Haphazard Observations of the Everyday

And a little fiction by Miguela Holt y Roybal

Miguela Holt y Roybal

Miguela Holt y Roybal
New Mexico, USA
March 10
Monarch of All She Surveys
Miguela Holt y Roybal is my maiden name en Espanol. I am a retired schoolteacher and aspiring author looking for crumbs of beauty among the ruins. My novel has been a work in progress for longer than I care to admit. It is a postmodern pastiche of magical realism and about a young woman from New Mexico who goes to work in Washington, DC during the 1980s. She has been a longtime witness to the secret rituals of the Penitente culture in her home state and learns about herself and redemption as she sallies forth on her quest for novelty and adventure. I claim fair useage of images found on the internet that illustrate some of my posts. All contents copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved.


Editor’s Pick
JUNE 27, 2011 5:45PM

Going Home: Santa Fe Revisited (A Photo Essay)

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 Santa Fe Weekend 047

 A weekend getaway to La Villa Real de la Santa Fé de San Francisco de Asíssi at the home of my longtime best friend in the town where we grew up was just the tonic I needed for healing thoughts and renewal. 

 My husband and I are newlyweds and while I am not trained to do so, I have been nursing him through a life-threatening bone infection and the ensuing amputation of his leg.  It has been rough.  He is a thoughtful man and worries about what he calls "caregiver burn-out."  While he is hospitalized for yet another major surgery this week, he ordered me to take a break by visiting my best friend in Santa Fe.

I first met Dr. Jaime Gaskin of the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA), a fine arts college, in 1966 when I enrolled in the seventh grade at Leah Harvey Junior High, a school that no longer exists and whose building was converted to a courthouse.  The pretty girl with the flip introduced herself and invited me to eat lunch with her at a restaurant downtown only a few blocks away because our school had an open campus.  We found that we had a lot in common such as musical taste and I was so grateful to have an ally right away at school.  It amazes me that we have been best friends now for over forty-five years.

Santa Fe Weekend 051 

The City Different

The full name of the city is La Villa Real de la Santa Fé de San Francisco de Asíssi.  That means The Royal Town of the Holy Faith of St. Francis of Assisi.  The gentle holy man is its patron saint.  Last Saturday was very busy because of the gay pride celebration and the rodeo parade.  The two seemingly diverse populations mingled amiably beneath the old trees on the plaza. 

Jaime was concerned that I had cut my own hair and made an appointment to have it re-done by a professional.  We had to pick up the owner of the exclusive hair salon at his amazing garden home because he doesn't drive.  Both gay and a cowboy, our passenger who looked a lot like David Foster Wallace, pointed out who among the throngs of tourists were dressed so bad as to have nothing to be proud of and we laughed with wicked pleasure at his witty criticism.

In 1967, my girlfriend and I would meet at that same monument in the picture shown above and eat the Frito pies that we bought from Woolworths.  Dressed in our Mexican peasant blouses and grungy bell bottoms, we shared a cigarette until we heard the distant tardy bell and ran back to school laughing and out of breath. 

Santa Fe Weekend 008 

Real Santa Fe Style and a Look at Some of My Art

Forget the corny interiors you have seen in the home magazines.  Here is the real Santa Fe style.  Above is a picture of the side entrance to the courtyard of Jaime's house.  It is in a covenanted community that requires strict adherence to style; consequently the neighborhood has an old and established look to it.

Santa Fe Weekend 007 

Aspen trees and wild flowers accent careful xeriscaping and water usage.

Santa Fe Weekend 009 

Saint Francis graces her garden.

Santa Fe Weekend 012 

Here is a wobbly shot of her living room but you can see the handsome leather sofa and mission style chairs.  That is an 19th century handcarved Spanish sideboard on the left and there are two of them.

Santa Fe Weekend 003 

I collect American art pottery at garage sales and there on the very right is the fantastic Mimbres seed pot that I found and gave her a number of years ago.

Santa Fe Weekend 006 

She bought this amazingly elegant piece by native potter Glen Gomez and I am pea-green with envy over it.  It definitely was not garage sale-priced.

Santa Fe Weekend 011 

As she led me to the guest room, I looked up and saw where she has placed the most recent painting that I made and gave to her.  The ceilings are really high because that is a very large canvas.

Santa Fe Weekend 001 

The perfect guest room that also contains artifacts from Jaime's trip to Botswana last year.

Santa Fe Weekend 078 

The master bedroom has a theme to which I contributed.  Bleached skulls.

Santa Fe Weekend 075

Here is a student piece I painted in 1974!

Santa Fe Weekend 076

 Here is another of my canvases.

 Santa Fe Weekend 079  

I hate the word whimsy, but how cool is this?  She added a flower to a real skull mounted on the wall a la Georgia O'Keeffe.

Santa Fe Weekend 013 

This sign hung at the entrance of the famed Sena Plaza downtown for decades.  Jaime's father hand-carved it and years ago, and the owner of the building told her she could have it because he was remodeling.  However, at the time she didn't have a way to transport it until one day she and my sister unhooked it and carried it through the streets of Santa Fe to her car.  I wonder how no one stopped them!

Santa Fe Weekend 022 


Above is the current sign at the location.  The secluded courtyard used to house offices such as Jaime's father's who was an accountant.  I told Jaime I wanted to take a picture of the burbling fountain near the bench where we would serenely do our homework until five o'clock waiting for her dad to drive us home.  She laughed, "Oh, you want a picture of the restaurant?" 

 Santa Fe Weekend 023  

I didn't understand until I saw this scene in the picture above of the greatly expanded Santa Cafe.  There is the fountain.  People are enjoying themselves but it was sad to me.

Santa Fe Weekend 020  

Our destination was The Shed, a popular restaurant for over forty years.  Here is the courtyard where patient fans of fine New Mexican cuisine wait.  Forty five years ago, I, a girl raised in Maryland, ordered a hamburger and Jaime, the Santa Fean, ordered an enchilada.  Saturday, our orders were the other way around.  I didn't post a picture because enchiladas while tasty are a messy looking food.  The answer to this all-important question:  Red or Green?  Red chile!

 Marie Miki Jaime 

That's me in the middle with another high school chum who joined us, Marie on the left, and that's Jaime on the right.

Santa Fe Weekend 046 

We went for a stroll through the plaza to see what was there and what was gone.  That is the old La Fonda Hotel above.  The French Pastry Shop there is superb.

Santa Fe Weekend 045

The camera shop is still there.  I found the Medicine Man hiding in a corner. 

 Santa Fe Weekend 057

I complained that Santa Fe was overly built up and told Jaime I thought it looked like Hong Kong in spots but she told me I was hyperbolic.  You can still see a mountain peaking through the buildings on Water Street.

Santa Fe Weekend 048 

This area used to be a ladies shop called Ruoff's.  

Santa Fe Weekend 053 

Woolworths was a well-established five and dime and you can see that it has been replaced with--another five and dime.   You can still buy cheap souvenirs there that are made in China.  I think you can also still buy a Frito pie like we enjoyed so often for our school lunch.  It is a small bag of Fritos sliced open so as to use the bag for a bowl then topped with chili and cheddar cheese.  They are delicious and portable.

Santa Fe Weekend 025 

This rather engaging sculpture is at the entrance of the IAIA Art Museum.  The place used to be a federal building where my stepfather, a geologist, worked.

Santa Fe Weekend 044 

Around the corner you will find the Alan Houser Sculpture Garden.

Santa Fe Weekend 037 

His stylized bronzes are known the world over.

Santa Fe Weekend 036

 Santa Fe Weekend 035

In the center of the sculpture garden is the dome-shaped healing greenhouse.  Filled with aromatic herbs, there is a bench where I sat, inhaled their fragances, and meditated until it was time to go back to Jaime's house.

Santa Fe Weekend 073 

Poems, Prayers, and Promises

Jaime invited an old friend, another professor who also went to high school with us, for dinner. Finger foods of ribs, asparagus, and breadsticks were served along with plenty of wine.  Later, the guitar and ude came out and we sang songs from our youth, mostly Beatles songs, the whole evening through just like we used to do.  Back then we knew all the words to many songs but sadly we are old and had to look up lyrics and tabs on an ipad.  Jaime is an accomplished musician and singer and I was pleased when she complimented my harmonies.  I just wanted to find a pretty place to be next to her.  I think we really did a lovely rendition of "I Will," also, a rip-roaring "Happiness is a Warm Gun."

Santa Fe Weekend 066 

I smoked!

Native Americans are the original tobacconists.  When Jaime pulled out this pack of smokes, I, a non-smoker of cigarettes for twenty-five years, had to have one.  You see they are 100 percent tobacco with absolutely no additives.  Right tasty.  Don't worry.  I'm okay and not going to renew an old bad habit.

The weekend was a most welcome restorative and I returned home refreshed and happy to be blessed with a friend such as Jaime as well as the others in my life.  Santa Fe has changed but not so much that I couldn't find myself there.  You can read about the adventures of my friends and me on this excellent Facebook fanpage called "You Know you are Old School Santa Fe when .  .  . here: 



Below is a picture of the fire up in the Jemez Wilderness near Los Alamos Scientific Lab that Jaime posted.  This is the view from Jaime's balcony.  We should have done a rain dance, too.  Come rain.

Santa Fe fire 

(The above photo by Jaime Gaskin.  All other were taken by me.)  







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thanks for the little journey....Love native art....
Please forgive me while I wait for a slow download. I wrote Sata and asked for cold cash and world peace. The brief encounter I had with Santa Fe?
Folk were:`

They called me coot,
fart (Kim Gamble too),
and loopy fog brained.

I saw no guile or spits.
Farmer do a Farmer's`
Snot Rocket. No goo.

No save snot for later.
No put 'it' in blouses.
Just fling-off snots,
Wow. I was given a kilo.

The home grown tobacco.
I nearly wept when gone.
I rarely was so peace-calm.

You grow tobacco plants?
It attracts tiny aphid bugs.
A dime ain't worth a nickel.
Question? Do you and your
poor husband - take in bum
hitchhiker for - just loitering?
Beautiful to read about your reunion with a long time friend in one of my most favorite places in the world. I've been there many years ago and have very fond recollections of the town, architecture, art and the earthen colors that impressed me so much. And of course the margaritas! You are an excellent artist yourself, Miguela.
A beautiful trip to Santa Fe. Thanks.
I love Santa Fe and carry a picture well many pictures in my head of how it looked and the smell that is only New Mexico. I enjoyed this so very much thank you for bringing back my memories of old.
one of my absolute favorite towns in the US. if u don't know santa fe u don't know nothin'. my hang out is 10,000 waves since it has watsu massage. i once heard it has the highest number of phd's anywhere because of all the retired profs. like yr art too, very fresh.
I was a high school senior when our family stopped for an afternoon in Santa Fe on our way to Los Angeles to see Wisconsin get mauled by Washington State in the 1960 Rose Bowl game. We rolled into town from Route 66 in late December after listening to Marty Robbins wailing about Rosa's Cantina in El Paso, all the way from Columbus, Wisconsin, and I fell in love with Santa Fe at that moment. Wish could've stayed a couple of days. This brings the visual ambience back, altho I expect a lot has changed in half a century. Love this post and the photos.
Whoa. This is another world to me.
I enjoyed the journey with you, Santa Fe looks lovely and the photos were great. It pleased me that Jaime got the sign her father hand carved, it's lovely and special. Thanks for a relaxing and pleasurable post.
Excellent travel post. Man, I'd love to visit! I love the word whimsy, and this post certainly has a flare. Nicely done.
Elijah Rising--Thanks for stopping by and you have excellent taste.
Art James--Snot rockets? Trying to follow the stream of consciousness
FusunA--It makes sense that you would love Santa Fe. Thanks for noticing my art.
Mary--Thanks for reading. I appreciate you.
Ben Sen--I have a Thousand Waves story but it is X rated and mine is a PG blog ;D.
Also, I hope your husband gets well soon and receives excellent care. Good for you for taking a break. I have a 50/50 rule. Half for the world, half for me. When I respect The Rule, I'm a happy camper. Take care.
Lunchlady--I thought you definitely had a NM vibe as I have read your posts. Are you from here?
Matt--They don't call NM the Land of Enchantment for nothing. Thanks for reading this.
D Art--It was for me, too. I came to SF from suburban Washington, DC
L'Heure Blue--You were sweet to think of Jaime getting the sign. Now if we can only find the oil painting done of her when she was a baby. It was discarded by her stepmother.
Rei Momo--Thanks for showing me how to spell whimsy ;D. Thanks also for the close reading; I really appreciate it.
Thanks for sharing your weekend with us! What a wonderful time you had...loved the scenery, your art, the tour of Jaime's home.
I've never been in that area of the States; thank you for taking us with you and showing yours and other artwork.
I am sorry to hear about your husband's health. I hope his surgery is successful. It is great that you got a reprieve and opportunity to reunite with old friends. My sister works at Overland in Denver! I will look you up on Facebook!
Beautiful trip to Santa Fe (holy faith) for us.
I really love your painting as well.
I enjoyed this tour around, thanks for a peek at your world!
Chelle--Thanks for joining the Open Salon and for reading this. Wish you were there, too.
Chrissie Pissie--You should come and explore the American West. It's wonderful. Thanks for reading.
Susie--Thanks for inquiring about my husband. Maybe he can come home tomorrow. Hope so! I requested you on FB because I used my married name there. Thanks for asking.
Janice--Thanks for reading and glad you like the paintings. I haven't done it much over the years because I was teaching school but I have found more time for painting since I retired and even had a little exhibit in NYC. My very first at age 57.

Pshaw--Everyone is so nice about the paintings. I thought only Jaime liked them! Thanks for the compliments if I forgot to mention them in my acknowledgments.
Beautiful terrific post, it's a place I love as well.
And your art is just gorgeous.
I really only lived there a short while but fell madly in love with the place and would go back in a heart beat if I could.
I also need to mention how much I loved your art work too!
congrats on the EP!!!
This looks like the perfect restorative vacation. I love the vivid colors of your artwork, and that you have kept your friendship through all these years. I envy that. I quit smoking over 30 years ago, but do enjoy puffing on the pipe during ceremonies on the Ojibwa reservation every summer. Sending healing thoughts to your husband.
Oh! I just noticed the EP! Congratulations on that!
This is so perfect and well crafted!!! And our pictures look superb!! But Chico (for you uninformed, my Chihuahua) wants credit for posing perfectly on the pillow in your photo of my bedroom. He's sneering, of course, but seems well behaved for the camera. I'm so proud and happy to be your "bestie" for over, uh, many years. And thank you, also, for telling a snippet about the "real" Santa Fe. For those of you who really want to know, read "White Shell Water Place" or other historical pieces written by those who know... And Miguela, what a lovely birthday I will have (today, June 28.) Thank you for sharing the ups and downs of my life with me and always giving me a shoulder to lean on. Editor: thanks for the pick; I share in that honor, just because...
We visited Santa Fe (and other nearby locales) 13 years ago. I still remember it and would love to return. Beautiful city with unique character. This was charming.
The best post that's been on OS in ages. Great Stuff. I love the look of Santa Fe. I have been a fan of Georgia O'Keeffe forever and had the same print of Ram's Head, at Hollyhoch-Hills over my love seat. I bought it ten years ago and it gives me a peaceful feeling when I look at it. Well deserved EP~~~
Fantastic! Your canvases deserve more treatment here, they look marvelous. I love hearing of wonderful friendships, especially among woman, yours sounds lovely. Your friend's home and the pottery, the food and also the music singalong were all beautiful touches to a time planned for by your friend for you to heal. Thank you for sharing this. enjoyed.
I loved this entire post. I have never been to that part of the country but hope to visit soon. You art work is beautiful. That door in the third photograph is wonderful. What a fine post! ~r
I love travel posts w. pix. Lovely to see your artwork. I have some various skulls and I think I'm gonna stick flowers in them. All best to your husband and you in this health&surgical crisis. His making you take a break was very thoughtful and no doubt effective.
As almost anyone who has visited Santa Fe would say, I love that place and have been lucky enough to have explored its serene beauty several times. Thank you for the magnificent essay and the easy memories of the city different it brought.

Oh, as to red or green chiles...I can never decide, so I go "Christmas" :)
I am so happy you got to have such a fun, healing time. Thanks for sharing these wonderful photos and impressions - I love your artwork! Good thoughts and energy to your husband. I'm glad he has someone as vibrant as you to help him through this time.
mucho gracias mi amigo
thanks for this travelogue--never been to Santa Fe, always wanted to go...loved the pix!
This was very real. The Frito pie did not settle on my stomach well and now I want to go outside and smoke a "Native".
thanks for stirring memories of a long time ago in a faraway land while a foreign student at unm....blue enchiladas at chimayo, cerrillos, the opera house, taos, the sangre de cristo....and on and on......in our house in tuscany we have paintings of a pueblo hanging on a wall going up the stairs...it fits well and it is a daily reminder of a great and unforgettable period of our lives

and i remember don schuster, a nephew of will of the zozobra fame and the tales therein accompanied by drinks and wonderful food

bellissimo!! saluti!!
Thanks for taking me along. This was really lovely.
You vividly evoke Santa Fe. I lived there in the 90s and was a cofounder of People for Peace, which is still going strong. Reading of your visit, I ache to be there, too - eating a Frito pie. Wonderful to see the details so lovingly described. Two more belong to autumn: the seductive smell of Hatch chilis roasting in the super market parking lot, and the ritual of driving up the mountain and walking the trail where yellow aspen leaves make a heavenly canopy. Will now click the Facebook link you give.
Marty and I both loved being in Santa Fe...It's just a different kind of city, like Austin is different. Our son ate rattlesnake quesadias at La Fonda many years ago. Best to you and your husband in your health care journey. Recovery always takes longer than we wish so I wish you patience and healing....Great pictures by the way.