Last week, I was at a science writing workshop in Santa Fe. It was a really special time with a small group of fascinating people and some of the most influential writers and editors in science journalism. We got to spend some time up in the mountains at the Santa Fe Institute, where scientists and artists and philosophers work in the same space on varying complex problems. The idea is to get a lot of thinkers in the same place, people who approach challenges in very different ways, and see what they come up with. It was started by Manhattan Project scientists who wanted to continue research in their fields of study outside of the traditional academic setting. Some of the most preeminent scientists have spent time there, alongside writers and actors like Cormac McCarthy and Sam Shepard. The whole place feels like one big home, with chests of drawers in the hallways and couches everywhere adorned with traditional southwestern blankets. I loved it there, and I imagine I’ll try to find my way back someday.
The rest of the week, we talked about the nuts and bolts of writing, workshopped some of our own pieces, and talked shop with our instructors. If you’re into science writing, whether you have no experience and you’re curious about a career in the field or you’re a longtime veteran, this workshop is worth it. Go check it out.
Later in the week, we got some time off to go to Bandelier National Monument. We drove out of the city and through the hills, our ears popping as the mountains rose around us. They’re those desert mountains, brown and solid-looking with scrubby pines climbing the rock faces. We passed some strange satellites and several scientific buildings run by Los Alamos National Lab on the way, and we spent most of the ride laughing and making up stories for each other about what was happening at those facilities. Traveling with writers is always fun; even a potentially boring car ride can be entertaining with a little imagination.
At Bandelier, we saw the ruins of Puebloan culture, what was left of their homes and cities from nearly 1,000 years ago. There are these cool caves in the sides of the mountain, high up for storing food and other supplies, and the park service has built wooden ladders that we climbed up to get into the caves. It was really amazing sitting there in the side of a mountain, looking out over an ancient city.
I’ve been home for a few days and getting settled right back into my busy life, and I’ll share some photos from my days in Santa Fe soon, but I do sort of miss the desert retreat and the weeklong bliss of talking about the thing I love most with people who really get it.