A week later, I woke up to six inches of snow in the front yard.
Sure, there’d been rumors — what’s spring in the mountains without a couple of late-season snows? — but you learn not to bet the farm on a Santa Fe weather forecast. I figured we might get a dusting in town, much talked about, soon forgotten. But this was snow! Coming down in fat, wet flakes, sagging the branches of the apple tree, making the tulips…well…it’s hard not to infer sadness from a tulip head drooping under a clump of snow.
Misty, our belligerent, elderly cat, sprawled on the armchair in the living room. Charles, my husband, forayed out to the driveway for the newspaper and made a fire in the woodstove, which had been idle for weeks.
“Unseasonable snow, freezing temperatures, hit Santa Fe,” read the headline of that morning’s New Mexican. On first glance I thought it said, “Unreasonable snow” — which made absolute sense.
“Unreasonable, very!” a friend replied when I posted these thoughts on Facebook.
“Ask my plum blossoms — definitely unreasonable.”
Family in the Washington, D.C., area wrote that they were expecting highs that day to reach 90 degrees, capping the warmest April on record.
“There’s nothing reasonable about the weather lately,” someone else wrote, and I could practically hear her thinking, “or about anything.”
I know how she feels. Massive change seems to be the norm these days, as political turmoil and environmental change shake the planet. How to find peace with that?
Another image I have in my mental photo album of this spring is a newspaper photo of a man tending a rooftop herb garden in Damascus, Syria.
“Life Amid the Ruins as Syria Peace Talks Take Break,” the headline (Wall Street Journal; March 4, 2017) read, as if the negotiators had just stopped for tea.
I might have thought it was a black and white photograph, if not for the bright-green rectangular garden. The inconspicuous figure of a dark-haired man in a striped sweater bent over the plants with a watering can. Just beyond his rooftop stood the remains of a bombed-out building, its cement roof and floors folded like origami. The photo was taken from above, with a caption identifying the man only as “a Syrian,” making me wonder if the reporter didn’t feel safe going to the roof for the man’s name or story.
Perhaps the only thing a gorgeous, late-season Santa Fe snowstorm has in common with a war-zone garden in Damascus is that both images capture a scene in which life defies its expected storyline. The all-too-common reports from Syria today are of death, destruction, trauma and displacement, yet in the midst of that story an unnamed man is creating a narrative of life, bringing water to plants that will feed him.
Where does he get the water? Is plumbing still functioning in Damascus? Is that barrel at the edge of the garden for collecting rainwater? What will he cook with these herbs? It was easier to infer the story in the bombed-out buildings than find answers to these questions, which framed a different narrative.
My coworkers and I have been talking a lot in recent months about how we as individuals, and Tumbleweeds as a vehicle, can respond to the political and environmental challenges we’re facing. I can’t always change the world (or even myself) as much as I’d like, but I want Tumbleweeds to be a venue for the stories of people asking meaningful questions and seeking compassionate answers in times of unsettling change.
Parenthood, of course, means massive change from the very beginning, as Dr. Halina Krupa points out in the lead to her article, “In Alignment.” A pregnant woman’s question of when she will ever get “back to normal” would be wisely addressed, Krupa notes, with awareness that a “new normal” is coming.
Other contributors write about working for community change. Brianna Neumann, our 21-year-old intern, and David Berkeley, father of two boys, have both chosen to offer their time and love to Big Brothers Big Sisters. Their accounts of trials, challenges and successes reflect their different places in life, and their common commitment.
Each year Tumbleweeds presents a growing number of excellent summer camps and programs — to which many Santa Fe families face barriers of cost, transportation or scheduling. Susan Duncan, former school board member and community volunteer, writes about existing programs with sliding fee scales and flexible hours, and community efforts to expand and improve these options.
I pine for the day when science doesn’t require nationwide marches in its defense; this isn’t that day. In the meantime we’ll keep publishing articles on the importance and joy of learning science. Michael Sheppard, one of Santa Fe’s longtime and beloved teachers, describes a game he created called “Shadow and Gold,” which we can play in our own homes or classrooms to encourage good scientific inquiry by starting with the subject we know best: ourselves.
The Santa Fe Public Libraries (and the Vista Grande Public Library in Eldorado) have chosen “Build a Better World” as the theme for their summer programs, with activities and contests to reinforce the joy of reading or being read to. See Leslie Simmons’ article, “Building a Better Summer,” in English, (“Lectura y esparcimiento,” en español).
As a tool for understanding America’s place in an international context, the Council on International Relations is a invaluable asset to have here in Santa Fe. In addition to bringing international speakers to town, CIR has expanded its focus to education, from late-elementary through high school and college, as Sarah Rivera writes, “Local Kids, Global Citizens.”
Some things blessedly do stay constant, even in turbulent times, such as children’s innate curiosity. Lydia Lopez, a Santa Fe treasure, offers “A Dozen Ways to Take a Walk,” with inspiring ways to activate wonder — in our kids and ourselves.
You’ll also find articles on Kindred Spirits Animal Sanctuary’s care for elder-animals, Chimera/Meow Wolf’s latest awe-inspiring creative endeavors (and how you can join in), and “Fathers New Mexico,” a new name for a well-established organization supporting dads.
By the day after the big snowstorm, just a few patches were still melting in the shade. A few days later my son pointed out a strange pattern in one of our catmint bushes: a big depression in the center where the stems had broken off, as if a large animal had munched away or perhaps bedded down on it. Several other plants showed a similar pattern.
Had a large animal, or several, visited our yard in the middle of the night? No, the eerie visitor was the heavy snowfall, leaving its strange mark as a souvenir of its arrival so late in the spring growing season.
I talked with a self-professed “Santa Fe old-timer” recently who recalled that snowstorms in May were once predictable events. Normal is a shifting target. The plants in our garden are already bouncing back. Belligerent Misty is sprawled outside on a sunny patch of dirt. And perhaps in Damascus, an unnamed man is tending a rooftop herb garden, writing a narrative of life.