August 25, 2019
Vera Cruz, New Mexico
Just For Today
Just for today I can be still. I woke early as always but lay quietly, and dozed. I watched as the sun made her walk across the mountain slopes, and felt the cool breeze on my face. I am sleeping in my camper, as often as not, for that very reason. I am as close to the earth as I can be, unless I slept directly upon it. Instead I have safe shelter, a comfortable bed, and the immediacy of nature, all within my reach. If I have lived that way for years, this is the ultimate luxury, and I wonder why I didn’t figure it out sooner. For years I camped in the back of my truck, in relative comfort, but lacking a few conveniences. Now I need but walk out the door, and back through another, and I have every comfort I require. Once I have the solar hooked up and a gas stove I can go wherever I please, and will do so every chance I have.
Just for today there are no worries. Certainly I could conjure some if I wished to, as I am profess at the same, but I will not. I am not even greatly concerned about things for the moment, as they will wait for my attention. Tomorrow will arrive soon enough, with all of the usual things to attend to. Instead I will live today for what it is, a glorious late summer day, clear sky, a light breeze, and all the possibilities it can hold. What more can I really ask, or hope for? I am free to do as I please, and have the means to do what I must. That I will put my hands to some art work is a given, and perhaps later wander forth somewhere else. Or not. I am content with my own company also, though it is important to mingle on occasion. Life is good.
I lay still for along moment this morning before I arose. The air was still, and the morning light exquisite. I thought of all the times I have rushed to wake, to go to work, to do all the things I had to do. All of that was necessary, but the single goal I have pursued for so many years was the absence of the same. All I have ever wanted was for my time to be my own to fill as I saw fit. I have given away so much of that, even if it was for a sound purpose. Now I have stopped, taken pause, and reconsidered. I do not want to go back to ‘work’ though it will take a similar effort not to. I will have to be dedicated and diligent should I wish to succeed. I am doing my best to accomplish that. The rewards have been immediate, and just for today, I am still. May all of my tomorrows bring the same.
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 with 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 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 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 how 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 need 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 people simple satisfaction is adequate, but not for me. I fancy myself to be amongst the thrill seekers, but in rhyme and reason more than 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, so I can make a flash judgment and have it be sound. 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 learned to cater to the lesser of the two. We even condemn those who make the other choices to being seen as “over achievers” or extremists of one sort or another, non-conformers, for the lives of those who decline the higher pursuits pale in comparison to theirs.
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 times when I sought and allowed myself the thrill of the instant pleasures, and I have lived to pay 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, and 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, those 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, and 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 excessive 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!
August 19, 2019
Indian Divide, New Mexico
And then suddenly
At this place
Where nothing else
But my own sanity
Where material things
Except for the fact
Of the immediate
One must have lived
For the better part
Of her life
To truly have
Though there are others
Who have not
And still defected
But the principle
Comes into play
If one has
There are still
Of ones’ own
There are debts
To be paid
To be met
But something inside
And the approach
Will be altered
What is more
Than the satisfaction
So long as
They are rooted
In sound judgement
Is more important
Than the simple joy
Of true happiness
In my case
There is no other
To be filled
And the chance
That can be offered
This all became
A brief rain
On a cool
The soft howl
Of the wind
Off the mountainside
The utter silence
Of the moment
On the hillside
In utter solitude
The brief absence
August 15, 2019
Indian Divide, New Mexico
I brought things back into focus yesterday and will make every effort to keep them there. I woke well as a result of that same effort. Yesterday it was the wind that ordered my thoughts, today it is the stillness which followed it. That and the rain, and one such as the earth has begged for all summer. This was the true monsoon rain, arriving late in the day after threatening from early morning. The clouds cloaked the mountains at dawn, and then circled and built through the day. I watched them from the ranch, sitting on the tractor, for eight hours. They built and circled, turned the southwest sky dark grey, moved east, and built again. Ironically, the true storm came in from the north and moved south, threatening for an hour before it let loose.
If I danced all day with that storm, watching and waiting for it to come in, I also misjudged it in the end. I am working on my friend’s ranch mowing the fields, and I thought sure it would catch me on the tractor, but I was close to my truck. It takes likely ten minutes to circle the field I was mowing, so there was no worry. I have done this before, and I might get damp, but not soaked. The fact is, usually the lightning will make me flee before the rains ever come. I have been in that same field when the lightning struck so close that the cows ran. I was close behind them. That never came yesterday. Instead I finished the field and even thought about moving the tractor to the north end of the ranch, but decided against it. By then the sky to the north had turned dark, and the storm gathered in earnest.
Instead I drove my truck along the two track north, to check the one crossing at the arroyo before I moved the tractor to that far field. This arroyo, or some branch of it, dissects the entire ranch. This particular crossing is steep on the edges but sandy on the bottom. Of all the crossings it is the one that stays clear, but it is best to be sure, as the banks could wash out there as anywhere else. It is also far easier to reach and return from by truck. If the old Ford tractor is resilient, so it is slow, and if I needed to turn back I would lose more time, and maybe even get wet. So I drove. The crossing, as always, was passable, though I had to use the four wheel drive to get through it, as the banks are soft and dry, or they were! The way the rain came through made the arroyos run last night, and it might merit yet another inspection today.
I turned back after the arroyo and crossed it to the south with the storm still building behind me. The rain was close but I spotted a dead pinion to the east and drove across to inspect it. As I pulled up I spotted a deer antler laying nearby, and laughed joyfully at the discovery. It is always a gift to find a horn, but after the years spent on the Apache Reservation in search of the same, the find had even more meaning. I took the horn to be a blessing, on myself, the day, and the choices I had made to arrive there. I might have waved the extra effort, I might have returned to the tree I was already cutting on, I might have just gone home, but I didn’t. It was already five o’clock, I had mowed for eight hours, but I still chose to cut wood instead. Following past experience I took a moment to look for the other horn, small as it was. The two forks told me it was a young buck, and the horn was already turned white, so it had lain there for at least a year, if not two. If they so often drop both horns close together the other was likely gone, fodder for a porcupine or some other creature, searching for salt. Whatever the cause, the other horn was nowhere to be found, but the brief search was joyful all the same. Even after a day in the field, simply being outside is a joy in itself, and a pleasure in every sense of the word. Failing at the effort to find the prize, I returned to the tree and sharpened my chainsaw. If the storm was building fast, it was still several miles away.
I cut wood for a good hour before I felt the rain drops, but I savored the cool breeze also. I perused the sky, and kept at my work, even as the thunder drew close. I was on a slight rise, but the lighting was far off, miles yet to go. Finally, it began to rain, softly, but gaining strength. I stacked the wood I had fallen and gathered my tools. Even as I stripped off my chaps it began to rain in earnest, though not heavily. By the time I rolled up the truck windows the drops were steady and I started to hurry a bit, given that the road would get slick by the gate. I have four wheel drive, and it was engaged, but the road is risky at the end. I crossed through the brush to the two track I had followed north, and turned back to the south, stopping at the tractor to close the hood as I had left it open to cool. When I had driven north there was still a chance I might have moved it to the other fields, and would have fueled it if I had. By this time it was pouring rain, and enough to soak my jacket through in seconds. I laughed at myself, and recalled the knowledge that rain represents those who are passed from our lives, and returning to see us. I knew who it was in a glance, and welcomed his presence, he who I hunted horns with for so long………..
When I reached the mowed field I stayed to the grass to keep from tearing up the road. Just an hour ago I had taken a picture of the old two track to show it had finally grown in, and did not want to disturb it. Besides, the grass isn’t as slick, and the field was still dry enough to cross, even as the rain began to soak in. I made the gate in style, even if the dirt was already slick, I had minutes to spare. The gate was different. I paused a moment to peruse the storm and it gathered strength immediately. I laughed again, as I knew better, and it was pouring when I exited the truck. Of course it took a minute to straighten the chain also, long enough to get soaked, and even my pants got wet. Back in the truck, I opted for the heater, and recalled my thoughts from the morning, that the wind sounded like winter. It won’t be long now!
I drove out to the highway slowly, enjoying the storm. The mountains were cloaked in the haze of the rainfall and I thought of the blessings it brought. The ground is scorched, and begging for moisture. The field was dusty when I mowed, and just a dull green from the broom weed, with the grasses laying low in waiting for this storm. They will green now, and reward me for my efforts with a late crop of pure grass, and the weeds a fine mulch. If the rains continue it will be better yet, and this storm, late as it is, was still a good sign. We have a few weeks yet, and maybe the monsoon will stay. I admired the small horn as I headed home, its surface smooth and soft, and a little darker on the bottom. It has a few deep scratches, perhaps from a scrap or two, a rambunctious young buck so it seems. Perhaps I may see him one day, though I will never know if it is him for certain. Maybe I will find the other side, or better yet, this years’ sheds, if I am so lucky. I am home, back at the ranch, and cutting wood, and I am focused. And quite blessed I must say! Life is good when we allow it to be. Such is my focus.
August 4, 2019
Indian Divide, New Mexico
There is just today. I have no need to contemplate yesterday, nor to worry about tomorrow, though neither are far from my mind. The fact is, there is just today, to live, to breathe, and to find some sense of harmony in my life. This seems to be such a simple task, viewed from that perspective, but is also a challenge. That simple harmony I speak to is not always so easily attained, as valuable and precious as it is to my very existence. It also needs to be a greater priority than I have allowed it to be, and I would like to focus on that going forward.
What a perspective to view this life from for a change; ‘Just Today’. If I have ever decided to make this perspective an active part of my life, it has never appeared to me at quite this same angle. I live each day as fully as possible, as I have professed to live my life as well. The premise of living each day as if it was my last has always guided my choices, in hopes that I will have no regrets should I find my time is done. In my youthful travels this was a constant incentive, now it is even more critical and yet not always an immediate consideration. My goals have superseded that and the willingness to sacrifice my immediate happiness for the attainment of some greater sense of freedom somehow became the priority. Now, there is just today, and that same sense of freedom I have worked towards is as immediate as that. The choice is mine, as it always has been.
My dilemma is this; I have plan for the day which differs from what I might chose to do otherwise. I am gazing up the hillside and thinking I should go for a hike. I am as close to the wilderness here as a stones’ throw, it is just across the fence. The mountains touch my yard and the slopes rise from here. I can walk, as I always have, up into the canyons or seek the higher slopes, and have done so often. It would be a pleasant way to spend the morning, and there is a soft breeze to cool the air. Then there is the ranch, where I have planned to go, and which offers a nearly equal solace. I can go start the tractor, mow the fields, and savor that same cool breeze and the miles long views from my perch. It also takes less effort, though I need the exercise also. Either way I shall be content, though the latter is the most practical choice. If I am thriftier, as I have so often been, I will bring my chainsaw. I will cut a few pieces of wood before I come home, and the satisfaction of doing so will be worth the effort. I will get some much needed exercise, and the return, come winter, will be even better.
It is my good fortune that I have two choices which will both fulfill my needs. In fact, it will be best to leave it at that, so far as my plans go. Rather than complicate things, I would as soon keep it simple, just for today. The temptation is to look past that, to bring in the goals of the past and the prospects of the future, but neither applies for the moment. When I chose to walk away from my job I left a lot of things behind me, much more than the immediate challenges which turned my heart towards home. Not that those goals are not still on the horizon, but the approach, as well as the priorities, has been altered significantly. There is no reason to be concerned about how that will play out, at least not for today.
I am free to choose how I will live the rest of my life, including just living each day as it comes, which may well be the preference, at least for now. If I was to define one goal I have worked towards, it has been for the opportunity to do just that, with no other distractions. All I want to do is live for today. The requirement that I find the means to sustain that has never been a concern, as I am good at such things. The bigger stuff, not so much, but I will find a means to deal with those also. Each day, that has never been much of an issue unless I get to worrying about tomorrow, which is such a waste of the present. Perhaps that is why the thought of setting a clear destination has always been so daunting, I am too busy with the present moment to look that far ahead. I may just be better off not to do that, at least for just today. I should let the challenges come of their own accord, not create more in the interim.
Just for today, there is money in the bank, work to be done for which I will be paid, and plenty of materials to work with. If I simply stay the course I have been on I can go sell some artwork, collect some money and pay all of my immediate bills, without tapping into my meager reserves. If I could do that every month I would be fine, and the opportunity to do so is there, for today and every one beyond that. When I narrow the perspective down to that I have so much less to be concerned about, and I am much better off to do so. I have struggled with the long term prospects for years, and just for today, I will take pause. If there are stumbling blocks, they are still too distant to see, and they will arrive soon enough, so why hurry them?
At day break I faced the east, the mountains and the rising sun, and gave thanks for all of the blessings in my life. I was rewarded by the gentle touch of the breeze upon my skin, and the brightening of the sky as the sun tried to break through the clouds. I breathed in the fresh morning air and thought about how wonderful it was to simply be alive to greet another day. I looked out on the beauty of the mountains and the sky and thought about all of the blessings that surround me every moment of my life. Just for today I will do my best to simply remain in the moment and savor the fact that I am here to appreciate it. I will walk forward into the ever present beauty of my surroundings, and remind myself of all the things I have to be thankful for, which have remained such a constant in my life. I will leave the past where it belongs and not worry about the future. Just for today.
January 31, 2011
Indian Divide, NM
I stepped out my door this morning into one of those Zen filled moments I would have missed, if there had been even a moment’s hesitation. As is my habit, I looked to the east for that first vestige of the sunrise. I was greeted instead by a moment of pure beauty such as the early morn and sunset seem to offer, more than any other part of the day. A small grey cloud hung in the sky, framing the fine sliver of the waning moon, itself aligned with Venus, and the final glimmer of the night. In perfect harmony with the view, was a raven, hanging still for that rare instance when his wing force was equal with the wind, as if he too was destined to be part of the moment. What, I must wonder, made me so worthy as to be the witness?
So I begin my day. The soft clouds of moisture, such a pleasure to view in our arid clime, make me think of springtime. The day has far more of that quality than it does for mid winter. The temperature is already above forty degrees and feels balmy. The wood stove is already too hot, and the buds on the trees are straining to grow, even as the wind threatens of storm. How can this be winter? I watch the small birds that I so selfishly feed for my enjoyment, and wonder if they are fooled as well. Just a week ago they were huddled in the cold, their fine feathers fluffed to stay warm; what do they know? My eye is drawn to the bright magenta that paints the heads of a few of the birds, and wonder how I can be so pleased by such a simple thing. It is enough to watch them flitter and fight.
I have once again regained the simplicity of my life. I have returned home, though I find this in other places as well. What that it has once again become an integral part of my life, and there is no way that I can disrupt this! I want for so little else that it is difficult to even consider any sort of change that would alter this element of my existence. For a moment I can be still. I can also see, as I realized just last night, that I have successfully reached a goal, one which I set myself on not so long ago. It was an attainable one, which I started on as soon as I decided on it, and it is now in full motion. I can thank my friend Antonio for this, and if this is all that ever comes of our alliance, it is more than enough.
I can remember gazing on the utter simplicity of his home, as well as the overwhelming desire to make it my own, and thinking that there was something there to be learned and incorporated into my life. Not just the simplicity, but for the need to be free of all that is not necessary to my immediate existence, excepting the true keepsakes of course. I returned here ready to ‘clean house’ and have, since then, accomplished that! Certainly there are still a few superfluous items, but for the most part the clutter is gone! I not only sold off the vehicles I no longer needed, I also emptied my silver trailer, and sold. Most of what it contained is gone as well. I shall repeat the process once more, and be quite pleased with the outcome.
There is another element of that goal, which is my book, and all that it entails. This has been a long term goal, and I find myself perched before my laptop for the hours that are required and realize that I am, in that process as well, and devotedly so!
Goals. We set our direction early on and then do our best, or not, to navigate in that direction. As I once held a compass, when I was working on the White Sands National Park, perched on the sand dunes there doing a water study, so that we might pull our cable as straight as possible, I have of late set my direction in much the same way. The reward has been heartening, and I am moving towards all that I wish to accomplish. The affirmations of this last week are more than I could ask for. Focus, the element of life that is so critical for success, seems within reach. I must learn to manage that carefully, for I do not wish to wander from this track. Unlike with my work, I haven’t the compass there to direct me, and I must be my own instead!
Zen. There are some things that one must capture with the eye, and save within their mind, as no camera can replicate them. They occur in such fleeting moments as I found outside my door, just before the dawn. It repeats itself in the brilliance of the sparrow, perched for but an instant amongst the bright red branches of the peach tree. The new growth is as brilliant a red as the magenta feathers on the birds head and breast. I want to save that view for eternity. I must embed it in spirit for to do so. You cannot take of picture of true beauty, for it exists only in the minds’ eye. It is this that I shall carry with me.
July 29, 2019
Indian Divide, New Mexico
As I was walking up the driveway back to the house this morning, I heard a sharp rattle. I ducked away from it instinctively, as I am well-schooled on the practice. Rattlesnakes and I have been in residence with each other for years, and they are to be taken seriously. If they are gracious enough to warn us of their presence, so they are as likely to coil and strike as they are to flee. This one slid away a few feet, and then paused near the edge of the pile of branches I have yet to burn. I froze for a moment, started towards the porch and then recalled that the shovel, ever ready for such moments, was now in the shed. I had just recently moved it to keep the handle from getting weathered, and now I needed it quickly.
I walked briskly to the shed, giving the snake berth so she would remain still. I quietly returned and took a quick stab at her, but too far back from her head to be of any harm. She thought to flee into the pile of branches but then coiled instead, her head flattened menacingly and her rattles shaking vigorously. Though I chopped at her with the sharp blade of the shovel her body was so thick that my blows bounced back and she fled through the fence and under a nearby bush. I might have let her go and hoped she would die, but I knew better, these snakes are hard to kill. Knowing that just yesterday I was all over the yard with my nine year old grandson made the necessity of her death even stronger. If I had nearly stepped on her and been spared, young Jeremy may not have been so lucky! One of my greatest concerns is getting snake bit, my concern for that little boy is one hundred fold!
I followed the rattle of the snake to the bush and prodded her into view. Not having the option to flee the snake held her ground and came towards me instead. I took more time now, having calmed myself into focus, and soon pinned her head firmly with the sharp edge of the shovel and severed it with the pressure of my foot. Even that took several attempts, and that was at the narrowest part of her body. At the widest berth she was five inches around, large, but not the largest I have killed here. In length she was as long as the shovel, which is nearly as tall as me, all five foot of it. The relief I felt when she was dead was complete, and I was glad she had not escaped. I will skin her here in a few minutes and stretch her skin on a board. If she would also make a tasty morsel for dinner, I will pass. I have eaten snake before and if it was tolerable, it is far from being my favorite, an inherent repulsion perhaps.
The Rattlesnake. Rattlesnakes have many different symbolisms to various cultures. I find it ironic that this is the second time that I have encountered a rattlesnake in my path while in the process of moving back home to this spot, and just thirty feet from the last time. The first encounter was in 2005, when I had just arrived back home from Oklahoma after an extended absence. I was greeted in much the same way as I was yesterday. Because of that I am looking for a reason beyond the coincidence. I have killed four snakes here over a sixteen year period, so it is not an everyday occurrence, even if they are plentiful enough in the area. The generic symbolism is rebirth, transformation, immortality, and healing. I am ok with that definition, and it would be easy to accept that as I am in fact in a process of rebirth, transformation and healing. Another meaning speaks to alertness to warnings from others, respect for boundaries, and offering them courtesy as they make their passage, as well as offering them warnings before we strike. Alternatively, the rattlesnake may mean an increase of the activity of the spirits in our lives, heightening our senses and requiring we pay close attention to our senses. This guidance certainly served me well this morning.
The other meaning is this, and so applicable to my present circumstance. Not long ago a coworker, who was already a threat to me, sent me a picture of a rattlesnake he had killed just outside the door where we worked. His message said, “Be careful!” My gut feeling was that the warning went far deeper than the immediate circumstance, and I made note of the same. My instincts proved correct, and that is much of why I am moving home, again. The meaning I just read said, ‘ The rattlesnake appearing before you is a message that, you are aware of some unforeseen or hidden dangers and you have avoided them with dignity and grace, and is a message that as your reward, you will receive some good fortune, that is to enter your life immediately.’ How could I not embrace that guidance, or not feel that such energy is already in motion in my life, as I truly believe that it is.
I will take all of this guidance with great seriousness, and go forward from here with a greater measure of caution, as I have in the past. In 2005 I learned much of the same lesson, and diligently watched where my feet were placed. Ironically enough, in that instance I was led to a reward. The very same day of that encounter, having decided to walk up the mountain in spite of the newly discovered danger, I climbed the hill and walked carefully, with my eyes more clearly directed towards the ground that before. I came upon a flat rock decorated with a most beautiful petroglyph, and dubbed it a prayer stone for the placement of its pictures. I still visit it today. I also discovered, over time, how that rock tied together two other sets of petroglyphs, some ancient markers and messages I can only wonder about in these modern times. I still feel blessed to have been led to each and every one of them.
I go forward with those blessings in my heart as I begin this new phase of my life. I have been warned and affirmed, all in one step. I regret having had to kill the messenger, as she meant me no harm, and even warned me away from the danger. I should respect that, but I also had no alternative at the moment. Just yesterday I walked all over the yard, crossing that same location, in the company of my nine year old grandson. If I had been bitten, it would have been regrettable, if he had been bitten, it would have been tragic! I am most unwilling to risk either alternative.
Just recently, while I was in California, I was taught a valuable lesson on how to capture and handle a rattlesnake without doing it harm. I reflected on that lesson after I had killed the one I encountered, having acted fully out of instinct and past experience. I have always killed the snakes in my yard. I considered the fact that I may well have captured her and set her free elsewhere had I had the tools, and I think I will prepare for the possibility of doing so next time. Given the symbolism of the rattlesnake, and the fact that she warned me fully, and had no desire to wage battle, my mindset has been altered. I would not have killed the messenger, had I had another means of removing her from the yard. I will prepare to offer that respect, should I be visited again. I see no harm in choosing to do so. I have been blessed, and she deserved the same.
August 22, 2018
Vera Cruz, New Mexico
Played the fool
And let this
Have I left here
With all intent
Only to be
Have I ignored
The very basis
Of my existence
And how often
Have I returned
I am leaving
Out of desire
Not because I
I have created
That I have to
As I continue
At the desired
That so often
Before it is done
Why is it
When the solutions
Are at my fingertips
And how often
Will I pause
To consider that.
I have realigned
For the umpteenth
But my focus
Than it was
In years past
And though I
The first one
And my word
Is as good
As it has ever been
And it is clearer
Than it was
In the past
And it has never
That I hold
To that promise
For how often
Have I not.
October 7, 2015
Bent, New Mexico
You Made Me Laugh
NOTE: Please note I wrote this piece a year ago today, so much has changed since then! Being a writer allows us to express our deepest feeling and emotions in a manner we might not otherwise be able to do, they would instead remain in our thoughts. Having a blog opens the door to share those things, even if some might be better off unsaid. The following is a soul baring piece but a wonderful lesson also and I hope that those who read it will see the humor, as well as the lesson. I for one am far better for having experienced it. No regrets!
You made me laugh today. Sadly you only do this when you are drinking, which makes me cry. All the same, I cannot resist your company when you are intoxicated, and it is the same for you. The sad part is that I spend the whole time you are drunk trying to get you sober. It always works in the end, though sometimes it takes a week or two. Then I don’t hardly see you again, until you start to drink. We have been doing this for almost four years, we both know the pattern.
You would think we would grow tired of this, me of your foolishness and you of the sickness, but we don’t. It seems it is always too much fun in the interim, even if it is painful for both of us. It breaks my heart to see you wasting your life and ruining your health. It breaks your spirit to shatter your routine and bring such illness to your body. You don’t get sick when you are drinking; it is the hangover that will kill you.
You made me laugh today, your candid humor and spontaneity is a joy and a pleasure. It betrays your serious side and the sober guy would cringe if he could witness it, but he cannot. Sadly it is the best of times which you will never recall, the laughter and the tears, the meals I cook and the warm hugs I receive in return. You are my best friend when you are drunk, and your own worst enemy, and it gets worse as time goes on. I am watching a gradual decline which frightens me because it is the very source of my own weakness.
You made me cry just yesterday. You rarely call me when you are sober and I have learned to gage your intoxication by the tone of your voice and the frequency of your calls. You will only call once when you are starting, as if to warn me and to comfort yourself, you are safe if I am here. You will call two or three times if you are already drunk and if you need a ride you won’t stop, I think you hit redial sometimes, at least in your head. I am the voice of sanity when there is no other sound to guide you. You called a lot yesterday, and you kept calling until I found you. You were so drunk you made me cry and when I came back later I cried again when you played that song for me, you started it over three times because you wanted me to hear it. You told me, this song is for you, and we both got teared up, such fools as we are. The song was, “You Can’t Say I Didn’t Cry.” You are always on target, when you are drinking.
My greatest fear is that I will someday weaken and lose the sharpness of my judgement. I am afraid I may sink into the oblivion which is my mothers’ mind, she who drifts along unguided but still occasionally comes back to shore. I asked myself the other day, ‘When did she start to fail?’ and realized she was always failing; it just took a while for her to complete the process. I am strong because of that and I don’t want to grow up to be like her. I want to instead preserve the tender innocence she graced me with, the same treasure reflected in my voice, which I also got from her, and the sense of humor, that I get from you. I think I have my fathers’ strength, though I am not always sure of that either and I don’t always like him very well. It is your failing which keeps me on task; you are the constant reminder of the alternative which I never want to take.
You ask me why I put up with your bullshit, because you call a spade a spade, and you know just who you are. I try to explain that to you, but as you always say when we ask why you don’t stop drinking, “It is hard.” I put up with you because for some foolish reason you are the only person I can put up with and I love you as I have few others in my life. It is as foolish an addiction as your drinking and the outcome is equally assured, it will be painful, as it always has been. I buried all of the other guys a long time ago and I do not want to do the same with you. That is also why I stay; I can prolong the agony for us both, though I doubt that I will win. There is another reason also, I am so afraid of failing myself that I force myself to be strong. You have made me better at that than I have ever been and as long as you are here I will never forget. It makes it hard to leave.
Here is the sad part. I am better off alone and we both know that. I have been trying very hard to pull away for that very reason and it is why I am writing again, I write a lot when you aren’t here. But I write because of you also and you inspire me with your own lack of the same. You point it out to me also, your desire for the richness I weave into my own life and it is what you love me for. I am the light in your darkness when you are drunk. If only you could learn to do the same when you were sober! If such were possible we could laugh all the time, and never cry again…..
October 7, 2016
We finally parted three months ago when I prepared to leave him and he kindly left me instead. I didn’t cry, there was more reason for joyfulness than sadness as I discovered that the crisis I had allowed into my life all revolved around his failures, not my own. I also learned something; sometimes we convince ourselves we need to do certain things to maintain our stability only to discover we have succeeded in the process. I know now that I do not require adversity in my life to remain strong, because I am strong. Karl helped me see that lesson and I am grateful for that, it was worth the tears it required to discover this. And the laughter made it worthwhile also, though I have laughed more in his absence than I have in a long time.
We all come into each others’ lives for a purpose and he drove home a lesson which is one of my favorites. “We are all teachers and we best teach what we most need to learn.” In trying to save him from himself I may well have saved myself in the process! I am as content with my life as I have ever been and he helped me to get there, I hope somehow I have done the same for him!
‘She Says the Rain Follows Her’
She told her husband, “She says the rain follows her” and he replied, “That is good, we need it”.
The rain follows me, it is a given that it does for there is little about my work that can be done in the rain. The rain muddies the roads, wets the precious blue chalk that covers the end of my steel tape to indicate the level of the water in a well, ruins my paperwork even if my journal is waterproof, and when I take samples dilutes the water I have captured from the well, rendering it invalid. I cannot work in the rain and therefore even if it threatens it can turn me back from my efforts.
Even yesterday, as the day grew late, I had to make my choices carefully, the distant wells beckoned me, the promise of the fading day and the long shadows across the valleys a temptation not to be followed. Earlier Anna Lee had escorted me to one of her wells, opting to take her four wheeler rather than the pickup truck in spite of my warning. There is nothing about her actions to belie the 63 years of her life, swinging her leg over the seat and driving off like any youth would do. Before I was finished I encouraged her to head back to the house before she got soaked and she agreed!
Having, wisely, decided not to drive into the remote reaches of the Wahoo Ranch I chose a more sedate venture, a couple of wells down canyon where I was fortunate to catch one stubborn windmill out of the wind, making note of the same in my journal for the wind always blows there. It is another obtrusive element of my work, the wind follows me. Even as the dark clouds circled again and threatened with thunder I chose one more well, the Cupit Rattlesnake as it is named, and headed up a long arroyo to another high vista, albeit only two miles off the road affording an easy exit.
I crested the hill as the sun began to wane, though not enough to slow the trickle of solar power to the well, requiring giving it a rest before I sought the water level in the casing. There is no point in trying to obtain two like measures before it had recovered, I had been here before. As with the rain and the wind, bright sunshine prevails even when storm clouds fill the sky, this is New Mexico and even the sun follows me. Rather than taking the usual effort of arranging my paperwork I opted for a short walk and a moment of enjoyment as the view from this spot is spectacular and beyond anything that words or even photographs can replicate. This is one of the places one must delegate to memory alone if they wish to recall it later, a practice worth repeating when stopping here.
The Rattlesnake Well is deep, 280 feet to the bottom and last time I measured it 243 feet to the water below the top of the casing, not difficult but still not one you want to pull the tape out of too many times. It recovers slowly meaning that the water is trickling back into the casing at a slow rate making the levels change constantly until it has settled. As I am required to obtain two measurements within 1/10th of an inch apart I gave it ample time to recover, 20 minutes, as I looked off over the undulating landscape, watching the grey shadows spread in the deep canyons between the tawny hillsides. Such spectacular country, the breath of the plains spread far in every direction, rising slowly to touch the distant mountains. Too I watched the storm as it circled back once again, grateful for the choice I had made and wondering if I would have to flee from here as the thunder echoed through the canyons. The crackle of distant lightning roused me, and I returned to my task, steel tape in hand on the hilltop, climbing over the fence and for a moment the highest thing for a mile, becoming the proverbial lightening rod as I went back to work.
The well was stubborn today, resisting giving up a good measurement, making me throw my tape down its throat twice, three times and then again. All the while the wind rose, the sky darkened and the thunder rolled. I watched as a rainbow formed to my south, the storm circling from the west heading into the east over my shoulder. The static in the air grew tangible and the light faded even as the arc of color made me wish my camera was in my bag. An elk crested the hill heading for water, cautious, as the hunts are on, pausing long enough for the fading sun to reflect off his golden flanks.
I finally used a trick one saves for late afternoon or stormy moments when time is of the essence. I took a measurement, held the reading in my mind, and then sent the tape back down quickly hoping to beat the progression of the water into the well and succeeded in capturing my repeat measurement as the thunder clapped again. Quickly as possible I recorded the numbers and gathered my tools. I stepped over the wire fence as I thought of lightening and the ever present risk at such moments and thought that since I had made my leggings I was more concerned with that than rattlesnakes. Snakes are predictable, if not always visible, and they generally offer a warning, the lightening is not quite as considerate. I loaded my truck as the raindrops spit at me, paused and took a picture of the distant elk before he moved off and looked up at the black clouds as they drew closer, glad that my day was done. It is always the same here, I have never measured this well without the rain close by; it follows me.