Santa Fe: A Sensual Immersion

As a stress therapist, I help people understand how our felt senses lie at the root of our emotions.  When we feel an emotion — like elation, for example — the key is to find where you’re feeling this emotion and to ask yourself “How, do I actually know that I am feeling good? What felt senses in my body are cueing me to think or know that I feel safe or happy, sad or distressed?” This practice of being attuned to one’s internal senses is particularly rich when we travel to new places.

Urban Art Trip Through Santa Fe

When I visited Santa Fe, N.M. this past spring, I was acutely attuned to the full spectrum of senses the city activated in my body: the sights, the tastes, the smells, the sounds. My journey wasn’t just a trip to visit my sister, but was an “Urban Art Trip,” curated by my sister. In tow were two aunts and two of my eldest female cousins. This trip was to be the maiden voyage of a family outing dedicated to celebrating sets of sisters.

The road to Ghost Ranch

Georgia O’Keeffe’s Inspiration

First up was Georgia O’Keeffe country. The drive to Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu was laced with traces of piñon. Indelible smells of lilac and lavender waxed and waned as we drove with windows down along the open roads. A sort of bond between human and landscape is laid like track for those who travel the fragrant miles. Thunder snaps in the background had no bearing on what might come our way. The weather in Santa Fe is as fickle and unpredictable as the light.

New Mexico weather

Sculptors of Santa Fe

Up next were the private studio tours of internationally-renowned artists Somers Randolph (sculptor) and Michael Bergt (sculptor/painter). It was an opportunity to witness works in progress, a full immersion into the artist experience — dirt, dust and all.

Somers Randolph

The Pleasures of Design Porn

From there we explored some of Santa Fe’s more rare and unique shopping experiences, or “design porn.” We started with Asian Antiquities at Arnold Lieberman and Jeff Littrell Antiques featuring a splendid assortment of treasures from 15th century European to mid-century modern. From there, we continued on to the Shiprock Santa Fe Gallery, with its mind-boggling collection of Native American and Spanish Colonial gems. While the objets d’arts and jewelry swelled my mind with covetous thoughts, a limited-edition coffee table book entitled Haute Bohemians is all I have to show for that day’s excursion.

Santa Fe on Foot

Having had enough of the teasing and crushed from disappointment from not being able to splurge on any of the exquisite eye candy, I welcomed the outdoor air. Our next excursion was a swift dance around old Santa Fe on a custom walking tour led by local legend, historian Peter Weiss. Weiss, besides being an encyclopedia on foot, has an uncanny ability to hone in on the precise interest of any group.

From tales of Spanish Colonial and Catholic missionaries to the Pueblo Indians and their glory days of matriarchy, his narrative of Santa Fe’s history was as alive for me as the visions of Peter Pan and The Lost Boys were as a child.

Santa Fe

From Elk Tenderloin to Chipotle Chocolate Truffles

After our long days, it always felt right to unwind into the sensual pleasures of taste. Standouts like the Roasted Blue Corn Chicken Enchiladas with Chimayo Red Chile Sauce from Santa Café and the Grilled Elk Tenderloin at La Casa Sena, beg me to return again and again.

For dessert, Todos Santos Chocolates & Confections, right there in Sena Plaza, is a cacophony of sights and smells. This colorful, one-room boutique hand-makes their own chocolates with a New Mexican flair, boasting crowd-pleasers like Chipotle Dark Chocolate Truffles and their zany handmade Pez dispensers.

The Inn at Vanessie

For a nightcap, we landed at an old landmark called Vanessie, which has a deeply personal hook for me. The Juilliard-trained fingers of Doug Montgomery stroked the ivories like fog rolling onto shore. If you don’t get there in the next two years before he retires, you will indeed miss out on hearing a man who has become an institution.

10,000 Waves women’s tub

The Tubs of Ten Thousand Waves

No trip to Santa Fe is complete without a trip to Ten Thousand Waves. Hidden in forests of bamboo — peppered with glowing lanterns — Japanese-style hot tubs invite soakers to shed their cotton kimonos. Exhausted from a very full day, surrendering to the majestic views of the aspen-covered slopes in the distance was effortless. The cool night air was just the slap to our hot pink cheeks we needed to motivate us for dinner.

The adjacent five-star Japanese restaurant Izanami lived up to its fine reputation. Sadly, our choice to hire a private room with traditional tatami seating was not as well thought out. Our giggles turned to roars of laughter as we attempted to tuck our middle-aged American behinds beneath the traditional Japanese tables.

Casa Bakos-Atwood

Staying in an Artist’s Retreat

The only thing better than waking up in Santa Fe is going to bed there, especially if you’re staying at the Casa Bakos-Atwood on the historic east side of town. This former home of Joseph Bakos — one of the famous Los Cinco Pintores — is now the private residence of Lynda Atwood, who occasionally leases it on VRBO. Perfectly appointed with the most luxurious and thoughtful amenities, this is truly the most special secret in Santa Fe.

For bespoke guided tours visit Urban Art Tripping.


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Mary P Shriver
A trauma-informed somatic stress therapist with a clinical practice in Los Angeles, she is also a writer and an accomplished cook. Originally from NYC, her storied background includes a stint in Las Vegas as a Big Band jazz singer and Director of Public Relations for the Four Season’s Beverly Hills. Contact Mary here: www.shakeoffstress.com


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