A Retreat in Santa Fe for Scidmore Book

Time was my Valentine this year. Long blocks of uninterrupted time.

I’m just back from three blissful weeks of solitude and seclusion in a cozy casita in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains outside Santa Fe, where I worked on my book about Eliza Scidmore.

Casita Santa Fe Mayborn Fellowship

“My” casita in Santa Fe overlooking the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, a retreat to work on my book under a Mayborn Fellowship in Biography (Photo: Diana Parsell)

Amid the desolation of winter in the East, I came home recharged. And with some new ideas and answers to many questions I’d had about the daunting endeavor of writing a biography for the first time.

I’m grateful to the prize-winning author James McGrath Morris and his wife, Patty, for sponsoring the residency through a Mayborn Fellowship in Biography.

Diana Parsell w. James McGrath Morris

After dinner and a reading from my book with a group of local writers in Santa Fe, Jamie Morris and others offered feedback. (Photo: Bruce Parsell)

Over dinner and stimulating conversation every evening, I discovered they’re both exceptional people — warm, generous, nurturing and neighborly. I like and admire them both a lot. I also learned Jamie is a terrific cook! (Can’t wait to make his yummy spinach-feta pie recipe.)

My desk in the casita faced a picture window that opened onto the landscape. During long stretches of writing, revision and cogitation, I watched fresh snowfall and a freakish hailstorm; listened to the comical stomping of ravens across the roof; built robust fires in my kiva fireplace. I took afternoon walks along mountain ridges and fell asleep to the moaning of coyotes in the arroyos.

Diana Parsell in Santa Fe

Me on Canyon Road in Santa Fe (Photo: Tom Stephens)

I also made regular forays into town, where I hung out with Tom and Carol Stephens. They’ve been dear friends since Bruce and I came to know them a decade ago when we all lived in Jakarta. They recently retired in Santa Fe after spending 34 years overseas with USAID.

Santa Fe is celebrated for its many great restaurants, and I enjoyed a few with Tom and Carol. We also visited some museums and did a lot of walking.

I didn’t know Santa Fe, and it came as quite a surprise to me to discover what a vibrant literary town it is. It has scores of writers — and 16 independent bookstores!

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