Cherish summer in Santa Fe with good books, lush gardens, buzzing bees, a trip to the zoo, a science project or two, and the restorative balm of children's creativity.
The silky soft gypsum of White Sands are the perfect place to make some sand angels.
Photo by Tira Howard.
By Claudette Sutton
Unprecedented. Crazy. A bad dream. How do you describe a year like 2020?
“Yes, we’re doing well,” I said in reply to a friend’s question in an email, “although even that comes with a strange feeling, like being a patch of standing trees in the middle of a forest fire.”
I’d been struggling for weeks for a way to capture the loopy mix of feelings I’ve been experiencing these past several months. Picturing our family as a few vulnerable trees holding our ground against an inferno began to get the gist of it.
Front and center in those feelings is gratitude that our family has been unscathed — so far — by the pandemic.
Lapping at the edges, there’s grief, for all suffering and loss I see around us.
Then there’s anxiety, as I wonder which of us might be struck next. And anger, at the neglect and defiance that made this disaster worse than it needed to be.
Last but not least, there’s garden-variety restlessness, as days at home blend into weeks into months.
At the same time, while so many of our everyday activities are on extended hold, I find myself more attuned to the comforts still at hand: enjoying a pot of hot soup with my hubby, or spending an afternoon writing in bed writing with our elderly cat sleeping on my feet, or FaceTiming with our son. Charles loves to tease me about this, but one of my favorite activities nowadays is turning the soil in the compost bin. I suppose with so much turmoil in the world, the reliability of those redworms, grubs, fungi, nematodes and other anonymous critters, diligently converting our eggshells and vegetable scraps and yard trimmings into next summer’s good earth, unfettered by the pandemic or politics, is sweet comfort.
And I continue to be amazed by the loving resourcefulness and dedication of New Mexico organizations as they create new ways to meet children’s timeless needs. Let me introduce you to the many we’re lucky to feature in this issue.
First, let me point out that articles in this issue have more crossover than usual in terms of the ages of children they’re geared for. These writers seem to find that in extreme situations, children’s needs converge.
Esther Kovari and Judy Herzl of Monte del Sol Charter School for grades seven through 12 encourage us to shift the focus in remote schooling from conventional academics to social and emotional learning. Their practical suggestions for teachers and parents point out that supporting human connection is an essential element of education, not a frill, especially now. See their Relational Education in Remote-Learning Times.
In Hands to Hold, Thais Carvalho, a facilitator and home visitor with United Way of Santa Fe County, discusses the importance of emotional connection, security and guidance for children on the other end of the age spectrum: infants and toddlers. The Circle of Security Parenting Program implemented at UWSFC is valuable for all ages, and particularly effective with young children in preverbal stages. (UWSFC will become Growing Up New Mexico starting in January; see the News Brief by Abby Bordner to discover why.)
Sometimes the best people for helping young readers deal with adversity are young writers. Walter Cook, a youth services librarian at Santa Fe Public Library, has rounded up a stack of books by youth from age 9 through late teens, offering perspectives only young eyes could provide. In Young Writers Light the Way, he shares books of poetry, science fiction, fantasy and nonfiction, in his own warm, conversational way.
Dr. Victor La Cerva (a member of Tumbleweeds’ original advisory board 25 years ago) takes us through the milestones we can anticipate before we have a widely available COVID vaccine. His article The COVID-19 Outlook for Families includes links to several studies that provide guidelines for keeping our homes and schools as safe as possible until then.
Many of us (even those less crazy about redworms than I am) find comfort in the natural world in turbulent times. If you weren’t otherwise inclined to go starwatching one cold night, take note of Kelsey Sinclair’s advice that atmospheric conditions and earlier nightfall make winter the best season for Looking Up! The next few months will offer some particularly spectacular cosmic events, and New Mexico’s dark skies make this one of the best places on Earth for seeing them.
Down on the ground, nature writer Christina Selby in her Wonders of Plants in Winter walks us through the strategies native trees and wildflowers have for making it through the winter, when it might look like nothing’s going on.
Sally Maxwell of the Randall Davey Audubon Center takes us underground, examining The Life of a Santa Fe Prairie Dog. Disregarded by many as a “pest,” the prairie dog is actually a keystone species, depended on by many other animals for their own survival. Her article shows that these critters are much more complex socially and communally than you might realize. (To say nothing of: cute.)
What about the animals we don’t see when the temperatures drop? Chase Spearing, education coordinator at the New Mexico Wildlife Center, shows us the many adaptations of Wildlife in Winter including hibernation, torpor, migration and just fattening up!
With the Santa Fe Children’s Museum’s popular Seeds and Sprouts gardening and cooking program currently on hiatus, they’re filling the gap with an online cooking video by Justin Kouri, a chef and member of their board of directors, which they hope to be the first of several videos for cooking at home; see Lighting the Culinary Spark.
Lynn Walters, founder and longtime director of Cooking with Kids, which offers school-based hands-on cooking lessons, provides some of her favorite free online cooking classes for kids and teachers, with links, in Get Cooking with these Kid-Friendly Virtual Resources, in our News Briefs.
In most years, we don’t have a lot of articles in Tumbleweeds about the winter holidays. This isn’t for humbug reasons. We feel the holidays are addressed so extensively elsewhere that we don’t want to add to the pressure parents might already experience. This year, though, since we aren’t able to have the public or group celebrations we’d normally have, we have a few articles on bringing the holidays home. The New Mexico Museum’s Christmas at the Palace, for decades one of Santa Fe’s top holiday celebrations, has been tabled this year. Museum educator Melanie LaBorwitt shares many elements of that celebration — recipes for biscochitos and salt-dough ornaments, instructions for making a Printer’s Devil, links to videos, a downloadable holiday cards and more — in Christmas at the Palace, Reimagined.
In mid-December we’ll have two more articles: How to Holiday in 2020 by Alma DeMange, about regrouping for a COVID Christmas; and First Fruits by Elizabeth Rickert of the NAACP Santa Fe branch, offering ways any family can honor African-American history in their own home.
And so we keep on keeping on. We resigned ourselves to a remote Thanksgiving this year, although our son lives two miles away and Charles’s mom is about 15 miles away. Hanukkah and Christmas might be the same. Thank goodness for Zoom, and the fact that we’re all — knock wood — well.
I think "Well" might actually be the 2020 Word of the Year. “Be well,” “Are you well?” “I hope you’re well,” “Stay well. These words begin or end just about every email or phone call. The little word encompasses so much more than it used to — not just “Fine, thank you,” but a passel of wishes for physical, emotional, financial and spiritual wellness. May you and your family and friends be well, stay well and live well this winter, into the new year and beyond.