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Santa Fe is unlike any place I’ve been. Every other place has fit neatly — and quickly — into one of two categories in my head: Home or not home. Home places pull me back, plant strands of longing in my mind; I could easily live there. I often do go back to those places, or at least dream of going back. I can enjoy a not-home place, but I don’t ache to return.

Santa Fe, on the other hand, didn’t fit so neatly into that dichotomy. Santa Fe, and New Mexico generally, did things to me after I left. It wasn’t love at first sight; the altitude slapped me too hard for that. It was what Ann Landers used to call “friendship caught fire.” I can’t see myself living in a desert environment, because I’m too averse to the “crunchies” — big spiders, scorpions, crunchy bugs in general. These are not things I can tolerate finding in my backyard, or my house. And they do show up. I would rather encounter a bear in my yard than a scorpion or tarantula. I can’t help it. (Cue hordes of people telling me they’ve lived ages in New Mexico and have never seen a crunchy. That’s great, but it wouldn’t happen to me. I’d move into a house and find a nest of them under my sink or something.)

But my mind keeps going back to a city that appears mostly brown but then explodes into color on deeper exploration, a city in the middle of the desert that craves art and design and free-flying thought. This is a city where the house fences are so individualized that I started photographing them almost immediately — coyote fences, both shaggy and manicured, wrought iron, even bamboo. I suppose it’s fitting for a town with a long history of competing cultures and traditions.

Santa Fe is a city with a long and textured aftertaste, I think.

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