June 23, 2011

Where have I been? (Hint: It has to do with where I’m going)

Did you see that article not long ago about the ridiculous percentage of blog posts that are apologies by the blogger for not having blogged in a while? Well, here’s my contribution to the genre. But it’s also a chance to share some big personal news with those of you who are interested. (The rest of you can skip it; I’ll have more musings on the changing cultural sector for you very soon.)

The news is something I’ve been telling colleagues and clients about for several months, though this is the first time I’m putting it in print. This summer, after almost twenty years in Chicago, I’m moving with Cheryl and our kids to Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The New Mexico Museum of Art on the Santa Fe Plaza (yes, I'm joining)

It’ll be a serious shift for us in a hundred ways, and it has all but taken over my life for the last few months. Fixing up and selling our house in Chicago, flying back and forth to Santa Fe to search for a new house there, dealing with realtors and inspectors and contractors on both ends — that’s only the half of it.

There’s also the professional side: working with our terrific team at the firm to ensure it’s a transition in which everyone grows. Because this is no stepping back for me, nor for Cheryl. We’ll continue to lead the firm from what everyone is calling our Santa Fe office, and we’ll continue to work with clients around the country in both our worlds (higher ed and arts & culture).

Sure, we’ll be giving up some day-to-day management, but that was happening naturally as we’ve grown to a staff of a dozen. More significantly, we’ll be sharing real leadership of the firm with Bill, Sarah, and Chloe, who recently received some overdue promotions and became our first vice presidents. (Anne and Mike were also appointed to more senior roles, becoming the firm’s first associates.)

All that would have happened organically anyway, but our impending move to the southwest has become the dust mote around which the whole cloud is rapidly condensing. In a small team — and especially in a family business, which this one literally is — sometimes the senior people need to make a little room so the next generation can step in.

But our reasons for doing this are really personal, not professional. The pull we feel to Santa Fe, the homing instinct that we find ourselves following, like migratory birds, is nature. I discovered the American west only a few years ago, thanks to Cheryl. Around the same time, I went camping for the first time in my life (it wasn’t in my parents repertoire), a week in the north woods with some Native American friends and a few other families.

I learned some new things about myself and began to rethink some long-held self-concepts. It knocked me off balance, in a good way. I pulled my much-underlined high school copy of Walden off the shelf and began to imagine about what it would be like to wake up every day in nature instead of visiting it on special occasions. Thoreau’s maples and oaks in Concord look very different from the piñon and ponderosa of the Santa Fe National Forest, but the impulse is the same. “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately,” he wrote, “to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

That last bit is melodramatic, I know. But it captures the way I’ve started to feel about the lure of the mountains, the new possibilities that our move will open up in and around me.

Time will tell. We hope to be out there by mid-August so our daughters can start school. But we’ll be back in Chicago often: we’re keeping a pied a terre here two blocks from the office. Meanwhile, I’ll spare you the hymn of praise to Santa Fe and just mention two of the stats that have me most excited:

  1. The highest proportion of writers and fine artists in the US (that’s right, more than New York);

  2. The highest concentration of PhDs in the US, most of them scientists (not in Santa Fe itself but in Los Alamos, the town that Robert Oppenheimer built in the mountains just to the west).

Art dealers and theoretical physicists rub elbows in Santa Fe like nowhere else. If you’ve been reading this blog, you know about my parallel interests in the arts and sciences and you won’t be surprised to hear that I’m hoping to play a little at that intersection. (What a home for my planned R&D workshop, Culture Kettle!) Santa Feans in both communities have already been warmly welcoming.

Is it art or science? At the Santa Fe Complex, it's usually both. 

So next time you’re in the southwest, join me for a hike with a view. We’ll have good weather, according to another factoid that makes me happy:

3. Approximately three hundred days of sunshine a year.

Dave Rainey — June 29, 2011

Very exciting, Peter! All the best to you and your family on this fantastic adventure.

Laura Metzger — July 07, 2011

Wow! This is big! It takes courage to pull up roots and start off in a new place. Congratulations and all th ebest to you and Cheryl!

Maren Linett — July 28, 2011

Congrats!! It'll be amazing to wake up to sunshine and mountains every day. I'll take you up on that hike!

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