As is often the case on late summer afternoons in Santa Fe, I could see the dark rain clouds rolling down from the North, big and bold and pregnant with lightning. They enveloped the aspen trees up by the ski basin and I could only imagine the great tumult and confusion they caused for the birds and late-blooming alpine flowers. But down in the valley, it was still warm from the strong desert sun and rain seemed far away. Sometimes the clouds rush down the mountains, colliding with the warm earth in a sudden burst. But today they seemed to inch their way down, nothing was sudden. They were a reminder of the refreshing rain that we had to look forward to later that day, but there was still time to enjoy the sun.
Galisteo is a little village thirty minutes south of Santa Fe. It sits in a valley, along the bosque, a gallery forest that grows along a small river. It is an oasis with birds, bugs and plants of all kinds. The community is small and tight-knit, filled with artists, doctors, makers, thinkers, gardeners and many dreamers.
Some friends of mine live there, on a piece of land that runs right down to the bosque. Ancient cottonwood trees line the river and creep up to the house. Like most houses in Galisteo, it is an old adobe, with low ceilings and a gentle, warm simplicity that invites deep thought and creativity.
On Friday afternoon, I hopped into my little blue 1984 Subaru and rattled down the Old Pecos Trail, headed for Galisteo. I needed a moment alone, to make art, to pick vegetables in the garden, to listen to the bugs buzz and to enjoy the light of Galisteo. My friends were out-of-town and had offered me their house for moments like this. My box of art supplies was on the back seat, the dark clouds were behind me and I was off.
As I turned off the dirt road into the driveway, I saw two strangers walking down the curvy path along the bosque. They were holding notebooks and their little dog barked when he saw me. They waved and then sat on a bench under the Cottonwood trees and wrote quietly to the sound of the wind.
I let myself into the house. My friend had left me a container of fresh, homemade maple pecan ice cream. I served myself a bowl and stepped out into the sun. I could already smell the rain but it was still hidden behind the trees and the desert plateau. Sitting with my ice cream, I worked on my art, paper cutting and enjoyed the silence.
After a while, I needed to move so I went to the garden to harvest. The perfume of plants saturated in sun is a smell that evokes a deep feeling of contentment. It rolls through me, reminding me of home, of the beauty of hard work, of caring hands, of idealism and of nourishment. I picked and picked-basil, tomatoes, lettuce, beets, carrots, zucchini. Soon the neighbor came out and we laughed with joy about the overabundance of this garden. Then he told me about his work and his childhood. Another neighbor came over looking for a tomato and a bunch of basil for that night’s dinner. He told me the Latin names of the plants and about the different kinds of tarragon.
Finally, the clouds were above the trees, reminding me that it was time to head back to school for the Dean’s lecture. With two big bags of vegetable in my arms, I was reluctant to go, but happy to have been there even for such a short time. As I pulled out of the driveway I waved goodbye to the neighbors. The petrichor was heavy in the air. I had dodged the rain but I could see it blowing over the plane towards Stanley, New Mexico. The plants and dry soil had been renewed by the rain, and so had I.∗