Under the New Mexican Sky …

New Mexican sky - Taos Pueblo

Just this.

(Can you tell I’ve been meditating with a Zen Priestess all week?  😉  More coming soon, I promise …)



Tanzanite, spotted lynx, and other New Mexican treasures I crave but shouldn’t (or, the REAL cost of being a High Maintenance Newport Housewife)

“I KNEW I shoulda took that left turn at Albuquerque.”

Bugs Bunny: I knew I shoulda made that left turn at Albuquerque

Bugsy sure had it right; I shoulda turned LEFT at Albuquerque rather than heading north to shopper’s paradise in Santa Fe.

That wrong turn made me lose more than the median annual income of a person living in Sweden, Slovenia, or Spain.

It all started with an innocent stroll around the square in Santa Fe’s Old Town.  If you haven’t been there, it first strikes one as rather charming with all the adobe shop fronts and cute galleries.

The Square in Old Town Santa Fe - donkey sculpture

But don’t be fooled by the old world rustic charm … they know how to wrangle you out of your money here!

For instance, the sales clerk at the very first store I stop at forces me to try on a tanzanite, diamond, and opal ring:

tanzanite, opals, diamonds and gold!

tanzanite, opals, and diamonds – Oh My!

Everyone oohs and ahhs, and insists it’s a perfect fit … The price?  A mere $14,000.  But wait … they will give it to me for just $11,000, IF I buy it right now.  (Plus, no sales tax!)  What a bargain …

How can I say no?

And I’m on a roll … right around the corner at the next store, I try on the softest, most luxurious, exotic spotted lynx fur coat you can imagine:

spotted lynx fur coat

I can’t stop petting it.

(Nevermind that I don’t live in the right climate for wearing fur.)

I HAVE to have it. 

(And I’m too embarrassed to  tell you the price.)

So I walk out of the store, draped in my new jewels and fur.  It’s about 90 degrees outside.  The ring feels tight and I’m starting to sweat.  Are people looking at me a little oddly?

Meanwhile, Hubby texts me a picture showing that he and my puppy are at home breaking all the rules:

naughty dog

And, knowing I am in Shoppers’ Mecca, he also texts me the warning: “the more money you spend, the more rules we’re going to break.”

This gives me pause.

In screenwriting, the protagonist almost always discovers that WHAT SHE WANTS IS NOT WHAT SHE REALLY NEEDS around the MIDPOINT of the movie.

I’m forty-four years old … could this possibly be my midpoint?

I lovingly stroke my new fur and admire my sparkling gems.

It’s getting damn hot out here.

I take off the coat and visualize what a living spotted lynx looks like:

smiling spotted lynx


And suddenly I feel like Cruella Deville (and NOT because of my Botox):

Cruella Deville and pups

Botox … you too can have eyebrows like mine!

And I’m forced to ask myself a tough question:  I wonder if I can get a quick Botox fix anywhere around here?

Am I a Travel Writer, or just another bored Real Newport Housewife on a shopping spree?

I so much want the answer to be the first one. 

This is my moment of truth …

So, like any heroine who has just had her epiphany, I find an as yet untapped source of inner strength and race back to the stores, doing my best not to spill my Starbucks all over the spotted lynx.

I arrive at the shops sweaty and breathless, yet strangely powerful — I am the protagonist of my own life, after all.  I somehow manage to pull together every trick I remember from my litigation days to negotiate the return of my splurges.  (And getting that ring off was no mean trick!)

Whew, that was close.

I collapse into my rental car and TURN RIGHT this time, heading straight to the refuge of a Writer’s Retreat in Taos.  I’m checking myself in for rehab here for the next week:

2012 Writer's Retreat in Taos, New Mexico

room with a view

I’ll be camped out here, diligently working on my writing projects for the next five days.  Because this is what I NEED right now: time, community, and space to develop my creative voice.

As Mick Jagger said, “You can’t always get what you want, but  if you try …”

WAIT!  Someone just told me that Taos is filled with galleries and jewelry stores too?  I’m sure no one will mind if I leave my room for just a little while …


Question: Have you ever bought something you thought would make you happy, but discovered something else instead?  

Always Coming Home, The Matter of Time, and Boris-the-Bad

What is it about home?  Dorothy and E.T. sure seemed to understand that coming home can be the most desirable journey of all.

Ruby Slippers

There’s No Place Like Home …

But this isn’t always readily apparent to those of us travelers who still aren’t sure where exactly home is.  Not because we don’t have a house (we’ve been in ours for seven years now; the longest time I’ve lived anywhere in my life!), but because we easily relate to so many other places in the world.

Even on the Fourth of July. 

It’s not that I’m unpatriotic or don’t love my country (I do! I do!), but like Dorothy and E.T., no matter where I am in the world, it seems a little voice in my head whispers to me almost constantly:  “I want to go home.  I want to go home …”

Even when I’m already at home.

This has bothered me for some time now, and might explain why I have such itchy feet:  am I “Star Seed” like E.T., looking for a home on this Earth that I’ll never be able to find? 

Or even worse.

According to Shaman Ernesto Ortiz, a chronic deep longing to go Home is one sign that a person is nearing the end of her karmic cycles and completing her contract for this lifetime.

A scary thought.

But one I hope you are thinking about too as we approach 12/21/12.  Not because it’s the End-of-the-World, but because eventually all of our worlds will, in fact, end.

My husband lost a great deal of “karma” this week.  How do I know?  He’s at his Aunt Carma’s memorial service in Utah as I type this.  (I realize this is a dumb pun on her name, but my point is that time is fleeting, elastic, and mysterious for all of us.)

I really experienced this last week at the Guggenheim in Bilbao when we explored Richard Serra’s The Matter of Time, a maze of spiraling sculptures you can walk through (if you’re brave enough).  The effect is quite disorienting.

exploring Richard Serra's The Matter of Time at the Guggenheim, Bilbo

How do I get out of here?

So we’re home now – back behind the Orange Curtain in Newport Beach, California – and I’ve only barely skimmed the surface of everything that happened last week in Spain.  That’s the problem with travel writing; when I’m traveling, the last thing I usually want to do is stop living the adventure just to write about it.  (I will work on filling in the gaps on this and other past trips soon!)

I’ve been thinking a lot about what journeys to make in the next six five and a half months leading up to 12/21/12.  The next one will be a mid-July writing/meditation retreat in Taos, New Mexico I’m taking with author/filmmaker Ruth Ozeki (author of My Year of Meats, among others).   I haven’t seriously meditated in any disciplined manner for quite some time now, so am looking forward to seeing what impact this will have on my writing life.

Stay tuned. 

But I’m home, for the rest of this week at least.  One of the best parts about coming home has been reuniting with our pets:

Boris & Dudley plan their attack

Let’s ambush her …

This is Boris-the-Bad (tuxedo cat) and his partner in crime, Dudley-the-Dude.  I am actually not a Crazy Cat Lady (only Boris is mine), but since I gave Dudley to my mother-in-law as a present once, we owe her free cat sitting whenever she travels (which is A LOT).

Why do the cats look so smug here?  The picture was taken right before their attack:

cats hunting dog

Poor Natasha doesn’t see what’s coming …

My poor little dog, Tasha, didn’t quite manage to get out of the way before they pounced.

There’s No Place Like Home.

Which reminds me of my favorite travel poem of all time:

Please bring strange things.

Please come bringing new things.

Let very old things come into your hands.

Let what you do not know come into your eyes.

Let desert sand harden your feet.

Let the arch of your feet be the mountains.

Let the paths of your fingertips be your maps

and the ways you go be the lines on your palms.

Let there be deep snow in your inbreathing

and your outbreath be the shining of ice.

May your mouth contain the shapes of strange worlds.

May you smell food cooking you have not eaten.

May the spring of a foreign river be your navel.

May your soul be at home where there are no houses.

Walk carefully, well loved one,

walk mindfully, well loved one,

walk fearlessly, well loved one.

Return with us, return to us,

be always coming home.

                 — Ursula K. Le Guin

Question:  What do you miss most about your home when you travel?  Have you ever felt the desire to “go Home” even when you’re already there?