Are Some Places “Special”?
I’ve lived in Santa Fe (or Fanta Se, as we locals call it) more than half my life, so I’ve had plenty of opportunities to hear about how spiritual/beautiful/cosmic/etc. New Mexico is. I tend to scorn this kind of discourse, and add that it is also poverty stricken, crime-ridden, drug addicted, undereducated, and more. I’ve been a mom in this town, and taught community college for decades, so I feel qualified to bad mouth its lack of social resources and services.
However, the truth is, I landed here—and stayed—because New Mexico is so spiritual, beautiful, etc. etc. I love my city and my state, and I’ve benefited from everything from its mix of cultures to its clear skies. I’ve felt safer here as a woman and a Jew than any place else I’ve ever lived, and as a poet I can’t imagine being happier anywhere else because of its appreciative audiences and writer’s community. Santa Fe is a sanctuary city, which isn’t empty words—a person can go from K through med school without showing proof of citizenship. My life is blessed by the huge variety of people I know. And by the fact that my house is situated between two fantastic cafes so I will never lack for coffee.
But this leads me to the question of whether consciousness—and creativity—are more about place or mindset. My husband Rich has long been my partner in seeking out the odd corner, the funky art, the community garden, the shoe tree, the little library, the poetry post, the roadside museum, the best pancakes…wherever we are. Cities may be human built environments, but that doesn’t make them any less serendipitous than nature. We can go from exploring the entrancing weirdness of Las Vegas, Nevada with its neon bone yard to some hidden petroglyphs in Zion to a New Year’s eve festival with Native American reggae bands in Mormon country and feel…awake in some sense to the beauty and confusion of the world.
So why can’t I see this all the time? Suburbs are the hardest for me, bland developments, chain stores. Yet I know there must be details there as well. Manhattan or Mesa Verde are gold mines—everything seems luscious, sensation cascading. I wish I could truly experience all places as the same—in terms of the access they give me to the world. But some things just feel more special than others. Luckily that category of “special” is pretty large.