I love walking in an unfamiliar place early in the morning – while at the beach, or in a strange city, or maybe when I’m visiting a friend. (I would love to walk in the gardens Cinnamon visited in her post yesterday.) Doesn’t matter whether it’s Paris or the beach near where I grew up on the Eastern Seaboard, I’m putting my shoes on. I remember as a kid we were motivated to get out to the beach early, before it got too hot. All the boardwalk vendors were up pretty early too as I recall, ready to dish out soft-serve ice cream cones and saltwater taffy and French fries at ten a.m. if you wanted them (and I did, whether or not my parents were willing to pony up). It’s funny, when I think of “the Ocean” I don’t think of pure, unsullied air; I conjure up the smell of deep-fryers and tanning oil.
Santa Fe’s not an early town, not downtown anyway. On a Sunday morning, unless you’re looking for breakfast or coffee (or Catholic Mass) there’s not much going on. It’s a great time to wander, since I can’t even really turn it into an errand. I just meander along, stopping to identify plants, look in shop windows, admire the hummingbirds (which are everywhere, chittering and zipping around like fierce, crazed insects) and listen to the world around me.
I stopped to chat with this man for awhile — Johnny Alston, he’s originally from Pittsburgh, no burning desire to go back there. I’ve seen him (or more precisely, heard him) playing in various outdoor spots downtown over the past couple of months, but always during busier times when I didn’t want to bug him while he worked. He’s really good. His flutes are Native-American made, and they’re tuned to different keys (? Is this different than regular flutes? The things I don’t know about musical instruments) so he picks a different one out of the basket depending on what he’s going for. He said what attracted him to the instrument is the richness of the sound. He’s got background music playing on his speaker, like soft jazz or a piano, and he plays over it, and it’s unexpected and wonderful.
Then I walked over to see what was happening on the Plaza, which was pretty much nothing at that hour, just kids playing on the grass and people sitting on park benches in the shade, reading the paper. My two favorite food stands – Roque’s and El Molero – were setting up shop at opposite corners, and I highly recommend either one of them, I’ve been eating from El Molero for … decades now, whoa, and I think it’s the same guy. Smoky, grilled chicken or beef, onions and all the fixin’s, wrapped in a tortilla and a piece of tinfoil, eaten on the Plaza? Doesn’t get much better; people rave about his tamales, but I’m more a fajita gal myself.
Here’s my favorite rose bush on my way back. It doesn’t look like much, but man, those roses are potent – I can smell them all the way from the sidewalk. Speaking of which, I think that maybe, just maybe, I’m getting a little of my sense of smell back – whether it’s because I find this place so aromatic (which it is) or whether I’m just devoting more free time to trying to smell things (which I am) I couldn’t say, maybe both? I’ll get a big ol’ nose-hit of carnitas wafting on the plaza, or the smell of these roses, or the chamisa right after the rain, and I just stop whatever I’m doing and breathe it in.
Also: one stop closer (my physician agreed to write me a scrip) to getting a compounding pharmacy to whip me up a nasal spray that might (might!) help with my anosmia, although it can take weeks or months to see improvement. (I looked into it last year when doing my sad no-smell research, but the side effects of taking it orally gave me pause; as a nasal spray it sounds even better in terms of efficacy, and without the side effects.). It’s a little … out there, and I’ve never used a compounding pharmacy before, but there’s science and some studies behind it, and I figure the worst thing that’ll happen is nothing, and I’m willing to take my chances with that.
Do you take a morning stroll where you live, or where you’re visiting? What’s on your route? What are your favorite sights, sounds, smells?
That makes me happy – your walking and some of your smell coming back. I know my mom said hers started and has been pretty selective on the return, but more of it comes all the time. She’s hopeful! You are the one that got me started on that pinion. I still always have some to burn when I just need to be somewhere else.
I just burned some of that incense this morning. People here are burning actual pinon even in August, since it’s cool enough at night. Along with green chiles roasting, it’s such a Santa Fe smell.
Love this post!
I met our lead fabricator in the laundromat here in town. It was a bucketing rainstorm and he asked if he and his friend ‘Chief’ (an Apache who was here during Summer and back on the rez in Winter) could practice their flutes (loved the acoustics in there). I said sure – and omg! Such absolutely beautiful music!!!
Oh I would have LOVED to be there and listened to that! That’s a huge part of the unexpected thrill of street-buskers to me, especially in places like the NY subway, the acoustics can be fabulous.
When I think of the Plaza I think of pinion. We were there years ago after a huge snowfall. The sky was clear, very blue and the snow twinkled in the sunshine. The scent of burning pinion was all around. Magical!
That is THE Santa Fe smell, or one of the top five — you even smell it in summer because it’s often cool enough for the fireplace. There’s a pinon incense I burn that smells just like it, makes me happy, it is a magical smell.
Thanks for giving us a walking tour of part of your world. Loved it. So happy to hear that your sense of smell might be reawakening! Yay!! I have used a compounding pharmacy when my dermatologist wanted to make me up her special mix of face cream. (It was fine, but not magical.) Your morning walk sounded like a feast for the senses: sights, sounds, tastes, feelings, aromas — you’re such a good writer!
Thank you! A couple of posts (like Cinnamon’s and Portia’s) recently have been kind of a Day in The Life, and I thought, okay, I’ll write mine!
I make time for walking each and every day with my dog, it’s what we do together and is our moving meditation. Exploring, taking in the sights, sounds, scents of nature is relaxing and grounding. Sometimes we move fast and sometimes we stroll, whatever energy we feel or energy we need to release.
Walking is … everything. I just can’t worry when I walk, like some people can’t worry when they exercise? It’s whatever I need it to be in the moment, which can be both energizing and relaxing.
The morning strolls I take are with the dog. On our last holiday (two years ago) we were literally on the ocean. I got up early every day and sat with tea on the deck and just watched the water, the fish, whatever boat showed up to drop off fish, etc. That was sublime. I could do that for a few months. Are you discovering parts of SF you didn’t know or are you too familiar with the place already?
I am discovering! Santa Fe like a lot of old cities (established ~1610, old for the US) has a lot of funny little spaces and alleys and dead-ends and courtyards and meandering paths along streams etc. On foot (as opposed to in a car trying to get to a destination) I’m constantly coming across things or places I never noticed before.
Like Portia, I’ve been out on a few 2am walks, due to insomnia. Otherwise I’m not really a morning person, but I’ve been taking the dog out around 8am. This morning it was dark and stormy and we went down to the beach while the tide was out and waded in the tidepools. I think I like it better in stormy weather than in full summer sun. More brooding and moody.
Oh, yeah, a walk on a brooding day, maybe some wind and some low scudding clouds, is the best.
Jin and I love being in Europe and having our body clocks turned upside down. We wake together at really odd hours through the night and instead of rolling around the bed grumbling we get up, get dressed and go on discovery tours. These could start anytime between 2 and 5 am. We wander for a couple of hours, head back, nap till breakfast and then start our day proper. In a six week holiday this could happen anything up to 10 times.
Glad to read your nose is starting to show signs of life again.
What a great thing to do. Is there anything in particular you recall from these wanderings?
Oh yes, we found the famous John Lennon Graffiti Wall in Prague. Finding it at night was totally surreal.
Our first time together in Paris we walked from the Eiffel Tower to our hotel at the Louvre, mainly along the Seine. Another night there we walked until we found a Korean restaurant so Jin could try the French version of Korean next day. We go back every time we are in town.
In Seoul we wandered from our hotel into the shopping heart of the city that was still lit up like a Christmas tree.
One night in Venice we walked out of the central area to the very edge, where the workers and locals live. We wandered there looking out to the lights of the islands.
We found the Jewish Memorial in Berlin at night. Wandering through that in the dark was really unnerving. We both needed a fortifying drink after that.
Wandering Vienna at night every second street you turn into you discover something new.
There are so many moments, and I know the minute I sign off there will be more flooding into my mind.
Ha! We also do this other dumb thing. We jump on a bus, train or tram and ride it to the end of the line. Then come back. It’s really interesting to see the way the suburbians live.
Ha, I do the train/bus/trolley to the end of the line thing! I don’t have a great sense of direction so I don’t worry I’ll get lost. And that’s a great feature of Venice too lol, you get lost instantly but can’t get TOO lost. I love all your meanders! As a single woman (often) traveling alone I’m afraid I haven’t gotten to do as many middle-of-the-night walks, they’d be magical, thank you for sharing yours!
One day we might travel together March and see the magic after midnight.
LOVE that you do the End of the Line runs. It’s a really good look into the bits they don’t want to show you. Russia was particularly interesting, so was LA.
I wish I could take a morning stroll but instead I have to drive to work every weekday morning.
I do NOT miss my commute, although even that was on foot/by train so I could look around and people-watch. DC commutes in a car are the worst, although some people use them for podcasts etc.