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Waking Up Santa Fe

Now you can try the Plaza in the midday heat, you and swarms of other tourists, or you can sneak out of your bed at sunrise and catch Santa Fe before she’s quite ready for you.

Canyon road, the air fresh and light like kisses, the morning yellow bees humming around the purple sage spires, curved folds of adobe draped across the tops of walls and everywhere fleeting moments captured in metal and stone. A bronze horse seems to pause for a moment as you pass by. Wisps of humans seem momentarily frozen, arms akimbo to the blue of the sky.

The many art galleries that make this street famous look different in the early morning, more contemplative, somehow stripped of their normal self conscious sophistication, reduced, perhaps expanded, to the naked art without the artifice that inevitably lurks wherever art and money come together.

Curve all the way down Canyon following the sound of the church bells. Take a right on Paseo De Peralta and then left onto Alameida. Follow the Santa Fe River, tiptoeing past the quirky wooden angels all the way into downtown. Turn right at Galisteo with the cafe blasting Sara Bareilles into the still sleepy air. Inside the shadowy staff sway and scrub at counters, prepping onions, peppers and mushrooms for the daily omelette special.

Continue on past an Aladdin’s cave bursting with hundreds of magical flying carpets. Pause at the doorway of a small, dark restaurant, silent and closed for business even as the morning sun plays on the yellow painted front door. Make a mental note to call later, make reservations.

Turn left on Water, away from the plaza. Right on Sandoval and duck into Burro Alley where there are some signs of movement. Step invisibly round the sleepy staff setting out umbrellas and wiping down bright colored plastic tablecloths outside Café Paris where, later in the day, you’ll enjoy the fluffiest French omelette in recent memory and a man in a striped shirt with a large French nose and an accordion will whisper to you that he’s actually from Ohio and you’ll barely believe him, at least he must be Quebecois, surely?

Now turn right past more silent, slumbering stores towards the plaza and the Palace of the Governors, still, as perhaps it was on a morning four hundred years ago.

Along the long white Palace wall you notice subdued movement. A long line of people comes into focus. Everyone holds a folded cloth waiting as they have waited hundreds of years for that same signal to spread their wares and begin the days trading.

You leave the square and walk up through the dappled shade of the elongated garden next to the St Francis Basilica. Ahead of you, on the grass next to a wooden bench, lies a small splash of color. There, laid out as if on a bed in a morning bedroom is a complete outfit; thin cotton striped shirt; faded blue denims, a pair of shoes where the feet would be. On the bench two balled up socks next to each other.

A middle-aged couple scamper in through the backdoor of the church. On a whim you follow. Inside is Spain. Well, at least, there is Spanish. Everything said, everything sung, a whole community awake and singing. You are in a foreign land. Sit awhile trying to imagine what is being said, or rather intoned. It sounds so rich and full when the content is left to the imagination, and Spanish is such a passionate language.

Ten minutes later use the full weight of your body to push the heavy front door open, just enough to sneak out. Down the steps you go and towards where you’ve come from. Follow your nose, seeing the rolling foothills in the blue distance and knowing that where you live is nestled there.

Back up Canyon road the galleries look sleepy-eyed and more themselves, like someone just woken up before they’ve had time to put on the layers that disguise.

Back in the low, sprawling adobe house you’ve rented everyone is still sleeping. Still sleeping! And a whole world has passed by.

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