Notes from the White World: Snow, Solitude, Sun, Silence & Cycles of Water


The storm had lifted and the temperature had begun to plummet as we turned off the pavement onto a Rio Arriba county road. It’s sunny in Santa Fe, but here a foot of fresh snow blankets the dirt track. I slow the Frontier down and shift into low but the footing seems solid, as long as we keep moving. Photo: Kitty Leaken

The storm had lifted and the temperature had begun to plummet as we turned off the pavement onto a Rio Arriba county road. It’s sunny in Santa Fe, but here a foot of fresh snow blankets the dirt track. I slow the Frontier down and shift into low but the footing seems solid, as long as we keep moving.

Rounding a corner, we are startled to see a county plow truck coming toward us. Luckily, there is a bit of extra room to the right and I ease off the road, graze a hidden boulder and coast back into the now-cleared road—smooth sailing ahead. “You gotta be lucky,” my father-in-law used to saw. Amen.

We roll on down into the hidden valley of the Rio Vallecitos. We park off the road at the river crossing, load up the kids’ old plastic toboggan and I do my Alaskan husky imitation, ferrying water, food and other gear for a winter foray to our cabin, about a quarter mile downstream. In summer, we drive across this waterway to access the property, but heavier trucks had been through it, breaking through the unset ice and turning it into a jumbled impasse.

Rope around my chest, I am off like a tortoise, dragging the sled over hill and dale. Kitty has gone ahead, and I see her off in the distance doing a sort of ballet movement with arms extended and a twirl or two as she drops out of sight. Continue reading

Giving the Gift of Time

Ross Chancey

Ross Chaney

In the second of our two-part series featuring Santa Fe volunteers, we celebrate a firefighter, a raptor handler, a homeless provider, a GED instructor, a Santa Fe River steward and a grief and counselor. We’re grateful here at Local Flavor for the time these folks generously give, not just during the holiday season, but from one New Year to the next.

Ross Chaney

I experienced a lot of death as a young person. Both my parents died when I was a teenager and I didn’t have a place to go to like Gerard’s House. Then I met one of the founding board members of Gerard’s House—retired District Court Judge Michael E. Vigil, whose jurisdiction included Santa Fe, Rio Arriba and Los Alamos counties and who was very aware of the impact that grief has on the community itself. Unresolved grief—that spoke to me in two ways. I wanted to be contributing to the community in healing, on the cause side. If grief was leading to violence, substance abuse and other negative behaviors, then I wanted to work with our community members to help them process their grief. So that’s why I got involved. I saw that the impact would be the right way to contribute and to help people process their grief. In the short term, you’re able to help people who are in pain today. In the long term, you’re hopeful that by supporting their grief process, they’ll have a life that isn’t full of or avoiding that pain. By working with these individuals, the hope is there are concentric circles of impact. So if the child is able to process the grief, then maybe he or she will heal. And peer support is a really powerful part of the process. You can share and they can support each other. Just being in the room, you feel that support. Continue reading

Local Flavor Says Thank You to Local Volunteers

In the pages of Local Flavor, we’ve long celebrated chefs, artists and other luminaries who place Santa Fe squarely in the international spotlight. Now, in this two-part series, we celebrate the unsung heroes—volunteers who feed the homebound, teach literacy, work with troubled teens, maintain pristine mountain trails and even lead tours through the city’s crown jewel, La Fonda. We’re lucky to have these volunteers in our community who, through the act of freely giving, give the city its heart. This is our way of saying, Thank you.

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Celebrating the Churro

Sheep-DSCF7494“In our Native way, food is our medicine,” Walter says. “We use the herbs in our ceremonies, we pray with them. Our food is art and it’s our prayer, too.”

The ultra-modern seven-story administration building at Diné College in Tsaile, Ariz.—the tallest building on the Navajo Nation—is affectionately referred to as the “lug nut” building for its rounded six-sided shape and metallic reflective finishes. So it’s something of a pleasantly dissonant surprise to pull into its nearby parking lot and hear the sound of bleating sheep.

For the past 21 years, the annual three-day Sheep is Life celebration is held to honor and deepen the long and valued relationship between the Navajo people and the old-time Navajo sheep, or Churro. Sponsored by The Navajo Lifeways nonprofit, or Diné be’ iiná, Inc., the conference and celebration took place this year, and is contracted for the next several, at Diné College in Tsaile, “the place where the stream flows into the canyon.” Canyon de Chelly is about a 30-minute drive away and is the place in the Navajo creation stories where Navajo deity Spider Woman, who taught weaving to her people, lives on a spectacular 800-foot spire. Continue reading

Get Out the Hard Stuff!

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Everywhere I look, trees have thrown off their colorful robes. Crackly piles of yellow leaves lie everywhere, piling up in corners and covering the ground between tree trunks. The afternoons, ever shorter, have a wonderful crisp feel and most days I can smell piñon and cedar fires burning in nearby kivas. Wool sweaters and hats are being pulled down from the top shelves of closets and we’ve all got our eyes on the Santa Fe ski basin, waiting for snow. It’s here: winter has crept up on us. I’ve traded in my salad bowl for the Crock-Pot and likewise it’s time to retire mojitos and mint juleps in favor of darker spirits and warming winter cocktails. I asked some of northern New Mexico’s most talented bartenders for their favorite cold-weather creations. Their original recipes and twists on old classics will have you feeling warm and fuzzy through the holidays and beyond. Continue reading