All Over Town
She says she has seen me on my knees
All over town, which she has.
I told Troy I even had knee pads and he laughed
But installing water meters requires such things
As one is on her knees all day long.
I have made a living on my knees
An unceremonial effort for a woman of my sort
Kneeling so often to do my work
And being paid well for the same.
I have spent years kneeling in straw and sawdust
Massaging and bandaging the legs of race horses
Only to graduate to cleaning houses and scrubbing toilets
And even for a while the barroom floors at Farley’s Pub
A single mom scraping peanut shells out of the corners
So often on my knees.
I moved forward in the world and back to school
A single mom of two growing boys who got certified
Learning a new trade along the way
Reading water meters and taking samples
Moving up again to aquifer mapping
Kneeling in sun and sand, rocks and gravel
Working in the wind and snow
Dropping a steel tape deep into the throats of wells
Yes, deep throat if you will, haha,
There on my knees my dearest, always,
Coupled with a reverence that has grown with the years
All the way to now at sixty four years of age
Installing my second round of water meters in Carrizozo
Some twenty years after the first time
The same meter cans, the same gravely ground
But with knee pads this time around
And an even greater sense of humility
Than the first time.
I wrote a poem back then,
Twenty years ago while reading a water meter,
Kneeling on the same haloed ground,
“The ‘iron knees’ of life are that we don’t pray enough”
There are worse ways to make a living than to be on ones knees,
All over town.
Nourishment, the winter garden
Cold breeze and warm morning sun
The pure simple pleasure of splitting wood
The crack of the axe and the smell of the walnut
Set free from the center of its core.
Exhilaration, upon breathing deep
From the effort and pleasure
Of a simple life well lived
Wanting and needing so little else
But for the harvest of nature’s gifts.
What more can I ask for?
The Lord is my Shepherd.
I want for nothing.
May 17, 2012
Nogal Canyon Road
Bent, New Mexico
If innocence still lives it is in the eyes of a child named Meagan. She is a woman child, caught in that fragile instance between a young girl and a woman. She is an adolescent and naïve to what lies before her excepting the depth of wisdom in her mother’s eyes. They are so like her own, set in another face.
Meagan, she stands as a reminder for her mother and I, of all we have left behind us and all which lies ahead. She returns to us in her every breath all which we have treasured and tried to hold onto. Her searching gaze and her questions are a breath of fresh air, one to be savored and studied as our Zen teachers would tell us, to be felt as it comes and goes. She has strength where her mother is more fragile and she is blessed with the awareness of the necessity of that. She will be wiser for the wear, my own mother was fragile and I too became strong because of it.
She is a teacher even as she is still a student, the exchange of lessons will be of equal value to us both and nothing will be lost. She has already returned to me what life has tried to take away. I will give her other gifts which she can carry with her. Her mother will receive an equal share and the blessings are multiplied by three. Her mother and I were both in need of that feminine compassion which is so hard to find, and all young girls need mentors. We three can mentor each other for innocence reigns up that narrow canyon we all call home and I will bring with me adventure and experience in return.
We stood before an ancient cabin as the afternoon waned. We spoke of the history and the effort which went into the construction of the adobe and rock shelter, and of the life which had been lived there. Kelly spoke of the beauty and the mystery of the place and of how she stood inside before the roof fell in. I recounted my own experience far west of here in the San Augustin Plains and how upon deeper study of the homesteaders lives some of the romance had faded from my mind. It was a tough life, theirs. Kelly’s eyes widened a little; she had never thought of the hardships, such is the innocence she has maintained. Meagan listened to every word, their weight growing heavier in her learning.
If innocence still lives it is in the eyes of a child named Meagan. She has inherited it from her mother. One will never meet another with such a gentle spirit.
The young girls laugher
High pitched and joyful
Echoes off of the canyon walls
Like the chatter of coyotes
Exuberant and unrestrained
Free of the constrictions
Of society or domesticity
Still innocent and alive
I am so grateful
For the reminder
Of how life should be lived
Ahh wooh! Hah Hah Hah
October 18, 2022
Indian Divide, New Mexico
My first thoughts upon waking this morning were of the wilderness. There was a cool moist breeze wafting through the slightly open window facing the south and the simple breath of the outside was enough to transport me. I have that connection with the wilderness, one such as I have cultivated since my childhood and have found a safe haven there as I have no place else. It is my haven, my escape, my place to retreat to for the pure and simple peace of mind which I require above and beyond everything else. I am alone for much the same reason for even as I retreated to the distant hills for solace, so I discovered the same. I have been, and felt, alone for much of my life, sensed my otherness and rather than let it take something away from me I reveled in it instead. I embraced the freedom that was allowed to me as there was no point, in my youthful mind, to do otherwise. It seemed to me from early on in my life that the effort to conform, to fit in, to model my life after what everyone else said I was supposed to do was an empty pursuit. I found my happiness elsewhere and it filled me in a manner that nothing else ever did, before or since. Certainly I have had, and maintained my ties with society and forged relationships but even now, as I study on the thought, I have found little else that surpassed the joy and peacefulness I have discovered in the wilderness and my own solitary company.
These choices that I have made are the deciding factors in my life and they guide me still. What is it that draws me to the wilderness and caused my mind to seek such solace upon waking and to pull me away from any other thought or consideration? That is such an easy question to answer though the conundrum it creates is nothing nearly as simple. The cool breeze I tasted with my first waking breath wafted to my window from the distant mountains where the clouds had come to ground of the night and which still hung there this morning. The suns warmth had yet to break the spell and even now it is shrouded too heavily to draw the moisture skyward, leaving the feel of the mystical, the memory of the oceans fog and the silent wonder of riding through the haze on the coast of California. Even here on the norther hillside the air is laden with moisture so dense that it muffled the caw of the raven and the soft whoosh of his wings as he flew westward. My heart stood still as he flew past and as he drew me skyward for a moment. I chanced to join him in flight until he slipped away over the horizon. I came to ground gently and remained there, unwilling to break the spell. A small flock of bluebirds took wing from the nearby hillside and they drew my attention elsewhere, thrilling again at the brilliant blue of their flashing wings, laughing quietly at their chatter. What else does one need for their happiness?
We humans are destined to seek elation and comfort for such is our ilk. We are conscious of such things to such a degree that we work towards any means we can find to fill that need, and satisfy that desire. It is simple when we are small for we are fascinated with the newness of things and each discovery gives us that rush of joyfulness. This is the joy we find in children’s laughter and in innocence that radiates from their happiness. I so often feel a touch of envy towards them for such spontaneity wears thin with the passage of the years. As we grow older, if we are so fortunate, we receive those warm hugs and kisses, those expressions of love from those close to us, exchange laughter with our friends, and discover new adventures and thrills as our world opens up before us. What of the joy of running through a field, jumping off of the creek bank into the water, the gallop on horseback through the trees and across the pastures? Then later, the newfound freedoms as we mature, become more independent, and find our first love. All of these things can and should define our lives and for those of us who require even greater stimulus lead us to other things, the unseen distances, the roads less traveled, the mountaintops and the highways. I sought all of that, had my friends, my family, my horses but also a deeper need for something unseen, undiscovered in that place of my youth. I tried other things, drinking and drugs, and found some thrill of course, but I knew there was something greater, something distant, something west. This was the deciding factor and I wonder still if I would have survived if I hadn’t have followed that urge and traveled far instead.
What is it that draws me to the wilderness at the cost of leaving all else behind me and so often, almost always, going alone? In all the years of my life I have so rarely shared such adventures as those times when I wandered off onto the highway or deep into the hills. In rare company I once lived in a log cabin some five miles off the highway but the drinking and the drugs conquered all in the end. Years later I found a similar haven out on the plains of Oklahoma, the Tall Grass Prairie but that too was lost for the same reasons as the first. It seems that as we age, or even in our youth, too often the route to that treasured elation is a shortcut of the lesser sort. I was so fortunate to have discovered the wilderness, the wildness and the freedom of sweet solitude. I have yet to find its equal and even if I stay rooted in convention in so many ways my heart remains elsewhere. I found God’s grace and creation so early in my life and surrounded myself with the very essence of nature and the earthly blessings that surround me every day. I found that big love off on those dirt roads across the plains and even in the gusty taste of the wind in the spring, and in the clatter of rain through the summer. Just this morning I breathed in the cool essence of the moisture laden dawn and found it to be good. It has been the deciding factor of my life. I am blessed.
Where Ya Been
Dedicated to Luke Bell, country singer 1990-2022
Where ya been? How many times have I asked myself that question? I still get lost at times, which is as frightening as it has ever been because it sneaks up on me now. I am too often unaware that I have slipped until days later when my clarity returns. Not that I don’t think I am attuned every day but sometimes my list of things to do gets lost and I lose track of my days. I am so afraid that one day I won’t come back but I work really hard to avoid that. I hope that I always have the option.
One of my go to meditations when I get depressed is to remind myself that I am so fortunate not to wake up every day feeling like I can’t go forward. My worst days are few and far between and almost only just that, a worst day, and the following one is almost always better than the last. In my mind I feel that I am a lucky girl because I am almost always, at the very least these days, content with my life. Mental illness is a state of mind when we are not okay and in Luke Bell’s case, as in so many others, wellness is a difficult option. Now, I had never heard of Luke Bell before he went missing as I don’t listen to mainstream anything anymore. I would not have heard of him at all except that his story popped up on my Google feed and I was curious enough to click on the link. Curiosity led me to read further and his story of mental illness and addiction touched home as I have lost many friends along the way. I have fought my own battles with addictions also so I can relate to his struggle in ways that others may not. I know how it feels to feel like I had to get high rather than just wanting to, or had to have something or someone instead of just desiring that. There is a big difference and sometimes you just can’t say no. I’ve been clean for years but sometimes that feeling still comes over me!
Luke Bell, a man younger than my oldest son, who still seems so young to me. I think of Luke’s struggle with mental illness and addiction, which at their worst are one and the same. Where Ya Been? If you read and listen to the words of that song, it was a tragic self-portrait that every drinker and addict could write about themselves. Where ya been, when the person you speak of is your very own self who somehow got lost in the shuffle of life, of alcohol, of some pervasive drug or even in the mindless fog of living where one simply loses sight of all the things that might somehow root them in some sense of normalcy. What a frightening place that is to be and there are so very few of us who haven’t experienced some sense of that feeling at a given moment. We must then consider how many of us experience that feeling on a routine basis and we have to ask what the remedy is. We fail to empathize at times because it is too damned personal, too frightening to consider that ‘there for the grace of God go I”. Well, there for the grace of God go I but I am blessed with the strength and determination to have overcome my weaknesses to some great extent though I will never, it seems, overcome them all. My mind and good sense still slip away from me on occasion but I am fortunate enough to have the strength and the faith to find my way back. I am also not at all afraid to share that because if we all felt free to discuss these things we would be a lot more aware of how prevalent they are and less afraid to talk, share and assist each other in our moments of need. We might even by chance save someone’s life, or possibly our own.
Here’s my point. We all struggle sometimes and we have all asked the same question of each other and ourselves at a given moment. “Where Ya Been? Hey, mister in the mirror, where’s my friend. I went out on the town and I ain’t seen him since. Hey, hey, where ya been?” It really doesn’t matter what killed Luke Bell, it’s all the same in the end BUT Fentanyl is probably the worst crisis we have ever seen. Last year there were 41,000 deaths directly connected to this one drug and it was a part of half of the drug deaths out of 100,000 cases. Fentanyl is currently the Number One cause of death for people ages 18 to 45 in the United States as of 2022. What this country lacks is a process where people can seek help and access it without having the funds to cover their treatment. We have a system that hands out a lot of services to a lot of people, including many addicts and alcoholics, but cannot and will not provide the treatment options that might save their lives. It seems that that would be money well spent for all of the above reasons.
I don’t have all the answers but perhaps I have a few. I know that those of us who are blessed with good health and freedom from addictions can teach by example. I am not afraid to discuss my past and I hope that I will always be an inspiration to those who need one. We can all reach out when and where we think we can help while not being enablers but instead supporters of positive efforts. Sometimes just lending an ear can go a long way. We can also speak out and hope and pray that our voices will be heard. Our ‘Welfare’ system is terribly broken needs to be fixed. Well fare, fare well, no more handouts but instead support. Let the Medicaid incentives include true wellness perhaps? Mental health has as much influence on physical health as anything else, as everything else. Where ya been?
January 26, 1986
Nogal, New Mexico
Why I Came Here
By Cathie R. Eisen
It was the short part of a long journey
A bad case of wanderlust and a promise of cool pines
After a long and dry winter in El Paso.
It was a part of a journey that had just begun,
Four years out of twenty two
Spent traveling the highways and chasing the wind.
It was the short part of a long journey
One hundred fifty miles instead of thousands,
Across a few mountains instead of a country.
A winding mountain highway instead of an interstate.
The beginning of the end of my ramblings.
Yes, it was the short part of a long journey.
It was the summer I fell in love and the first time
In all of my travels that I decided to stay.
It was a stepping stone in my journey of life,
But one I found many times over
And continued to return to that very same place.
Why did I come here to New Mexico?
Need I even ask?
Perhaps it was fate or destiny
Who can ever say?
I only know that the wind is not so hot,
That the mountains are more green,
That the highway no longer calls me.
And that is why I stay.
September 1, 2022
Indian Divide, New Mexico
Summer is making her passage and stepping softly towards fall,
She is walking slowly this year
The slight hum of the wind that speaks to colder days
Passing intermittently through my consciousness
Catching the corner post of the porch roof
Humming with a voice that speaks to colder days.
I feel the stirring in my bones today
Much as the elk do as their rut comes into play
But subtler, calmer and with a different purpose
For as the elk seek to perpetuate their existence
I am reminded of the importance of my survival
On a far more individual basis.
Instead the high long bugle from deep in the canyons
Will stir a different need
To stack wood and to secure the loose edges of my life
That I may hunker down in the safety of my nest
To build fires against the cold
And to feast on the stores of my efforts
The summers harvest and the gathered goods
That will see me through until spring.
I find in the study of that the most crucial elements
The peace of mind and stability
The strength of body and spirit
The inherent calm I have worked towards all my life
And I find it good and lacking for little
As summer makes her passage and steps softly towards fall.
February 4, 2022
I want to sink myself back into the earth
Cleve to her warm breast
Nestle deep into the dirt
And to remain there like some earthy creature
Such as I am not.
I want only to cling to her earthliness
To be a simple part as rock or stone
As some spiny cactus
Or soft gentle leaf
A desert peone perhaps
As the plant is so likened to both
Tender and single stemmed
Spiny leafed and gentle flower
The best of both worlds
The master of none.
I went to earth today, to the open space, the snow covered mountains, the peaceful breath of wilderness at once so close and so far. I fled my warm shelter for openness, convention for wisdom, comfort for the very blanket of earth and blue sky. I returned replenished and restored, exhausted by the effortless of having done so. I am healed, if for a moment, of all my earthly wounds. It was all as simple as that. I didn’t even take any pictures, it was too sacred to be captured in anything but words.
September 27, 2019
Center of New Mexico Trail
Corona, New Mexico
I woke wild
On some dirt road
Than a two track
That I sought
As I drove
Past the sunset
For the shield
To make my camp
Of my bus
And the pureness
Of the darkened skies
That might be
Though the residents
Of these backroads
Are most often
And too considerate
To even question
Of these reasons
I was unafraid
To spend the night
In such remoteness
And if I locked
It was simply
Out of caution
Knew where I was
And the odds
Of being harassed
Were all but
I am likely safer here
Than I am
In my own home
Perched on the edge
Of a highway
I am a half mile
From any road
And then one
Than any where
I woke wild
Where I slept
Sitting to write
So as to savor
To the morning breeze
And watch the sun rise
To its fullest
By its soft rays
By the solitude
I could live
The rest of my life
Just like this
Half the chance
To do so.
I woke wild and to such stillness that I lay still for a long time before I rose. I marveled at the contrast from the night before in Tijeras where the sounds of the highway and the barking dogs kept me awake for hours. I might have sought a more remote spot then also, was but was too afraid to do so. There are more people there, and less kind ones as well. I felt safer in a public place, the edge of a Forest Service pullout, but remained somewhat fearful also, though more of law enforcement than others. Sure, I could have got a room, but I wanted to have the freedom to choose, and next time will find a better spot, one such as this. I might have a longer drive, but it will be worth it.
Waking wild, on a dirt side road on the high plain of central New Mexico, golden with fall flowers, rolling hills as far as I can see, the blue shadows of the mountains in the distance. The wind starts to howl, such as it will, but even that is a comfort, and another harbinger of the wildness. This is a wilderness such as any other, and there are few people in any direction for as far as I can see. The land is forbidding, and when it is dry, unmerciful. It is dry. If it rained to the south of here, it forget to stop as it passed, leaving the grasses scorched and the cactus shriveled tight to their stalks. The grass never grew and even the broom weed is hunched close to the earth, and barely blooming. Still yet, it is beautiful, and the absence of humanity a comfort to my soul. It is so easy to forget all of ones responsibilities in such places, and allow the wonders of the earth to rule in their stead. Better to study the state of the earth than the union!
I am reminded again of my desire to retreat to the full wilderness. I could go for days, or even weeks if time allowed. It would be a while before I became even somewhat lonesome. Instead I would go wild, feral, and retreat into some more primitive state, with pleasure. I would go to sleep with the fall of the darkness, and wake on the edge of the dawn. I might lay still for a moment, to savor the stillness, but then rush to watch the sunrise. I would wander the hills in pure wonder, and be sure to make good notes. I would realign myself with myself and renew my spirit to its fullest, in the complete absence of distraction. I would remember all of the sage advice I have collected over the years, and promise never to forget it, again. I would find, as I have here in such a brief space in time, that everything I require for my own happiness has already availed itself to me. It is just that I must remove myself from the press of humanity to let it flow back in full measure. Here, as in any wilderness, I can shed my armor and allow the grace and wonder of life itself to surround me in it stead. I woke wild this morning……..
If Not Now, When?
By Cathie R. Eisen
There are times in our lives when we come to the realization that if we are to ever do something we need to get on with the doing. I have journaled all of my life and many years ago began to tailor those musings into essays with the intention of publishing them. Ten years ago I wrote a full length book and tried to publish it, only to discover that one must be known writer before they can get published. Ever since then I have been building my platform, first with a Blog, adventureasaconstant.com and then open mic venues. In 2019 I realized it was time to publish those essays which had been so well received and I compiled my book, ‘If Not Now, When?’. Now, with a poetry collection in the works, it is time to share my book with a wider audience! Copies are available for $20.00 at my gallery in Carrizozo, New Mexico, ‘Carrizo Spring Trading Post’ or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will also have a book signing soon! Thank you! Cathie R. Eisen