Friday, July 3, 2009

“Now that was a pretty good day.”

A few people may recognize the title as a quote from Groundhog Day, a movie starring Bill Murray where every morning when he wakes up it’s the same day, February 2 or Groundhog Day. The movie is worth a discussion of its own—it says a lot about the human condition—but early on in the movie Murray’s character says something that comes to mind today. Murray laments that he’s forced to repeat this same snowy February day in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania endlessly and remember a day in the Virgin Islands that he would much rather have repeated; a day where he lies in the sun, drinks margaritas and meets a girl.

Outside of the movies we don’t get to repeat days, but if we did then a day like I had on the Fourth of July a few years ago is one that I could stand to relive a few times. Just like this year my wife and I were in Santa Fe for the weekend over the 4th (that’s the start to pretty good day in itself).

We walked out on the Plaza and into the yearly Pancake Breakfast sponsored by the Santa Fe Lions Club. The morning was bright and beautiful—the weather stayed that way all day. The entire town, locals and tourists, had turned out on the Plaza for the party.

After that we headed up the high road to Taos. We intended to see a festival dance at one of the Pueblos but it was cancelled, so we headed up towards Chimayo. We stopped at El Sanctuario de Chimayo. The church there is almost two hundred years old and, known locally as the “Lourdes of America” is a site of pilgrimage for those seeking cures and the Penitentes ( Originally we only wanted to look at the church building, but as we came in Mass started so we sat down to listen.

To my surprise, the homily was one of the most beautiful sermons I have ever heard. Somehow, the priest tied together the idea of Independence Day and the start of a new country with salvation and the fresh start given to us all in a way that made both more meaningful. I no longer remember the words, only the impression they left, but I left the Sanctuario uplifted.

From there we wandered down the road to Centinela Traditional Arts (, the business of Irwin Trujillo, a seventh generation weaver from Chimayo and one of the truly great fabric artists in the country—in 2007 he was a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellow. Irwin and his wife Lisa, also a weaver, spent more than an hour with us, talking about he art and traditions of weaving in the Hispanic villages of Northern New Mexico. Unfortunately the beautiful rugs woven by Irwin, like the one you see here, are beyond our means, but the following Christmas my wife bought me a rug from one of their other weavers.

Then we lunched at Rancho Chimayo, one of the best restaurants in New Mexico ( Unfortunately it’s closed this year until August because of a fire. We continued up the High Road to Taos, stopping at an art gallery, looking at the historic villages and old churches, and gazing at the scenery.

Our final stop was Black Mesa Winery ( where the owner himself led us through a wine tasting. After that we returned to Santa Fe for dinner.

Looking back, what made the day so perfect is that we were going no particular place in no particular hurry and everyone we met seemed to feel just the same. It was Sunday and a holiday. I felt we were spending the day with dear, old friends. We just happened never to have met any of them before.

I don’t expect tomorrow to live up to the standards of that day—expectations that high would be courting disappointment. But that was a pretty good day to be an American.

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