Dancing St. Francis & mesmerizing views–a return to Santa Fe

[By Marcia Milner-Brage in Santa Fe, New Mexico]

 It was our fourth trip to northern New Mexico in three years. As the state’s license plates aptly says, it is a land of enchantment. On my previous trips, I’d fallen in love with St. Francis of Assisi Dancing on Water, Monika Kaden’s bronze sculpture in the courtyard of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in downtown Santa Fe. It was tops on my to-sketch list. Not Catholic or religious in any tradition, I fell in love with this piece of art from first sight. It made me happy, so lighthearted, I chuckled out loud as I approached it. What a soaring representation of joy. It was fulfilling to see it again and sketch it in my pocket-size Moleskine.

Storm clouds receding, late afternoon

We stayed in a vacation rental on several acres of land in a suburban neighborhood west of downtown. The front of the house was a wall of glass that looked west, across the Caja del Rio and the Jemez Mountains. Two weeks was not enough to sate my appetite to gaze upon this ever evolving landscape and my desire to capture the drama and moods on paper.

Last of the day
Morning moon

Out the back of the house, no distant mountains but the parade of clouds against the intense blue sky that I associate with the high altitude (6,500 feet).

Clouds and junipers

My husband and I took day trips, for short hikes and of course to look out and be thrilled by the vistas.

Black Mesa and beyond

We drove up to Los Alamos–across the Rio Grande into the mountains (7,300 feet elevation). The town is perched on several mesas. A walk from one neighborhood took us out on Deer Trap Mesa that looks east across mesas and beyond to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains (the most southern, trailing range of the Rocky Mountains). 

At Bandelier National Monument, in the canyons and mesas beyond Los Alamos, I did a quick sketch (above)  of the dwellings carved in the soft rock cliffs–a place inhabited by humans beginning 11,000 years ago. On a previous trip, I did a more sustained drawing.

We walked down Diablo Canyon.

Lizards were everywhere.

We arrived in early May. A week before there had been a heavy snowfall. Nothing could hold back the cottonwood trees at the Leonora Curtin Wetlands Preserve from unfurling their canopy of chartreuse leaves. The chorusing frogs from the mucky marsh was deafening and exuberant.


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