wrote the Rambo books and lots of other thrillers; novelist Jann Arrington Wolcott, who has a thriller slated for release in the fall; and poet Luci Tapahonso. Native Peoples
publisher Stephen Phillips was there, explaining that Native Peoples
) is the official Indian Market Magazine this year, and so was philanthropist Charmay Allred, who produced the packed get-together. McGarrity will be appearing at the Michael McCormick Gallery for another gala gathering on Saturday, May 19 at 1 PM (http://www.mccormickgallery.com/
McLarry Modern is now representing Sharron Evans, who does those fabulous graphic-modernist horse paintings; Waxlander Gallery has some splashy new paintings of Indians on horses by Native artist/playwright Bruce King; Legends Santa Fe has a glowing green and blue glass water jar by Robert Spooner Marcus that’s pretty much a steal at $3,000; and just across the street, Blue Rain Gallery has some of the most elegant tall glass vessels imaginable by Dante Marioni. Oh yes, high season is here.
Fruit tree blooming in Santa Fe
Yellow forsythia and pink fruit trees are blooming early in Santa Fe. I’ve been missing Munson Gallery, where I used to admire Russell Chatham’s misty tonalist landscapes. Having read on sfgate.com that Chatham was broke and living back in California’s West Marin County in remote Marshall (population: just 50), I convinced my mom Helene to drive there with me recently when I was in the Bay Area. Maybe we could buy a little Russell Chatham painting.
Our drive was pastoral – – two hours of marshlands, green hills, and cows. Peaceful wide-open farmland. We dipped down right into Marshall at the Hog Island Oyster Co. (fresh oysters, and that’s it) on Highway 1. Two buildings away was the house where Chatham had last been seen painting: J. Shields & Sons: Dealers in Coal & Feed. I knocked. I called out, “Russell!” We spotted a canvas frame in the upstairs window. But no response.
Wolf in Marshall on Tomales Bay
I asked at the Oyster Co. if Chatham was around – – “Never heard of him,” said the salesgirl. “Yeah, I think he’s somewhere around here,” vaguely replied a guy barbecuing oysters. We had fish tacos (disappointing) at The Marshall Store, where the waitress shrugged, “Don’t know him.” There wasn’t much else to Marshall. A few houses. Some boats in the water. Shells underfoot. No cell reception, but Tomales Bay was clean and glistening. Cuter towns to the north (Bodega Bay) and south (Bolinas, Stinson Beach, and Point Reyes Station, with its Station House Café). Maybe Chatham has moved on to one of them – – more life of the mind, more gustatory diversity.
On the plane returning to New Mexico, the teacher seated next to me commented, “Santa Fe has a lot in common with Marin County – – an interest in organics and health things. Nobody can plant genetically modified organisms in Marin County. It’s against the law.” Back home, I called Munson Gallery, which is now Meyer East Gallery (http://www.meyereastgallery.com/home/
). They’re no longer representing Chatham, but they do show Marc Bohne, whose moody, layered landscapes have some of that ethereal quality.
Santa Fe a few days ago
Tightly wrapped yellow forsythia and fuzzy gray pussy willows are budding here in Santa Fe in chaotic weather conditions, with snow one day, 60 degrees the next. Weather playing havoc is what March is about. In like the proverbial lion, out like the lamb. The color of spring is green (we should eat greens and wear greens to be in harmony with the season), and the emotion is to embrace growth and movement, and to give freely and passionately, according to my former acupuncturist Beverly Bakken. Right now in Santa Fe, mostly everything is blue (sky) and brown (bare trees and adobe homes), with a ribbon of green running through. The green gets stronger every day.
March highlights in my world so far? I made a new friend in my neighborhood: an adorable Jack Russell – Chihuahua mix named Hercules that’s 11 pounds and has a white body with toffee patches – he looks like a paint horse. Dinner last week at Ristra was a treat, especially sipping the aromatic ginger martini. Power lunches at the Palace with other writers like my old friend Charlotte Berney (www.charlottedaigle.com) and my new one, Pat West Barker (www.thezenchilada.com
), have been fun; the tuna burger there is fabulous. I just edited a story mystery novelist Sandi Ault (www.sandiault.com
) wrote about Indian artists; it was a fulfilling collaboration. And I glimpsed a preview of the big art show “It’s About Time: 14,000 Years of Art in New Mexico” going up at the New Mexico Museum of Art in May. There’s a great piece by Galisteo-based Bruce Nauman in the show, a rebellious 1985 lithograph with “Live or Die” printed in red ink on a white background. To me it symbolizes the significance of independence, resourcefulness, and doing what’s important to you, as opposed to living your life through other people’s values. That’s good in any season, right?
Truchas bells at www.gongwiththewind.net
I was in Truchas this past weekend, researching the surge in art galleries in that isolated mountain hamlet north of Santa Fe. With a population of just a few hundred people, it’s impressive. I met two artists who had done work for the Smithsonian, somebody who creates the loveliest steel bells out of castoff oil-field pipe and expired pressure vessels, and a Swedish painter who moved in behind the church years ago because she had nowhere else to live with her wolf.
The Swedish painter is Anna Karin, now running Anna Karin Gallery in an old adobe house. She had been creating murals in Colorado when she first arrived. She remembers, “I didn’t want to be on scaffolds anymore. I had a wolf that I couldn’t take back to Sweden. I moved in behind the church. I hung up an `open’ sign, and the first day I sold three paintings – one to a guy on a bicycle who only had a camper to live it. It just seemed like a sign! So I stayed.”
Almost everyone in Truchas lives in an old adobe house, and almost everyone is capable on their own. Say, when a skunk sneaks into one of those old adobes—and I sniffed a skunk just outside town—there’s no calling Orkin pest control for same-day service. Jeane George Weigel, who writes a terrific blog about being an artist in Truchas, posted about my visit (http://high-road-artist.com/9710/southwest-living/wolf-schneider-interviews-truchas-artists/
) and told me, “Those of us that settle here are a quirky group.” I could see that. Most of the rustic live-work studio galleries that I visited were heated only by woodstoves. It gets really cold in Truchas – – like single digits and minus temps at night. The steep road leading up to town would be treacherous when iced over. And yet Truchas is a very special place, attracting some of the most creative minds in New Mexico. You’ll be able to read about what I found in my story to be published in May in The Santa Fe New Mexican (www.santafenewmexican.com), in the Bienvenidos special section.
Arriving at Ojo Caliente in winter gear
When I arrived at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs & Spa with my friend Maria, I was bundled in a sweatshirt, sweatpants, and ski parka. It was in the twenties! We were shocked to find hardy souls in bathing suits and flip-flops. After our massages and mineral soaks, we had almost joined the club, stripped down to T-shirts and sweats. Here are the highlights as we both experienced them.
Wolf says: For just an hour's drive north of Santa Fe, Ojo Caliente made me feel like I'd gotten away into the country. The snow-splashed mountains along U.S. 285 gave off an expansive vibe. At lunch, the Green Chile Fries (potato-crusted Poblano chiles) were a crunchy treat alongside the Ojo Fish Tacos (blackened mahi-mahi, mango salsa, and jicama peanut slaw). Soaking in our private iron-arsenic pool with our own kiva fireplace and mountains just steps away was memorable – – as well as making us feel like we were in that fabulous western McCabe and Mrs. Miller.
Maria says: I arrived from California on New Year's Eve wearing fleece and fake fur to visit my friend Wolf. I was looking forward to returning to Ojo Caliente after 20 years, yet when I got there I didn’t recognize it due to its recent facelift. Lunch was created by Culinary Institute of America-trained chef Neil Stuart, an ex-New Yorker (as I). I was disappointed that my long-remembered Watsu treatment was no longer available, but delighted we could share a private pool with minerals known for improving circulation, immune systems, and arthritis, enhanced by our kiva fireplace’s heat and wonderful aroma. As we drove home feeling reinvigorated, I thought, what a great beginning to 2012 to warm up in the waters of New Mexico’s high desert.
Garlands and chiles along Canyon Road
Street posts in Santa Fe are wrapped in green pine garlands, and Christmas lights are glowing on Canyon Road. Artists, skiers, and spiritual seekers are all here for the holidays, reveling in this winter’s great ski conditions. Seekers have always come to Santa Fe and especially Taos, chef Joseph Wrede recently pointed out to me while I was having a fabulous tuna-steak sandwich with coleslaw at The Palace. Taos is even more removed from the rest of the world than Santa Fe.
Somebody who famously dropped out in the forties and moved to Taos was Millicent Rogers. Taos-based author Cherie Burns (www.cherieburns.com
) recently wrote Searching for Beauty
, a perceptive biography of the Standard Oil heiress and fashion trendsetter who first popularized the Southwest socialite look of a white blouse, long black skirt, and lots of silver and turquoise jewelry.
I interviewed Burns over coffee at Collected Works Bookstore, and told her my favorite section of the book was the Taos years. Burns said, “I had to explain what Taos is, and what it was to Millicent and to women then.” Which was? “It was in some ways like what it is now, but more of a frontier. The Anglo population making a life for themselves there – – the artists and the prosperous Anglo women – – came for a certain kind of experience. It was a smaller and wilder place.” Which influenced Millicent how? Burns replied, “There was a profound shift for Millicent from looking for beautiful things that could be bought like fine clothes and Faberge eggs – – she had a real eye for beauty and quality. When she came to Taos, she was reset to appreciate a whole different palette of beauty – – like starry nights in the dark and being led by torchlight after dinner parties.” To all my blog readers: I'm wishing you light in the darkness too in these final days of 2011!