Today, a late-fall walk through this little open-space park on the south end of the Santa Fe River Trail, feels altogether more earthly than heavenly. The sky is Santa Fe’s most magnificent, but down on the terrestrial plane it’s all muted greens and browns. A few dried leaves are still clinging to the trees, and the wildflowers lining the paths have gone to dull yellows and grays. There’s an icy edge to the breeze. Winter’s coming.
Granted, in some parts of the country people expect a “river” to come at least to the top of your shoes, but I love our gentle creek and the green spaces that environmental groups have protected along it. This field and its old barn were once a dairy farm operated by a man people called Frenchy (he was actually Basque), who bequeathed it to the city with the stipulation that it be preserved as open recreational space, alongside this busy street and dense neighborhoods. Even on this nippy November afternoon, there are a few joggers and walkers, and others who appreciate the restorative value of space.
By 3:30, the sun is already perversely low in the sky (I haven’t adjusted to daylight savings time yet). Winter’s coming. They say it’ll be a harsh one, too, as an El Niño weather system gathers force in the Pacific. Charles came home a few weeks ago with a truckload of wood from Borrego Mesa, which he and Ariel chopped into firewood the next few evenings after work. That big stack of wood lining the fence, and our little bags of chopped green chile lined neatly in the freezer, make us feel protected against El Niño and a harsh winter.
I stop to sit on the bench near a cottonwood tree, its last yellow leaves rustling above me. A woman and little boy, maybe 3 years old, come up the path towards me. The boy is wearing a bright yellow snow hat with a Batman logo, and a Batman cape. Halloween was a few weeks ago, but you can’t fault a guy for not wanting to give up his superpowers. He runs ahead and loops back to his mom, over and over, off the walking path and back on, putting in three yards to his mother’s one. I catch the woman’s eye, and her slightly weary smile tells me her son’s adorable energy isn’t quite as novel to her as it is to me.
As the dynamic duo pass, it strikes me that having a young child in the house is like living with El Niño every day of the year. Extreme temperatures, storms, high and low pressure shifts — these are daily occurrences, sometimes even before breakfast. Some days it’s just a thrill to be close to the action. Others days, dealing with those in-house forces of nature takes extra reinforcements.
We’ve filled this issue with tips for making the most of this season with El Niño and your niños.
If you’re someone who thinks taking children to a classical music concert is like stepping outside in a hurricane, you need to read Kate Rountree and Sandra Nöe’s article “Stop Haydn from Classical Music! Performance Santa Fe has got your family’s Bach” (and thank you, editor Steve Harrington, for that rockin’ headline). These writers remind us that classical music exists not to terrify or stupify, but to entertain and uplift. Performance Santa Fe’s family concerts are some of Santa Fe’s many fine ways to experience classical music in an inviting atmosphere, even for audience members who squirm, giggle or roll their eyes.
Can you swallow the notion of family music concerts but choke at the prospect of idea of taking children to opera? The Santa Fe Opera offers programs throughout the year to counter that fear, with extra offerings during the company’s off-season. Daisy Geoffrey writes about the opera’s winter tour, which takes one-hour productions to communities around New Mexico. In our calendar of family events, you’ll also find Opera Makes Sense, four Saturdays in February, designed to show preschool children how to explore that magnificent art form with all their senses.
Judith Nasse, a frequent Tumbleweeds contributor on topics geared to parents and teachers of preschoolers, writes about integrating music into the early-childhood classroom and home — though, as usual, her suggestions apply to children well beyond preschool.
We have a new contributor in this issue: Viola Lopez-Herrera, with a poem leading us, coincidentally, through “Seasons in a Child’s Life.” We love running poems by readers, and hope more of you will send them.
One of my personal favorites in this issue is Bob Kristy’s article “Hero’s Journey,” about a new group that helps teens find the strength in themselves to resist the urge to succumb to suicide or self-harm. The courage of these young people and the adults supporting them awes me.
Our own little niño, Ariel, who was 6 back when I started Tumbleweeds, turned 27 this fall. These days, his storm systems are so much gentler than they once were. Seeing him drive off to work every morning, in clothes he picked out and ironed the evening before, I see how our niños actually part ways from El Niño. Weather patterns and seasons are cyclical. Spring follows even the nastiest winter. Storms pass, the sun comes out, and other storms follow. Children’s development may zig-zag, but it is essentially linear. Ariel’s not going to put on a Batman cape and run around Frenchy’s Field. And though I never thought I’d want that particular era of his life to end, I love the thoughtful, patient, compassionate and witty adult he has become.
Whatever seasons may follow in his life, perhaps with his own little niños some day, we’re savoring this relatively calm one. Whatever the season brings our family, we wish you all the best and love to hear from you.