Photo by Mehrad Vosoughi on Unsplash

It’s hard to believe that it is almost the end of September, the sun is setting a bit earlier, there is a tinge of coolness to the air, some of the leaves are beginning to turn, and it will soon be October. In a way, I’m glad that this year is nearing an end. I hope with it, will come at least an end to what we’ve been experiencing over the past six months. The lockdowns, the limiting of social activities, jobs being moved to remote, and meetings and life being zoomed around the world and back. Time seems to have stood still, at least for us humans, nature, it seems, has gone on, perhaps sometimes in chaos, but it remains.

I too, am one of those displaced by the virus, calling Seattle my home, but along with so many others, I could not see myself living in an area where it was spreading so quickly, affecting jobs, the ability to pay rent, my health, I am one of the millions who are compromised, perhaps not as bad as some, but still,  there was a chance that I didn’t want to take. Over the past several months, I’ve been staying (temporarily) in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The numbers are much lower here, the laws are working and people are much warmer. There is also much less political issues and a deeper sense of community. Things are slowly getting back to normal, albeit with a mask and social distancing, but it feels better, patio and tent dining is in full swing, at limited capacity, but we are still managing. Tradition runs strong here, people care for each other and their neighborhood, and while most things are still done virtually, and through curbside, galleries, and the art world are still managing to exist, opening with a small crowd, but still they are there. While large fiestas have been canceled, there are drive-through haunted houses, drive through movies and ma and pa restaurants have gotten creative in order to survive. That’s our spirit, that’s the true heart of our state, and we are fighting back. Yes, there are places like large box stores that are still a bit cringe-worthy, you know, those places where you immediately want to take a shower after visiting? but, there are wonderful small grocers and stores that go out of their way to make you feel comfortable.

One of the places that I feel most comfortable at here, is going to my local Trader Joe’s. When they are busy, they limit the number of people allowed in to shop, but boy, are they ever on their game. They do count the number of people allowed in at a certain time, depending on the day, often we line up outside of the store, shopping carts are wiped down, handles, the whole nine yards and handed to you as you walk in, the stock people are wearing gloves and masks, inventory is wiped down and immediately replaced when you take something off the shelf, the store is immaculate, extremely well-stocked, and the people are friendly and helpful. They go out of their way to help you, even to the point of helping older folks who may feel a little intimidated by all of this, and really don’t want to shop out of fear of catching something. I’ve seen others carry groceries or help them shop because they couldn’t get around as well or get confused over the arrows for one way in, one way out shopping. The groceries are wiped down before bagging, the keypads to the card machines are wiped before and after use, and there is hand sanitizer provided throughout the store and at the end of each register. After shopping there, I have never had that icky feeling of needing to wash up immediately. This store is doing it right and they do it consistently. They never tire of making jokes to ease the uncomfortableness of the situation, and you can hear the smile in their voice. If there was ever a reason to give kudos to someone, these folks are it, day after day, they keep the service in customer service. I’m glad for it, I’m sure others are too.

There is something to be said when you truly care about people, when you care about your business enough to make people feel safe and comfortable being there. It says they value you. They go out of their way to make you want to come back again, they are compassionate to those who do not get around as well. I applaud businesses who think outside of the norm, it is heartwarming, and it is something that I love about this city. In spite of being a large town, we have heart, we are as warm as a bowl of green chile stew on a fall evening.

We have many unsung heroes, from our little city churches and pastors who connect to see how you really are, to the butcher on the corner at the meat market, who puts a little extra in your order, because you’re at home and need to cook for the family. There is a certain charm here that you can’t find in other cities.  People will stop and lend a hand here. From our pinon coffee to sopapillas fresh from the fryer, our people are as warm as the sun and bright blue skies that adorn our state every day.  

Family is in our blood, and while Seattle will always be my home, New Mexico is growing on me as much as the red chile sauce.