Santa Fe Trails

2019–a year of kaleidoscopic passages reflecting life upended–is fully upon me, and I have mostly not blinked. Nor has Harry, my husband, with whom the past twenty years this October has been congruous and felicitous, in short, a dream.

Dear readers who have not heard the news: we sold Finca Cántaros, our property in San Vito, Costa Rica, late January of this year and moved in March to Santa Fe, New Mexico. The new owner of Finca Cantaros–Lilly Briggs, Canadian, with a PhD from the Department of Natural Resources at Cornell University–is the ideal new custodian of its 17-acre nature reserve.

After the sale…!

Gail [FotoDiarist] and Lilly Briggs before sale…

Lilly doubled the size of the reserve by also buying one of the contiguous properties and intends to reforest its current pastureland. Lilly has already harnessed the spirit of environmentalism that’s been steadily growing in Coto Brus Cantón (County) by involving local school children, their teachers and parents, friends and neighbors in the tree planting.

Lilly’s passion for environmental education and citizen science also inspire her research interests. She helped create the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s BirdSleuth International curriculum and is in charge of establishing the Spanish version of the curriculum in Latin America. The resulting Detectives de Aves program, under the auspices of the San Vito Bird Club, has been successfully introduced to many Coto Brus schools as well as elsewhere in Central and South America. Great things are happening at Finca Cántaros where Lilly now lives full time. I hope that you will follow the Finca Cántaros website and that your interest in what goes on there will only soar.

Why are Harry and I now living in the high Juniper/Pinyon Pine desert? Credit my mother!

Just four months shy of 99 years, my mother–Georgette (“Georgie”) Hewson– has travelled a long road since 1921. Most of her life was spent on the North Shore of Massachusetts, but it unexpectedly swerved to New Mexico in 2015 when she realized she could no longer live independently. My sister, previously an East Coaster, and her Texas-born husband–who had retired in Santa Fe 25 years ago–took Georgie to their hearth. (Strangely, my brother lived for a time near Taos, and then died in this state; his grave is less than a mile away in the Veterans’ Cemetery.) Georgie now lives with Harry and me, just minutes from my sister, and we will all be with her on her journey–narrowing, but with joyful sparks–to the end.

Sun and Moon Mountains, Santa Fe, NM

New Mexico. Ernie Pyle, the Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist and war correspondent, said about New Mexico:

“We like it because the sky is so bright and you can see so much of it. And because out here you actually see the clouds and the stars and the storms, instead of just reading about them in the newspapers. They become a genuine part of your daily life, and half the horizon is yours in one glance for the looking, and the distance sort of gets into your soul and makes you feel that you too are big inside.”

Well, that about says it all about the spell of the vistas. I like the wide, open spaces, too, at 7,200’ elevation.

Rufous Hummingbird, female, and Salvia darcyi

I also like the slow-growing, deep-rooting desert flora, and my interest in it has rapidly grown with help from my sister and local plant guidebooks. Birds and plants are not as richly varied and abundant as they are in Costa Rica, of course, but they are just as interesting in their strategies for eking out a living.

So I started digging out a garden in April with xeric (needing little water after established) plants whose names I’ve never before encountered. Sixty or so native plants are now waving in the almost constant breezes; seed-eaters and insectivorous birds, nectar-loving hummingbirds, butterflies, lizards, ants and beetles are already frequent visitors to the backyard. We have heard coyotes yipping in the wee hours outside our window.

As was my custom at Finca Cántaros, I walk early in the morning on nearby trails or dirt roads within an hour’s range of our apartment/condo complex, carrying my camera and binoculars. Though we are renting, we are fortunate to have land to till and views of the adjacent arroyo and hills beyond. The photos you see here were taken on my daily walks since March. September 17 was a red-letter day, when I saw my first coyote. The handsome animal stopped, turned its head and gave me a good look. I thrilled to having truly arrived in this Land of Enchantment.

Below is a slide show of some recent photos. The slide show should start automatically. If you want to stop/pause, click on the II icon in the lower middle of the current photo; click on thesymbol to go the next photo, on ◀︎ to go back the previous one. If can’t see the slide show in your email of this post, click here to open the post in your browser.

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Quote from Ernie Pyle from Seasons of the Desert, A Naturalist’s Notebook, by Susan J. Tweit, 1998. Chronicle Books.







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