NAVIGATING NEW MEXICO

WORDS & IMAGES: Kate Weiner

Visiting New Mexico with my mother was in many ways a sweet return to childhood. Growing up, I spent several weeks each summer with my grandmother in Sedona, Arizona. I came to love the blue-violet mountains and sagebrush-seeded terrain, the cool nights and the dry desert air. Trekking through this new sliver of the Southwest made me feel especially connected to and grateful for the women in my family. My mom and I had the rare opportunity to hike and eat and hang together. We had fun figuring out our way in Santa Fe. Although Santa Fe isn't a particularly pedestrian-friendly city, my mother and I, as ardent walkers and concerned stewards, made it our mission to navigate everywhere within Santa Fe by foot. Our miles-long adventures helped us see a side of the city we might not otherwise have accessed from the window of a car. Herewith, a few of our favorite things:

The Santa Fe Farmers' Market rocked (no better word for it)! I nabbed a blue corn-blueberry-lavender donut from the organic Whoo's Donuts to tide me over as I perused the vast indoor/outdoor market. Having worked at many farmers' markets, I especially appreciated the diversity of vendors participating this Saturday morning. Student sustainable agriculture programs peddled goat cheeses; old-school farmers sold worms for composting. Before leaving the market, my mom and I scooped up several garlicky flatbreads from the Intergalactic Bread Company to savor for dinner that night.

Our favorite eat was Sweetwater Harvest Kitchen, a farm-to-table restaurant on the fringes of central Santa Fe. During Sweetwater's weekly "Thai Night" dinners, I dug into a rice crepe ripe with purply strips of cabbage and shredded carrot. My mother, feeling under the weather, ordered a coconut soup and cup of lemon ginger tea. The staff were incredibly friendly and we both left feeling nourished. Enough so that we would return a couple more times during our short stay. The energy of a place matters: Sweetwater's low-key vibe and communal atmosphere warmed the restaurant's airy interior.

Most of our meals were bookended by short hiking trips near to Santa Fe. The gorgeous Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks Monument was an especially beautiful hike. From the apex, my mother and I marveled at the sheer expanse of curved pumice. I was reminded, again, of hiking in Sedona in the early morning. Something in the soft Southwest wind makes you breathe a little easier.

On the hour-long drive home from Tent Rocks, we stopped at Madrid, a mining town turned artist enclave. Feeling lackluster, I checked out Shugarman's Little Chocolate Shop. The friendly proprietor fixed me up with a slab of dark chocolate bark studded in golden raisins and goji berries. It did the trick and I was able to match my mother's stride as she meandered through the many shops, swapping stories with local artists.

Later that same day, we traveled to Ojo Caliente. The natural hot springs were more developed than I had realized. In spite of this, I savored the opportunity to sink into the mineral-rich waters during the gold end-of-day light. My mom and I shared a pool with several travelers and it was really lovely to relish in this experience with new friends.

I found good companions as well in the crowded bookshelves of the Collected Works Bookstore. Every time I see an independent bookstore, I go in and buy a little something. I reason that if I like the existence of small-scale bookstores, I have to do my part to ensure that they are maintained. I bought a beautiful copy of Dan Chelotti's "x" for my sweetheart as well as several postcards to send to friends. Had I thought of it earlier, I would have brought my book to read on the benches of the beautiful Santa Fe Botanical Gardens just across the way from the marvelous Museum of International Folk Art.

My mother and I left Santa Fe for the night to visit the White Sands National Monument. Seeing the miles and miles of gypsum sand dunes in the blue evening light was magical. Of my brief trip through New Mexico, White Sands is what will stay with me most. I still can't shake the feel of the cake flour texture of the sand underfoot, still smile at the memory of the yuccas in bloom. My mother and I spent a late evening and early morning sliding across the sands, laughing as we hiked up the dunes again and again, fully present in this place.