A Sabbatical in Santa Fe

We had just told a writerly luncheon group I belonged to in Pennsylvania that we were moving back to Pennsylvania when one of them asked me what living in Santa Fe was like.

It was, I said, just like a sabbatical.

Actually, it was not like the two sabbaticals I had had as a college professor. I spent one of those at home writing a monograph on John O’Hara and serving an expert witness in a defamation case and I spent the other teaching journalism on English-speaking graduate students in China. But both of those sabbaticals were my idea.

When my wife, Paulette, first proposed that we retire to Santa Fe, I did hesitate. After all, I’m a ninth-generation Pennsylvanian whose ancestors arrived in colonial Philadelphia a decade after Ben Franklin had come down from Boston and my plan (if I had any) was to have my ashes scattered somewhere in the commonwealth and be done with it.

Now, after nearly eight years in Santa Fe, we are, for family reasons, moving back to Pennsylvania. In addition to being closer to my mother-in-law, I have calculated other benefits to returning, including a greater chance of seeing all of our seven grandchildren at least once a year instead of only on Skype.

But I’ve also reflected on our time in Santa Fe and can list many benefits to having lived here.

A lifelong but only superficial student of photography, upon arriving here, I immediately signed up for a workshop or two at Santa Fe Workshops. But for one of them, I needed to know a desktop publishing software I was not familiar with, and when self-teaching didn’t get me to the level I needed to be at, I turned to Santa Fe Community College, where I took a series of courses in the particular software and branched out into typography, drawing, photography-related courses and strength training for seniors.

In the meantime, my creative wife enrolled in a variety of painting courses both at the community college and Valdes Art Workshops. We each found other workshops that enabled us to get better at our artistic pursuits. Eventually, we felt confident enough in our skills to develop a joint approach to our work, which we trademarked as Pixels and Bristles® and started self-publishing books and calendars that combined my photographs and my wife’s paintings. We have others projects in mind.

We came here to retire and are leaving as business partners, something totally unexpected.

And so as we head back to Pennsylvania, we feel our best creative years lie ahead—thanks to a sabbatical in Santa Fe.


  1. I think this blog absolutely identifies one of the very best things about Santa Fe--that it nourished creativity. Am looking forward to future editions of Pixels and Bristles books!

  2. I am going to miss you Tom…Very sorry to hear the news you are leaving Santa Fe.
    I too am a Penn State Graduate and also worked for the University after graduation. I have lived for a number of years in the Santa Fe area and have found it to be a different (diverse) kind of place.
    I have quietly and vicariously felt a kinship to you through your writings, and have especially enjoyed your comments (prospective, sanity, and balance) on the web New Mexican as well as your blog.
    I will miss it.