A Postcard from Santa Fe

A table full of painting tools with a painting of a New Mexican landscape mounted on the wall behind it
Scotwriter21, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

At the start of the summer, I set out on a long drive. I was headed to Texas from the Pacific Northwest—at least a three-day journey. As I mapped out potential stops, I felt compelled to ensure that Santa Fe would be one of them. From being one of the world’s greatest art cities and the city Jack Kelly sings about with longing in the musical Newsies, the capital of New Mexico has always held a bit of intrigue for me. Plus, Santa Fe also happened to be the home of a new bookish friend I had made through a bookish podcast, and I decided to use this stop as a chance for us to connect IRL.

After confirming dates, there was clearly only one choice for how Kaytee and I would spend our time together: visit a few of Santa Fe’s bookstores! First stop: Garcia Street Books, on a street running perpendicular to Canyon Road, Santa Fe’s half-mile street dedicated to art galleries, and housed in a building that connects it to a coffee shop, Downtown Subscription, and Folklore, a boutique. You can purchase some books, grab coffee and a pastry, and sit reading in a small garden space. My favorite thing about Garcia Street was how so many books were shelved face-out—all the picture books were exclusively displayed this way—and whether we want to admit it or not, we all judge books by their covers, and it was nice to be given outright permission to do so!

Once Kaytee and I had bought a few books—cause how could we not?—we headed to Collective Works Bookstore and Coffeeshop just outside historic Santa Fe Plaza. A much bigger space, Collected Works is the oldest indie bookstore in the city and boasts a robust selection for browsers to drool over. There is plenty of seating, not just in the in-store coffee shop (which has a community puzzle table), but you can find comfy chairs in almost every section to curl up in with a good book. We didn’t do this since we had lunch plans, but we bought a few more books to feed our minds after we took care of our stomachs.

Kaytee had to head home, but foregoing a third bookstore gave me the excuse to make my way to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. While O’Keeffe was originally from the East Coast, the beauty of Santa Fe drew her in, and she bought property in the area that became her home and studio. At the museum, I discovered that one could say that O’Keeffe “read” nature. From flowers to skulls, rocks to feathers, natural materials were the inspiration and soul of her art. “My painting is what I give back to the world for what the world gives me,” O’Keeffe said. She took the commonplace and sought the unexpected in it, to look at the world around us with new perspective. Each room of the small museum introduced you to O’Keeffe’s words and works. Walking through them invited me to slow down and make fresh discoveries out of the supposedly mundane. O’Keeffe not only expressed herself with great aplomb through her art—she was also an eloquent writer. The O’Keeffe Museum published two small volumes, available for purchase in their gift shop, of her “words and works” to bring together O’Keeffe’s iconic art with some of her most impactful quotes.

The slim volumes are perfect keepsakes from my time in Santa Fe and allow me to dip back into the artist’s mind through my favorite format: the pages of a book.

Bunmi Ishola is a former journalist and middle-school teacher who now works in children’s book publishing. She’s constantly guilty of tsundoku, but that hasn’t stopped her from buying more books. She loves to travel and has been to over twenty countries and every continent except Antarctica. When she’s not reading, buying books, or traveling, she’s probably watching something on Disney+, HGTV, or Food Network. You can find this former WLT intern on Instagram @bunmi_ishola.