I am three weeks into my first writing residency, spending the month of June at the Santa Fe Art Institute. I've been surrounded by creative colleagues, breathtaking vistas and a whole lot of turquoise jewelry. I mean a whole lot of turquoise jewelry (witness the ring).
I've eaten posole and tamales, yak and bison, and sipped mezcal and tequila. I've learned the difference between red and green chiles (you have to ask at each restaurant because the heat is not always tied to the color). I bravely stopped ordering the Christmas chile combo, having shed the timidity of a fresh tourist. My straw hat keeps flying off my head because I was not wise enough to buy a hat with a chin strap, which you need in this windy place. And I've learned to avoid the heat of any given June day because it wipes me out even when I am in the shade.
What I've really learned, or rather re-learned, is that I am a writer. Silly, I know. I've been making my living as a writer for years. But with the time and space of this residency, I've remembered what makes me a writer: curiosity as much as word smithing.
I can't help but notice little tidbits about Santa Fe and its people. The way the librarian smiles knowingly at me when I ask a question about The Milagro Beanfield War, the way the light hits certain pockets of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains an hour before dusk, the way the bakers at Harry's Roadhouse showcase their mile-high lemon meringue pie in glass cases, and the way men stop talking in Spanish and switch to English when I approach them.
To have the freedom to observe and document the small exchanges of ordinary life is a gift not often received in your own hometown on a routine day. But here, in New Mexico, more than two thousand miles from my New Hampshire home, everything is new, intriguing, memorable. I'm ready to return to New England with fresh eyes and a deeper understanding of my writerly ways. I'm more eager than ever to hear the Temple Band play on the Fourth of July, to appreciate the smile of my postman when he delivers a package to my door, or to be soothed by the lullaby of lawnmowers chatting endlessly on summer nights.
Only this time I'll be wearing turquoise.