Santa Fe Sky 365: July 13

- July 13, 2011

"The sky is what you miss most"

Years ago when I was in my opera-obsessed phase of life, I was driving a world-famous baritone up to Santa Fe from the airport when he asked, "Tell the truth: Do you ever get tired of the sky?"

"Never," I told him without hesitation.

There has always been a mystical quality to the light in Santa Fe that doesn't affect just painters and poets. It's not easy to pin down the attributes, but you certainly know when they're gone.

I started the Santa Fe Sky 365 blog on June 1 of this year. I already have 4 blogs, but I wanted one where it would take less than a minute to post to every day—one just for fun. I wondered, after living here for 30 years, are there really 300 days of sunshine a year in Santa Fe?

Each day I take a photo of the Santa Fe sky with my Android phone, type in the date and one sentence and email it to my blog and I'm done. The blog links to Facebook and Twitter accounts as well as to, so it gets spread around the interwebs, and except for the initial set up, I don't even use a computer.

What I hoped for was a page of blue squares stretching from the top nav bar and filling the page endlessly as you scrolled down, down. I imagined a subtle color change from season to season, an occasional overcast snowy day. I wanted to create a physical, image-based verification of just how much of that sun we live under.

But the universe sometimes has other ideas.

The third day after I started the "phlog" (photo-blog, just made that up), the smoke from the Wallow fire in AZ filled the western sky. We shut our windows, brought the animals inside and squinted toward the smudged horizon. It felt so disorienting to have a polluted sky, like we were in a different city.

On June 18, a fire broke out very close to town. The Pacheco Canyon blaze near Tesuque filled the sky to the north. No rain in weeks and everything dry as a matchstick had us all on edge.

A week and a day later, another fire broke out to the west in the Jemez mountains. I took a photo about an hour after it started. This turned out to be the Las Conchas fire, and has since become the largest fire in NM history which caused an evacuation of the town of Los Alamos.

As one Twitter follower noted, Quite a time to start a blog on the Santa Fe Sky!

Instead of a designer's tidy rows of blue squares, my blog page is filled with plumes of new fires, hazy sunsets of past smoldering blazes, and a pall over most of the photos in June. You can see the full set of photos at

July looks to be a clearer month. For the last 2 days, the clouds have begun their familiar summer patterns, blowing west to east and bunching up in the afternoon like a train of cottony baby toys being pushed to one side of the crib. Trapped against the hills on the east side of town, the clouds darken and break out with rain and lightening.

When I think of the origins of Santa Fe, I think of what was here first. Before I started this blog, I always considered the Santa Fe River one of the oldest features of town that predated the buildings and the people.

But the sky is older. Even though its features change every day, every minute, the sky is what you miss most when you're not here. And it's what we miss even when we are here sometimes.