I AM NOW SELLING MY ARTWORK ON ETSY AT RunningHorseDesign. I will be posting a variety of items going forward so please check in on occasion. I am starting with the small stuff and will work towards the larger items. I will also do custom orders within my skill set and some challenges as I get more practice!
November 19, 2017
Vera Cruz, New Mexico
Learning To Let Go
I have learned to let go. Quite unintentionally, I decided to relinquish control and to let go and let God. This has always been difficult for me and quite honestly it wasn’t a deliberate effort, not this time. Instead I reached a point in my life where I hadn’t the ability or the willingness to keep such a hold on the reins. So I let go.
All told it has been a rough summer, or really a rough year. It started off well enough, my move to Fort Sumner being a true positive with a wealth of potential. It even went well for a while, and the adjustments were good, if not all I had hoped for. If I found some much needed respite I was still working much harder than I had intended to and it was taking its’ toll. There was a need for change but it came swifter than I might have hoped! If I was unprepared the timing was good in the end. I am grateful it happened as it did and that I had the means to leave.
Still yet, it got tough from there! I have no right to complain and I needed the time off but still I have struggled. It has been my nature to maintain a routine of meeting my needs and obligations. I almost always have a list, and some projects to work on. The projects have been on hold, even though I have been productive. I have relieved myself of much baggage, and the wood pile is better than it was. My house is in reasonable order, but my efforts are not done. In recouping things I was busy enough, but there is always more to do.
Maybe it was a good summer, even if there are still a few loose ends to contend with. I need to pay my last months’ rent from Fort Sumner and there is a water tank and a table saw awaiting my return. Things are in some semblance of order here, even though I bailed before I finished. I will return this week to do much of the same, and look forward to that. Another day and the wood pile will be done, except for the splitter. I will leave that to my son David and hope to share the effort. In fact, I will wait until we can. I do need him to help free the stove cap, but the rest can be on hold. There is ample wood for this winter, and then some, even without the big stuff. Besides, it doesn’t look like I will be here!
There is more to do of course. I want to sell the big bus and will finish cleaning it this week. I intend to buy a three quarter bus and make a dwelling there instead. I will be more mindful in that effort and make it mobile also. Having gained much experience it will be a pleasure to design! If I go to Elephant Butte it will be simple as the weather there is warmer and I am more worried about the heat than the cold. Aside from that there is but a little clutter to contend with, and that far less than it was! I have made progress, in spite of myself!
What else is there? Having recouped my efforts I feel a lot better about myself. If I have had a sense of inertia all summer and a lack of clear direction I see now what I’ve accomplished. I have let go! I let go of a lot of the old and extraneous possessions, and sold them as I did. I have let go of the big bus, even if it still sits here. I let go of my horse Joseph, as I will the grey also. I want to buy another, one who fits my wants, but that can wait for now. I have released my drive to meet my financial demands (for now) and also found that to be good, it set me free from myself. Even in this moment that same freedom surrounds me and I have a sense of liberation such as has evaded me for my life time. I am content to be right here but even that is not a necessity. I am free to leave or stay.
Such freedom. I have no root anywhere but here and I am not even staying here. If I am camped at Three Rivers and back and forth for now I might leave at any time. Knowing this place is a constant makes it all possible and I need not even be here to draw comfort from that. It is good! The camper makes it even better as I can sleep wherever I am and if I decide to move I need but drive until I get there. If I get the job I have applied for I will look for a room in T or C, but it doesn’t mean I have to have one. All I need is a kitchen and a shower for now. Only the heat of the summer will rule my final choice as I need some place to escape so I can write and do my art. That should be simple enough as the town is designed for the same and has a transient population. I am still looking to the west also and the canyons appeal to me greatly.
It seems I have progressed far more than I thought. It is good to come home to discover that. I have been gone from here for weeks. I am most grateful that I left things in order and things aren’t as bad as I imagined them to be. I have let things go……..my finances are in shambles, but even those can be repaired. I can catch them up as soon as I go back to work so I am fine. As it is there is no crisis and that in itself is an accomplishment. There is no pressing need to do anything and aside from a small pile of paperwork and a few loose ends I am in very good shape. There are the Gross Receipts and Income Tax to contend with but even those are simple.
Where to from here? Even that is no great concern, though I suppose it should be? I have another two or three weeks of unemployment income and then it will be done. I could request an extension and might do so though it may not be necessary either. I have submitted an application to Elephant Butte and while it is not assured there is a good chance I will be hired. If that comes through I can and will depart in the next three weeks or so. And if not? I will stay with Three Rivers for now and work towards online sales, as I should well be doing now!
Funny but the utter peacefulness of this place just hit me full force! There are several small birds fluttering about and they held me spellbound for a moment, reminding me again of the essentials of my life. This then is a necessity! Wherever I go and whatever I choose I cannot relinquish this! There must be stillness and beauty, a quiet place to sit and absorb the wonders of this life. Be it a sunny porch or a window it must gaze out on the simple sustenance such as I have here. I need so little else. I also promise to never again allow myself to become frantic with this practice of living but instead maintain the perspective I have won since my return. All things will be resolved in time and I need not destroy myself trying to accomplish that! To let go and let God is such a simple blessing!
So it is I will go forward from here. I am not going to worry about tomorrow, or next week, or next month. There is no reason to do so. Having let go I allowed things to fall where they would and they did just that. The pieces are few and I need but gather them up and put them in a pile again. They will be addressed in the order of importance. As with these few small piles here, the wood and a few pieces of paper, they will wait for me to do so. My emotions are the same. If I would have a better grasp of those there is a sense of calm which pervades all else, as it should. Nothing has fallen too far from the center and if I wandered aimlessly all summer I circled back in time. Nothing is much different than when I left it.
I walked in here yesterday afternoon and built a fire. The stove stood at ready, the wood in arms reach, and the flames crackled quickly. I went to town and got water without incident and when I returned the house was warm, and so was the water. The generator started on the first pull. I stoked the stove, bathed and went to bed, sleeping well enough and warm throughout the night. The coals were still hot when I awoke and I was out the door at dawn, the first light gracing the highest peaks of the Vera Cruz and Carrizo. There is nothing else I could ask for! Having let go and allowed the universe to do as it would I return to all I have worked for. So it is the future is assured, and I will leave my hands out of it. I have made myself available for things to do as they will and the outcome has been good. Learning to let go was all I had to do! I am so grateful to have done so.
The following are field notes from when I was working for New Mexico Tech in 2011. The wonder and beauty of those travels never cease to amaze me!!!!
February 27, 2011
Carrizozo to Oscuro, New Mexico
I missed a week of work due to a rare bout of illness and then as soon as I felt well enough resumed my water level measurements for the Tularosa Basin, always hoping to group them as close together as possible for the most consistent pattern. Back out early in the day to the Stephenson Ranch, as much because of as in spite of the threat of storm, I ran the gamut of the weather. Calm, cold, wind, dust, snow, sun and even the warmth of the desert as the day drew to an end.
Indian Divide, New Mexico
The silence kept me awake last night in the absence of the howling wind which has persisted all week. It was somehow eerie to be surrounded with such peacefulness after the constant barrage of noise.
Carrizozo, New Mexico
Tumbleweeds become hedges when the wind comes from the south, captured by the barbed wire blocking their way.
Water Canyon Gate
Carrizozo, New Mexico
This is not a day to measure windmills for the wind is stunning in its force but I am drawn to its fury like a moth into a flame. I cannot resist it.
Water Canyon Road
Carrizozo, New Mexico
The hills are already grayed by the dust and the weatherman said snow and wind but I can still see blue sky and the sun feels warm through the windows. This then is a day when I don’t need to hurry and will instead do my best to enjoy it.
Water Canyon Road
Carrizozo, New Mexico
The shadows of the clouds fly across the hills, dappling their flanks with light and shadow that can only be captured in word and memory, so fleeting is their passage.
I don’t mind the ‘No Trespassing” signs, they don’t apply to me.
Carrizozo, New Mexico
Coyote Bait (Gas trap)
My curiosity makes me nervous as I step out of my truck to look closer at the gas loaded coyote trap, afraid I might somehow set it off. For the coyote it proves deadly and brings about his demise. It is too bad that he is such a rascal and way too much fun for the hunters. I still love to hear his howl in the distance.
Carrizozo, New Mexico
It takes the same amount of time to drive the highway as it does to take the dirt road. Who can blame me for taking the two tracks, but it sure looks like snow!
The rivers run underground most of the time but the trees don’t care, their roots run deep and the mesquites don’t need water, it only makes them bigger.
It is a good day to work alone. Poetry flows freely, inspired by the wind and sky and the absolute beauty that surrounds me. It makes me wonder why I have ever desired anything else and frightens me for it has almost become enough. This then is why people become hermits!
What will I do when this is no longer required of me and I must seek other work? Where else does one get paid to drive through the wilderness?
Midway across the Stephenson Ranch heading southeast into the hills
I am starting to realize we can convince ourselves of almost anything we please, which includes both happiness and sorrow. I have become profess in attaining such a great degree of satisfaction with the lot that I have drawn that I have come to believe it. I certainly hope it works!
I hope I am making the right choices as I wander my way through my life. When things get tough it looks precarious, when things are good it is paradise. It is too warm to snow but the mountains just disappeared in the dust, or so I hope!
It occurs to me that I have set some lofty goals, all attainable. But goals are like commitments, they must be specific and you really have to work to reach them. I am not
completely certain I am doing that, but I am sure having fun trying.
Oscuro, New Mexico
It is a day when you can howl right along with the wind and nobody will ever hear you.
Oscuro, New Mexico
Some windmills are not meant to be measured as the brake never holds and the wind always blows, but it sure sits in a pretty spot. I always like to try. Today is no exception.
Windmill on the Ridge
Oscuro, New Mexico
Traveling in the midst of wind and storm, dust and snow combined.
It seems I have traded mountains for romance and adventure for tenderness. I am wrapped in the ecstasy of nature’s wonder, the grace and the passion of the storms. I find it quite amazing.
Heading east towards Finley Well
Oscuro, New Mexico
Here the road turns east and travels down into the deep arroyo before it climbs back up again. It twists and turns through passages between towering hills and rocky slopes. The highways are miles away to the north and the west. There is that same sense of remoteness I feel when I travel to the Plains. It would take hours to walk out of here and turning back is not an option, it is just as far going back as it is going forward.
I like the places where the road seems to drop into eternity at an abrupt precipice where anything civilized is left behind. They are replaced by the rocky ruins of old mining camps and long windy arroyos. I am sixteen miles from the highway, two hours from anywhere, and it looks like snow.
Oscuro, New Mexico
Shelter laid to waste in one fell sweep of absolute cold. The prickly pear cactus was no match for the subzero chill that lasted for days. A safe haven for fifty years lain to shambles. Where to go now; it was the only one for miles. Rats live a rough life.
Oscuro, New Mexico
It seems to me we are all better off to busy ourselves with the immediate demands of our survival than dealing with the idleness of not having to do so. It is those of us who are most suited for such challenges that could lose our minds in its absence. How is it we humans spend so much time asking such questions and have found so few answers?
Oscuro, New Mexico
Fine With Me
Elevation is everything after driving through canyons and snow to arrive at another well. I am waiting for the water level to recover in the warm shelter of my truck, watching the blizzard raging far above me on only the highest peaks. That’s just fine with me.
Departing from the Finley Well heading south through the snow storm
A Big Love
The question I might ask me is if I would trade a big love for this. Well, this is a big love.
Oscuro, New Mexico
The snow falls and melts, turning the gray and brown landscape back to gold and green. It renews the richness of desert color in an instant, as quickly as it knocks the dust from the sky. Its subtle beauty is ever changing as the weather, the blush of sunlight fading as the snow returns.
East of Headquarters
Oscuro, New Mexico
Where are the eagles today when the wind whips the sky and they could sail one hundred miles per hour, with no effort at all? Oh, but there they are, flying low in a far distant canyon, blending in with rock and tree and sailing so fast they quickly disappear.
Oscuro, New Mexico
Storms change the face of the desert by killing all that is old and weak and leaving only the strong to flourish. This one made no exception and accomplished what human effort and drought had failed to do in over one hundred years. The cholla cactus was no equal to the cold.
Oscuro, New Mexico
Swirling white sand frames the windmill in the distance, a profile one never sees if not for the storms.
‘One needs to but practice wellness to be well!’
November 6, 2017
Bohemian Grace II
Three Rivers New Mexico
Out The Door At Dawn
I was out the door at dawn. I have languished all summer, waking in time to watch the sun make her walk in Nogal, but sleeping later than I should. There is a good excuse for that, perhaps, but so little justification. If I have worked most every day of the last six years, forced to wake early, I am still an early riser. I have slept late these past few months, simply because I could. Now I cannot!
In Nogal I am at a higher elevation and the mountains rise steeply to the east, blocking the first glow of the sunrise. Here, at Three Rivers, it does not. Instead I sit in the bottom of the basin and the Sacramento Mountains, crowned by Baldy (the Natives name for the back side of Sierra Blanca, the White Mountain) loom in the distance. The first light of dawn is spectacular here and the colors paint the sky the moment it begins to lighten. I cannot resist the allure of the same, and wake early because of it. I am out the door at dawn.
It is fortunate I braid my hair at night, and that I have no witnesses! If I will now set my clock a few minutes ahead I haven’ the time to coax and comb before I walk, the moments are too fleeting. Instead I wake early, peak out the window, and rush to dress and go. I have broken protocol and do not even make my bed, a habit since my childhood. I dress hurriedly, grab a water and my backpack and am out the door in moments, walking rapidly to the east. I cannot bear to do otherwise, though I do brush my teeth!
Today I was greeted by the waning moon, still bright in the sky when I started, neglected quickly for the sunrise. The orange and yellow tendrils rose to the sky, the clouds illuminated by their brilliance. If I have witnessed the most brilliant of sunrises, they each excel the last! I paused only to take a few pictures, unwilling to break the spell. The mysticism of such moments is too brief to do otherwise, and only some small fraction can be captured. I need it all, and then some.
So it is I take pause in this moment, already hours later. If I woke at 5:30 it has been three hours since, so fast does time fly past. So it seems with my lifetime, the years on the Plains already well behind me and the present so much less than then. Only now am I restored, though I have been healing all summer! My heart aches for so much of the same, the joy and the peacefulness the dawn brings, such as I have found in first light for more years than I recall. How I need for it to be a constant!
How does one attain this as she stumbles but not falls? How is it that with a goal so unchanging the path has twisted and turned, leading me astray even as I travel forward? I am not lost but neither am I found and if I have ever needed to clarify that this moment is the one! I am as close as I have ever been to reaching my goals and yet they evade me, and I can’t afford to fail. This is yet another turning point on that journey and if the road lays at my feet so the map is still not clear. I shall draw one yet today! Only yesterday I aspired for the same! The goal remains the same, and for that I am most fortunate.
If I cannot quote him word for word I can come close. Saul Bellow wrote a paragraph in ‘Humbolts Gift’ which has stayed with me for more years that I can count, some thirty something for certain. He spoke to a poets inspiration and said, ‘Its source was not from genius or madness but rather because the poet could cancel out the noise and the distraction and see through to the essence of things.’ So it is when one wakes early and rushes out the door. The sunrise is the epitome of the essence of things, the pure light and magic of the breaking day. It is the center of all possibilities and opportunities, the bringing of yet another day in this glorious life. Once we stand witness to it we cannot be distracted, its presence is too powerful.
Given that how can I ask for more? I have embraced the dawn, and she me. I have awakened with the first light and rushed to meet it. I have been again surrounded by wonder, just as I was and have been washed by the blood of the plains, in body and spirit. I have stood in the light, in the rain, and I have poured the pure essence of the earth, her thermal waters drawn from her depths, over my head and my body. I have stood naked in the wind and allowed it to dry my skin as it caressed me with its blessings, and known that it was good. Just as I have witnessed the glory of both dawn and sunset, and been enthralled by them both.
This then is the pure essence of things, waiting to greet us each and every day. How easily we forget this, distracted by the workings of the very minds that bear it witness! We forget, we languish, we cry and we whine that our lives so lack the things we desire the most, and continue on our quest for the same. Even I, as blessed and as free as anyone could wish to be, am so guilty of the same, and so often remind myself also! Fool that I am, that I might find the answer just outside my door, as I did this morning. I was out the door at dawn.
November 2, 2009
Vera Cruz, New Mexico
Body, Mind and Spirit
My feet found the mountain paths yesterday and led me far and high on an ancient road I had not found in previous journeys. I often set my direction for my walks, pointing myself to the places that beckon the most but as I often allow the mountains and the canyons to guide me. I have walked these hills for years and am familiar the sacred spots where people before me worked their flint, stood guard or made camp. So I am with those who carved and pecked their art into the stone, a sign board for all who came after them. I cannot ever fancy myself being the first wanderer to find these places, but also know I am one of few who frequent them on a regular basis.
I found myself straining at the first steep ascent, having not climbed in weeks but rather taking a few more casual ventures down the arroyos that I had never explored. My time has been well spent on other ventures but cannot replace the elation of attaining the higher haunts. They are well worth the effort of the climb and even the strain has its returns as my muscles recall their uses. I find the strength to persevere and in but a few minutes have the added vigor to climb the next hill. I find that our bodies, as well as our minds, given the chance and the determination, have a phenomenal ability to rebound from inertia, given there is a sound foundation to return to! Having climbed these hills, having even run up the slopes, it is simply a matter of making it past the nominal effort to find that selfsame vigor of the past. My heart speeds up, my lungs expand and my muscles stretch, soaking up the added oxygen and giving me all the strength I require. My mind suddenly finds the greater depth of perception, perhaps from the adrenaline but in equal proportion from the concerted effort that is missing in more casual pursuits. Something greater is required here, another doorway flung open onto a far broader perspective, literally as well as figuratively as I turn to gaze back across the Vista del Valle Ranch!
I have often pondered that it seems such a challenge to apply myself to the things that are the best for me. There are dual reasons for this; the added effort, the denial of more pressing efforts such as work vs. play, the ease of taking the lesser task over a greater challenge. There is always the temptation of immediate gratification and it is so easy to slip into the comfort of inertia and put off such things for other days. In time it becomes easier. Yet for me there is always the nagging sense of loss and the absence of the genuine elation that can only be found through the genuine effort to achieve some greater goal. Though on the short term we can appease ourselves with some simple pleasure nowhere in that will we ever find the lasting reward of the purer pursuit. Even as I can wander down the arroyo and find the pretty stones left behind from the torrents of rain I can never see over the high walls of the wash to the horizon.
Perhaps for some this simple satisfaction is adequate, but not for me. I fancy myself to be amongst the thrill seekers, but in rhyme and reason more than in excess. I need not feel the rush of a plunge from great heights, no more than the adrenaline boost of risking life and limb, but challenge I require. I want to test my muscles, my wind and my mind. I want the heightened awareness to kick in as I climb a steep rocky slope, to watch where I place my feet and my trust, be it mountain or highway, where my instinct alone can guide me. I want to hone my skills, physical and mental to where they can serve me best, that I can make a flash judgment and have it be a sound one. There are the same opportunities to address these desires as there are to placate them. As always, the later be readily in reach while the previous will be something to work towards. Such a sad state of affairs that we have leaned to catering for the lesser of the two. We even condemn those who make the better choices to being seen as “over achievers” or extremists of one sort or another, non-conformers, for the lives of those who decline such pursuits pale in comparison to theirs!
I find that I cannot afford the risk of inertia at this point in my life, for I have reference points to look back on. There have been such times that I sought out and allowed myself the thrill of the instant pleasures, and well I paid the price. In fact, I believe that having done so makes it even more difficult to attain the goals I have set for myself. My resilience was weakened, the very fibers of my nerves and wit stretched beyond their capacity, the horizon widened further than the limits of sight. Just as once we have allowed that extra layer of fat cells to form on our waists and thighs so the same voids refill quickly once they have been emptied. I believe our minds do the same, and once the vessel has been stretched any input slips into those empty spaces before it reaches our senses. We must ever reach for a greater height to replenish that. Can it be restored? Only if it remains full, if the effort is a constant so those spaces, that muscle memory are continually replenished and the voids are never again emptied.
Years ago my mother pointed out to me someone who had worked to achieve a great deal of muscle mass, biceps, pectorals, etc. She explained that having increased these muscles to so great a size this person would have to devote the remainder of their life to maintaining that state of fitness. Otherwise, she advised, it would fall to flab, having been increased beyond its normal boundaries. How well I have learned this as years of hard work kept me slim and fit and those behind a desk allowed the flesh to soften. Even as I gained few pounds the flab outweighed my muscle and my clothes grew taunt as the muscle became soft. I regained that fitness last summer, with no small effort either, but have promised myself to never allow the rebound of such excess bulk. This means I too must work hard the rest of my life. Such a requirement is a small price to pay for the returns, for even as I must apply such a discipline to my physical activity, so it replenishes my mind as well! For me the pleasure is tenfold of the pain, for to lose my strength, to relinquish the fitness that has been restored would be to surrender my mind, body and spirit. That is far too great a price to pay for even a moment’s pleasure!
November 1, 2017
Bohemian Grace II
Three Rivers New Mexico
With My Door To The East
Having spent the majority of my adult life envisioning my perfect perch I continue the practice. It has, for the most part, been a consistent vision, the cabin in the wilderness, a garden spot and a barn…….and God willing a fine sort of man to share it with. The vision remains though as I age and mature so does its content. The need for the remote solitude prevails, as does the cabin and appurtenances. The desire for that fine feathered companion is also my wish.
It is the surroundings which have altered with the years. I once wanted a place deep in some northern forest with rustling leaves and a bubbling stream. Moving west it transitioned and evolved into a canyon which opened into a grassy valley, the stream remained a constant. Then, as I came to love the plains it transitioned once again and required a broad sweep of the earth such as my current dwelling has to offer, with the mountains towering to the immediate north and visible in the distance from elsewhere. The same remains my choice.
What has changed but the scope of things. If I once hoped for one hundred acres I would now be content with ten. If I still require the assurance of solitude and peacefulness I have learned one cannot utilize a larger spread, unless of course there is fencing and grass. Both come hard to this desert land I have come to call home. There is also the aging perspective, that I am unwilling and even perhaps unable to embrace the effort and sacrifice to attain a bigger place. If such was once a part of my dream, and one realized when I landed at the Hammett Ranch, it failed to last the test. If the place remains nearby it will never offer me shelter. Or perhaps it will someday, but that would require a change of heart and circumstances. I am not holding my breath!
So it is that the dream and the vision is simplified, and therefore more attainable. A small cabin or adobe is the constant, one must have shelter. A usable and accessible piece of land with a water source is required. If I would like grass beneath my feet the desert is also acceptable, and far more attainable. The solitude is essential, though a neighbor in the distance provides a comfort, especially if I am to be alone. The very nature of the place might assure that. Not everyone can live as I have, nor would they want to. I am ok with that, my happiness requires the essence of the wilderness, and it is a fine companion also.
I will face my door to the east so as to catch the morning sun. I want to be able to step out to the porch and say my morning prayers. I would have windows in every other direction, if such is attainable. One room would be enough, though it would be nice to have a kitchen and a bedroom in the back. My needs are minimal at best. There will have to be a view, of the plains and the mountains if possible, but I would settle for the plains. And a porch. If I should ever be confined to my house there needs to be a porch. I would spend the bulk of my time there. And a man. It would be nice to have someone to talk to, and eat dinner with. I would like that, but I have also learned to live alone.
The lesson is that this is all I’ve ever wanted and here, so many years later, it still is. The grandiose vision is smaller now, but the content remains the same. I have also learned a lesson. I have spent an inordinate amount of time and energy chasing after something somehow unreachable. Oddly enough, at a moment in my life when I have the least resources at hand and the faintest desire to utilize them, the dream is so in reach. I wish I had realized that sooner, but then again, it would not have been the same. I just want my door facing to the east, and I shall be content.
October 28, 2017
Bohemian Grace II
Three Rivers New Mexico
How is it
I once knew
When the free wind
Both my path
And my purpose?
How is it
Of my life
To make me a prisoner
Of all my own failings?
I never needed more
Than a five dollar bill
To make sure I had dinner
And something to drink
And carried water
As my staple
I had a tarp
And a blanket
I made my bed
And there was nothing else
I even cared
Life was so simple then
With my backpack
And my staff
And there was no debt
I am grown now
But I am still
The same woman
I was at that time
With the dreams and desires
I have harbored
For a lifetime
And an equal desire
To set myself free
From anything else
That could change that
I could almost
(See archives, October 28, 2015 If I Started Walking Now) LOL
I am having another revelation. That is a very nice way of saying that I am in crisis and there will have to be a change! I will not crash and burn in spirit, I am too resilient for that, but my finances are in shambles! If it was not a planned destination neither have I done very much to stave it off. Now my phone has started to ring and there is very little I can or will do to address it. Not now, not yet, though in time I will have to acquiesce.
For the moment I am having a revelation. It is not that I am not aware of my failings or my requirements but rather that I am as focused as I have ever been on addressing them. There is no recourse, this is the only path I can follow and find success, on my terms. If I have been a slave of my debts for years, and will remain so, is also irreverent. What I chose to do with my life, from this moment on, will include them.
Should I give that a moment’s notice. Yes, certainly. My debts and responsibilities have ruled my direction for the beginning of my travels. They have defined the course of my life from the first credit card I owned, and for all of the years since have done the same. That does not mean I haven’t lived as I have chosen but they have also reined me in. They continue to do so. In the very same breath there is this. I have freedom of choice! There is no rule, no law, and no debt collector who can change that, even if they think they should.
The revelation is, ‘I need to find the path away from this and remain on it’. If I have been trying to do the same for all these years of my life so I have failed to find the course. If I am as close as I have ever been to doing so, it is still an equal distance. I have remained to this day my own worst enemy. That the challenge has been unchanged is also my own fault, and all the required resources are at my fingertips. If I am also making a concerted effort to address that is still not the answer.
The answer is that I must remain focused on my goals and make them my first priority. I am, even at this moment, more concerned with my circumstances than I am with anything else, and that is unacceptable! I can sit behind my gate and find the serenity I require but the moment I pass through it, or even glance my bills, the challenge remains. You would think I had the ability to change that! There is nothing that says I do not!
Today is my day. I may have committed my time and effort to someone else’s needs but the day is still my own. The solutions to my problems have all remained the same but my approach will differ from here. If there has been a failing in my life now is the time to find the answer. As with my resistance to certain things I have discovered repeatedly that if I stay the course the outcome is assured. It always has been. For some foolish reason it is always easier to focus on the problem rather than the solution. It is time to change that in my thinking or it will always remain the same.
If I have always tried to keep it simple, so it is. I live a wonderfully simple life and there is no reason not to continue. In fact, I have chosen to make it even simpler, less my debt. I have only added to them by the very act of not paying, but it is a start! Shy a few improvements and repairs there is nothing else I need, but for a pair of jeans or two. Even those will have to wait. Today I will take a deep breath and consider all of the options and I will vie for the best. I learned that lesson a long time ago and must once more apply it. Back then the statement was this, ‘Better to put things in order and keep them that way rather than continually trying to make order of chaos’. It was an awesome revelation. It is time to do the same, today.
Looking back but so little has changed!!!!!
January 30, 2011
Vera Cruz, New Mexico
For Michael Swickard
One Hundred Years
I slept past the early light this morning but still arose before the dawn. The darkness had already fled in the face of the day but the sun had yet to clear the peaks. This is the time of mountain shadows, when the glowing orb climbs the slopes to the east and casts their shadows across the rolling hills, receding quickly as the day the begins. It is also the time of day for the train to pass through Carrizozo, its rumble rolling across the flats and reverberating off the mountains, audible in spite of the ten miles that lay between us. Too, it is the time for the coyote to howl and they don’t disappoint me. This then is my welcoming committee and I am glad to be home!
A friend reminded me of something that is an integral part of my life and yet an anomaly to him and so many others. It seems incongruous to write about it here at my desk with my trusty laptop humming softly, even if I am warmed by the woodstove crackling beside me. I washed my face with water that was heated on its top. No, even the wood stacked by my desk does not negate the modern flare of my existence yet the first reflections of the day radiate his comment. “You live as close to how they lived 100 hundred years ago as anyone I know,” he said. But what about the generator in the shed? So what if I have a windmill, a water tap in the sink and nowhere else in the house and still burn kerosene and candles for light, there is a highway out my door!
Ok, but there is this. I drove in at 9:30 pm last night, having stopped to visit my son and his wife, and yes, I took a ‘real’ shower there for it was late and convenient. I arrived home after a weeks’ absence and the house was cold as the woodstove. I lit a lantern and before anything else I opened the door to the stove and knelt before it. I crumbled and twisted some paper as I learned years ago from a Mescalero friend’s father, though not nearly as precisely. I recalled him for a moment for he is gone from us now, demon alcohol won that battle. I then threw in a few handfuls of bark and woodchips from my kindling bucket and carefully selected some smaller pieces of wood from the pile. I gently stacked these above the nest of kindling and made a teepee of sorts and then, sacrilege, but it was late and cold, squirted some kerosene on the whole of it before I lit the fire. Purist I am not but they had kerosene one hundred years ago, didn’t they?
The beauty of all this is the rapid burst of flame and the way the wood soon crackles in the stove. I made a roaring fire, throwing in a few larger sticks once it was going, a chunk of pinion and even an odd shaped but solid chunk of walnut I was waiting to use. When the eve is late and one wishes to go to bed there is a need for an immediate bed of coals to carry the fire thru the night and I was well on my way. It’s a good time to char the creosote in the stovepipe as well though one must be careful, ‘This is how we start a chimney fire my friends!’ could be the title of this chapter. About the time the stovepipe started clanking I knocked it a few good blows with a piece of wood, listened to the rattle of the crisp tar falling to the fire, shut the damper and the vents. I then stepped outside just to be sure there were no flames shooting out the pipe. I have set the pipe on fire before……….rather frightening, but all was well this eve. A good hot fire once a week and there is little to worry about. My wood is all dry and the walnut burns clean.
By the time I went to bed the house was getting comfortable and the flannel sheets on my bed, though still chilled, warmed quickly. Another mountain dweller gave them to me years ago and he knew the value of the gift. One hundred years Michael? That would be 1911, perhaps you are close. In spite of the availability and the presence of all the modern conveniences, my laptop being one concession, the chainsaw the other, you’re close. It is quite deliberate you know? I need this, more than I want it, it is a requirement for me and as easily as I am distracted I might lose everything if I didn’t have it. Yet it is a function of place and mind more than anything else. Electricity would not change it much, and might almost be welcome as opposed to having to run the generator. Even running water and a shower would be a pleasure but………..the place and the fire, they must remain.
Last night I went to your birthplace my friend, even though it was dark. I was startled and then comforted by the light that glowed on the table. I wanted to go in but it was late and I was tired, or else I would have. If the key had been in my hand I couldn’t have resisted. I stood there in the darkness and then sat on the porch and took in the stillness. It takes five minutes to drive up that gravel road from the highway but aside from the glow of Alamogordo some forty miles to the south one could be a million miles away. There are so few lights there, yet enough to draw comfort from. It is good to have a neighbor but above all else there was that sense of ‘place’. Though the desert is forbidding the house is a home and a sturdy shelter in spite of its age. The appeal of its history compliments my way of life and the utter silence and solitude of where it sits is priceless.
One hundred years, there in Oscuro as with here in Nogal the time is greater than the distance, though one is safer there. The land is forbidding enough to limit the encroachment I am seeing here. As much as I love this house it is doomed. There will come a day that it will be nestled here on the hillside amongst more neighbors than I can bear. I can already hear a dog barking and the coyotes cannot drown out the sound. If I grew old here I would, as I already have, become an anomaly just as the old farmhouse on Carrizo Canyon became. It was crumbling with age as the dwellers held onto their legacy, and bulldozed in the end. I hope that doesn’t happen, at least for one hundred years. I’ll be gone by then!
Long ago I recognized the things I would require in order to maintain my sense of self in this modern world that has somehow always been alien to me. I am a gentle soul, blessed with intellect but damned by the need for simplicity. Turmoil robs me of my serenity and I have a tremendous need for silence and peacefulness. At this very moment the windmill turns. I can hear the soft clang of the loose fin on the mill but it is a comfort and the water is filling the tank. I may run the hose to my garden as my garlic grows through the winter. The stove crackles a bit, this means that I am warm and my tea boils gently on its cast iron trivet. Yes, the laptop hums as well, an Orwellian contrast to the otherwise primitive surroundings, but it saves my words. It is a worthwhile compromise, don’t you think?
There is a lesson in all of this Michael and I must thank you for bringing it to my attention. We tend to overlook certain things in our solitude. One hundred years. Aside from my laptop there is little else I have that couldn’t have been had that long ago. My hairbrush might have been silver or ivory with boar bristles. I’d love to have one of those! The ceramic glass I drink my tea from might have been made from the same tin as my tea pot. That’s ok. The wood would have been cut by axe or saw, but then perhaps I’d of had man for that. A woman such as I would have held a high value in those days. Now I am an oddity………….So be it, I love my life! My desire for interaction keeps me from slipping away all together. The more primate world has no need of my intellect, nor can it appease it! I have struck a balance and the ease of doing so is stunning. It has made it possible for me to not only retain my clarity but allows for the time to savor it. It makes a person wonder. Just what is it we have gained in this last one hundred years?
October 10, 2017
Vera Cruz, New Mexico
No Life of Luxury
It occurs to me I have been a bit selfish in the sharing of my thoughts. I have suggested paring down, being selective with ones efforts and pursuits. I have encouraged leisure, and the absence of full time employment. I have herald the pleasures of doing so. If I have shared the challenges I have still drawn a picture of a favored life where I can, at least momentarily, live as I please. I have found much happiness in doing so. All with the aid of some government support mind you, but I feel I have earned it also. If I am to be quite honest it is true, I am as content as I have been in years and have no desire to change anything for the moment. Still yet, it is no life of luxury and I am getting behind on my bills.
If I am trying to make a point it is this. I would encourage everyone to take a break, or at least a breather. The greatest lesson I have learned in these past few months, one I already knew but had forgotten, is this. The greatest pleasures of my life are the simplest ones. If there are a plethora of material things I could spend my money on it is the leisurely moments which bring the most happiness into my life. It is waking early and not rushing to rise. It is sipping my tea for an hour rather than pouring it in a to-go cup. It is staying here by the fire until it gets too hot, and writing for hours if I wish to. It is knowing that the day is my own to do as only I wish, and that tomorrow will offer the same. It is like the weekend, all week long.
I spent lot of money these last six years, and now I have none. I spent fifty dollars on gas yesterday, filling gas cans and my truck, fuel for the generator and the chainsaws, and a few gallons for the 1970 Jeep my son and I just bought for $300.00. The Jeep started and ran great and I even got to drive it, with a piece of wire to run the throttle, thank you. I had twenty dollars left for groceries and spent it all. I returned home and cut wood until dark, thrilling at the effort and accomplishment, and made back my gas money. I grilled a chuck steak in the dark and coaxed the woodstove back to life in spite of the north east wind coming down the stovepipe instead of drawing as it should. I was lucky enough to have a fire, and not smoke out the house. There are times it is quite the opposite! I went to bed tired, and happy.
This is no life of luxury, but it is a life of my own. Today, as yesterday, offers me a plethora of choices. Certainly there are things I need to do but I can choose when and how I will accomplish them. At the top of the list is a means to survive, especially when the checks stop coming, which they will, soon enough. This will prove up the value of my efforts, or the lack of instead. My aspirations are few for the moment, and my necessities are fewer, a contributing factor for certain. If I had to pay rent or make a car payment I would sink before I swam, but I do not. That too illustrates my selfishness, I have so much less necessity than most people, even if there are still bills and debts I must pay, and pay them I will. If I lived in a big fancy house, or even just a nice house, instead of my shack, things would be different. That I am comfortable as I am has allowed for all the other niceties I enjoy, freedom at the top of the list.
What will I do today? I will complete my final edit of my book and realign my efforts to publish it, in whatever form it takes. My queries have gone unanswered and the hope of finding an agent had become a genuine challenge. Could I find one if I continued the effort? Quite possibly, but nothing is assured, and there are many shorter and more conventional books waiting in that que. My book will have to make its own path, and I will be the decider. I also have a plethora of short stories and insights which need to be amassed into a marketable collection, something which sounds like work but also needs to be done. If I am to make it on my own it is these sort of efforts I must apply myself to. Having done so much for others it seems that would be easy, but it is not. I can always go cut wood, and it would be the easier choice, even if it is genuinely hard work. The return will be immediate.
This is no life of luxury, but it is the life I have chosen over everything else. There is no turning back the clock, and the lessons were worth learning, but I am grateful to be home. If I have aspired to live as I am now, I wish I had a better foothold. That will be my challenge going forward, to make it a good, and lasting one. I have already dug through the easy stuff, now I need to get to the grit. My talents are many, my needs are so few, and my time is all my own. What a wonderful recipe that makes! I can sit beside the fire and listen to the wind, knowing I will be safe and warm no matter what the winter brings. If I had been more frugal I might have less concern, but it got me where I am. There is much to be said for that. If I had spent my time and money differently I might have put myself in a place I could not escape from. Instead I am here.
Don’t try this at home unless you are certain of it. Before you toss it all to the winds take stock of what you have. You will have to find a rundown shack, as I have, and make yourself at home. You will have to count on a friendship and a fair degree of trust to do so, and to live with the understanding that at the drop of a hat it could all quickly change. I have no guarantee that I can remain here, but I hope for it to be so. You will have to cut a lot of wood also, as it is all there is to keep you warm, and hope the winds will be kind to you. It is only on the coldest days that they are not, then you will have to throw out the fire, as the smoke will be unbearable. Most importantly, you will have to be content to be frugal, and to live your life on the simplest of terms, without any luxury at all. You will make your own luxury instead, the last bowl of hot water from your bath, those extra minutes of rest, the warmth of the wood stove, the flicker of the fire, and the freedom to choose how you wish to live.
It is the freedom which you will desire the most, but you will also have to fill it. There will be no pressing demands on your time, the choice will be your own. You will have to choose between sitting still and quietly or making things work as they should. You will have to resist your own laziness, or do without. You will have to grab the chainsaw and cut wood to stay warm, and to pay for your gas. You will also have to clean the globes on the kerosene lamps, and keep them full, as you will need them. There will be a day when the generator won’t start and you will need money to fix it. Money will always be scarce, unless you get out and make some. That can be tricky also, because you will not want to go to work. You have to make yourself work, and be creative enough to make it pay. I hope I have now made that clear. It is no life of luxury, but it is certainly a good one.
I have to mention this also. You will have a chance to watch the ravens while you finish your tea. If you are lucky you will see them land. They will fly in together and the first will settle on the crest of the hill, landing softly in the dirt. Her partner will drift a little further, and land in the yuccas, and turn his back on her. She will wander around in the broom weed, as if looking for something. He will sit quietly, as if standing guard, or perhaps indifferent to her curiosity. They will stay for several minutes. You will look down to write about them and when you look back they will be gone. For a minute you may even wonder if they were ever there, or just a figment of your imagination. You will have plenty of time to consider that. It is just this sort of freedom that is priceless. Such a luxury.
October 4, 2017
Vera Cruz, New Mexico
I am stepping away. My friends will laugh when they read this and say I have stepped away a long time ago. This is also true, except, I came back. I came back from the wilderness six years ago and stepped back in, and stayed. I stayed as hard as I could, in spite of the challenges which later evolved into the very struggles I had tried to avoid. And still I stayed, the money was good and the logic was strong. If I stayed another year, or two, I would be free of debt and I could return here, or somewhere like it. If I stayed a year after that I could make up for the wastefulness of the previous one. One more and I would surely reach my goal, even if I was miserable. Sometimes what seems to be the right thing to do can be so very wrong.
It can go on for a lifetime like that, if you allow it, which is why I avoided it in the first place. I waved any and all effort towards the ideological comfort and stability I had been directed towards before I ever left New York. I wanted none of that because I already knew where it would lead. I watched a lot of people follow that road and I was being herded towards the same and wanted none of it. Nobody seemed to be very happy and in so many cases it was worse than that. My own parents had proven that to me very early on, in spite of the luxuries that surrounded us. There was a lot of misery under the roof of that redwood T ranch house on the corner lot, even with the Fiat and the Country Squire Station Wagon in the garage and the thirty foot boat on the Hudson River, lots. I fled to the tent in the back yard every chance I had and at night I stared at the stars through the skylight in the spare bedroom and dreamed of distant hills. I left for the west when I was seventeen, and stayed there.
I am stepping away. When I was dismissed from my job four months ago there was some measure of concern for my future prospects, and there still are. My unemployment benefits will run out the end of November, weeks before Christmas. I know how that works, I came back from the Grand Canyon that same time of year and could not find a job. The same could happen this time, but I am far more prepared as I can watch it coming. If I am already living on shoe strings it will be tougher without the weekly checks, or not. My woodpile should get me through the winter even without adding to it, though add to it I will. I have my house in better order than I can ever recall and I can and will be writing and doing my art. This time I am prepared to step away, and have no plan to return, except when it is necessary. When I cross that line it will be with intent and purpose and I will just as quickly return to my present simplicity.
What is it I mean by all this??? If I have left you in the dark I will attempt to explain. Those who know me understand. I stepped away many years ago and lived for years with a backpack and a camper, used in equal measures. I slept as often on the ground as I did in the pickup bed with the homemade shelter above it. I lived very well, and as simply as possible. Most of my meals were cooked over an open fire and I hitchhiked thousands of miles……….I then took a hiatus to parenthood, though I walked the edge then too, never quite settling into conventionality, though I certainly worked at the same. When my youngest moved out I soon departed also, though I continued to work. Soon after that I found the job of a lifetime, just as I had begun to teeter, and for two more years I stepped away. When I returned to necessity I gave it my all, which brought me to the present. This time I won’t go back, unless I have to, but I am going to do everything I can to avoid it! I have difficulty even imagining an offer that would change my mind, though perhaps such does exist, somewhere. New Mexico Tech as a field technician, yes, but that is so unlikely. I think that to sit in an office again for forty hours a week might kill me. I have no intent of finding out.
I am stepping away into simplicity, such as I have always wished to do. If I have been a minimalist of sorts, I am working to perfect that. If I have no need or use for something, I will no longer keep or covet it. If I am going to stockpile it, it will be wood, and good to burn or build with. I will keep my trucks as they each serve a purpose, and I will need them. I will tend to my immediate needs and not borrow any money, though I will pay my debts. If they are what has led me to such struggles they are also my own, and somebody trusted me to allow that. I would not have much of what I do if I had not had that option, and I am grateful for the chance. If I spent some of it foolishly, I take ownership for that also!
What am I going to do with this time and freedom and so little else? I am going to live my life as fully and richly as is possible, given my limited means. I am going to wake early and lay still to savor the peacefulness, and the freedom to do so. I am going to get up and build a fire and write about my life. I am going to cut wood and come summer grow another garden. I am going to retreat into the simple joys of life well lived and treasure every moment of having done so. Now that I am so aware of the alternatives I am going to do everything I can to preserve the opportunity to choose. And I will succeed because I know how to do that! If I was such a good worker in the conventional sense so I can apply the same energy and ability to my own preservation, and perhaps even excel in the effort. There is nothing that says I cannot!
As I was from the start I am more afraid of the known than the unknown. I know that if I go back to work as I have in the past that I will be very unhappy. I will miss the quiet calm of the dawn, the hour to write, sipping my tea and gazing out my window. I will miss the quiet clank of the woodstove as the coals burn into flame. I will miss the sound of the wind as it brings the storms and I will yearn for all of the same. I will have to leave here each morning at daybreak, or perhaps even leave all together, as there is so little work here. I would spend my weekends trying to keep up with the woodpile, and very little else. I would gradually decline as I was trying to do before.
Or I can flourish! I can wake with the sun and watch her walk the hills, or as I am today watch the clouds roil over the mountaintops. I can boil my tea and sit beside the stove and share the hopes and dreams that are becoming a reality. I can put my life in order and keep it that way knowing that the will of heaven has blessed me with the opportunity to do so. I can take all the gifts and talents I have amassed in my lifetime and put them to their highest use, and share them as I do. Millions of people got up this morning, drank a cup of coffee and joined all the rest on their way to work. Even now the traffic is still snarled in the cities across the country as they all rush off to work. My trucks sit cold in the yard and I am at my chair, looking at the mountains. If you offered me a million dollars to rejoin them for another ten years I would tell you no. I made a third of that in the last six and have so very little to show for it, except for having returned here to stay.
I have barely passed the gate for the last three days. Sunday I just went for a drive, revisiting the dirt roads and the mountains of my past. I have covered all the leaky windows and the woodpile is progressing. I am writing every day, as I have always wished to do, and my leatherwork sits in arms reach, already in the process. I will venture out today, after I cut some wood, and take care of things I must, nothing more, nothing less. I can accomplish more from home than anywhere else. I am planning my future, one day at a time, and for now it is all I am concerned with. I know that I am lucky, and more fortunate than most. I have the talent, ability, materials and willingness to provide for my own means. I also recognize my means are few, and limited to necessities. I do not own my home, but I can live here, and in a manner most people would not choose. I am ok with that, I stepped away a long time ago and made that conscious choice. It has served me well. As I step away again I say a word of thanks for having the chance, and the willingness to do so. Wish me well.