11/6/20 I wrote this one year ago and interestingly enough I spoke of Stan just yesterday. There is a lesson here and it is meant to be shared. There is a blessing also; I have achieved the level of discipline that Stanley had after years of trying to attain that, and wish I had done so sooner. His example was no small part of my success! If I am growing old I am slowing the process and doing so as gracefully as I can. Thanks Stan!
November 6, 2019
Indian Divide, New Mexico
Do This or Grow Old Cathie
Ten years ago I wrote about a man named Stan, a Native man I had met and spent a few challenging months with. He was a powerful spirit, as well as an angry one, which was our demise in the end. I could no more tolerate his threats than he could my choices, and there was no resolution for that but to go our separate ways. I knew when he finally left that I was fortunate that he had, and it could have been worse. As it was, he never dealt me any harm, but the fear of the same was well justified. I was spared, and he shared many lessons with me before he left.
Stan had a routine which kept him sober and focused. He carried a scrap of paper with a list of the repeats he did with his weights every other day. Interestingly enough, my last partner had a similar routine that he followed when he was sober, but he failed to see it through. Stan adhered to his and it served him well, perhaps because of the meaning of the words on the bottom of the page. They said, “Do this or grow old Stan”. He was not a young man even then, but his body was solid rock, as was his mind and his convictions. He was unswaying, and his judgements were harsh. Such determination makes life difficult. There are so few people who have strong values these days, and even less who practice them. It made Stan an angry man.
But this isn’t about Stan, or even anger, though frustration weaves into the picture. I shared a lot of Stan’s values and convictions and even some of his struggles. I loved him for his strength and determination, and admired his discipline. I learned to apply much of that to myself, in addition to what I already practiced. I came away from that alliance with a clearer picture of what it would take for people such as us to survive, in mind, body, and spirit. I have done all that I could to practice and preserve that. It has not been easy and I am still not fully assured of success. I can hear his voice even now, and he would tell me, “Never doubt yourself”. He was right, and we can so easily be our own worst enemy if we allow that uncertainty to control us.
I would have it that I had a man such as Stan in my life right now. I would appreciate the reminders and the lessons he had to offer, less the anger and the threats. If I do well to maintain my discipline and direction I am not always my best critic either. If I peruse my life on a daily basis and work to maintain the best direction, I have nobody there to tell me I am cutting the corners, and sometimes I do just that. I want to stay focused and on task, and to do my very best. I want to maintain a practice of exercising my mind and my body routinely. I try to do the same. I do not want to weaken and certainly don’t care to fail, but remain fearful of that. I am not at all certain that Stan survived but I know that I am still here. I will have to live with myself for the remainder of my life.
I look out my window at the grey and cloudy sky. The ground is damp with the brief rain that blessed the hills this morning. The thunder echoed across those canyons where Stan and I once walked. The lightning slashed the sky and I was briefly soaked as I grabbed another armload of wood for the fire. The rain stopped soon after, as I knew it would. I have no regrets for staying out in it, or my willingness to do so. I watch even now as the sun brightens the hills, brightening the golden grasses with its light. The transition is amazing after the near darkness just minutes ago. It is almost like watching the sunrise twice in one day. I watched the storm approach and had prepared for the worst. Now it is laughable that it has already passed, leaving a broad rainbow in its wake. I will take it as a warning of things to come as the season begs to change. It seems we ran the gamut this morning, a balmy dawn, a quick and violent storm, and now a spring like day, though the clouds are already returning. Perhaps the brief respite is a lesson in itself that we should not be deceived into believing that the storm has passed. We can rest assured there are also more to come.
Do this or grow old Cathie. Create a routine and adhere to it. I have some of that already, and it serves to keep me strong. I considered that last night as I carried in my stores. I am still cutting and burning wood and hauling my water, and ice to cool my food. I don’t have to live this way, I want to live this way. It keeps me strong, focused, and humble. Humble because I know that at any moment I may lose the ability to be able to perform those basic tasks and that I need to be mindful of the same. What I lack at the moment is a solid foundation to maintain this existence just as it stands. I have no job, or even a specific plan that assures a steady income, even if I am working on one. The uncertainty is unsettling, and my routine nonexistent beyond the requirements of my daily existence. This needs to change. Having made a choice of my personal values over a steady income, without any preparation to do so, I am now faced with the consequences. If my immediate needs are satisfied, there are others which are not, and I need to address those. My life depends on that.
Yesterday I came to the realization that it was time for me to make some decisions, and to act on them. Today I was reminded of that, by my reflection on years past and an untimely storm. I wasn’t caught completely off guard, and the rain created no crisis, but I wasn’t wholly prepared either. Now, going forward, I will be. My wood will be covered today, as will the kindling. Everything else is in reasonable order. The only real worries I have are financial, but everything else is keyed to that for the moment. I would appreciate a strong presence in my life, a good partner and a shared goal. It seems I have chosen not to have that, as I believe it is a choice, even though I somehow cannot find that either. For the most part it seems I am better off alone? I certainly am for the moment as I take full ownership for my dilemma, and will benefit from that. Having nobody else to blame for any perceived failings on my part strengthens the accompanying lessons I am so eager to learn.
I will watch the clouds and peruse my memories today. I will take a moment to send a prayer and a blessing towards Stanley, wherever he may be. I will also carry his memory, and the lessons he offered me close to my heart today, as I should. We are all brought together for a reason and the things this man taught me were well received and appreciated. I can still feel his presence, and it was a good one in many ways, and I am stronger and wiser for having known him. I wish him well. I wish myself well also, and will go forward with that understanding, that I need to do the best for myself, as nobody else will. I want to remain strong, and focused, and it is for me to maintain a routine which honors that. Do this or grow old Cathie. This is your life to live, as you choose.
October 6, 2019
Indian Divide, New Mexico
(In lieu of what has transpired in the past year I have to think I had COVID 19 when I wrote this! My fever returned several times and I was ill for 2 months before I ‘woke well’ one day in early January. I haven’t been sick since, and there is plenty of wood for the winter!)
I woke unwell yesterday, blaming the gray fog at first and then wondering if I was ill. Ill I was, or quite honestly, battling illness. I had a rare outbreak of a virus that lingers in my system from childhood round with chicken pox, the same one which gave me Bell’s palsy and well could have done the same yesterday. It came at the same time I got sick with whatever other scourge I contracted and my immune system went to war with it. If I woke feeling unwell it progressed through the day with fever and chills, leaving me hunkered by the woodstove all day long, weak and ill besides. I found a project and strung beads all day, the only thing I was capable of and grateful for the distraction. The sun broke through and the sky cleared, giving way to a beautiful day I could only admire but barely enjoy. By evening I was so weak and feverish that I was fearing for my life. I messaged my son and considered going to the hospital, but went to bed instead. Sometime in the middle of the night the fever broke and I awakened to a sudden sense of wellness.
It’s funny but when one gets so ill when they recover there is a sense of heightened awareness of every blessing of wellness. In a sense it is gratitude for even being alive, as the sickness was enough for me to consider the possibility of dying. I even gazed at the tawny beauty of the hillside, lit by the evening sun, and considered that is that was the last thing I saw in this life, it was good. I am so glad I survived! I now revel in the strength of my immune system and I am glad I allowed it to battle things out rather than resort to medication instead. I considered that last night and I hope that whatever antibodies rallied in my defense will remain vigilant going forward. I have also considered how vulnerable I, and all the rest of humanity, am to some simple viral attack. I pray I never have to face that again, and that if I do I can counter it so quickly.
Today I will take great care with myself and allow my body to heal. If I have made it through the worst it would be best to be sure. I have leather work to do as I will be traveling again come Thursday and have an order to fill. I will be content to do my work and gaze out on the beauty which surrounds my humble abode, though I wish to go walk also. My knee is keeping me still, but the hills beg for my company. I will admire them at a distance for now. I have a small fire going but will likely let it dwindle in time as the sun is already warm. All told I am still weak, but so much better than yesterday! I imagine I am still battling the virus, but at least I know I will survive.
It seems best not to delve too deep for now. I am looking at the woodpile and wishing it was bigger, but it will do for the moment. I am burning scraps and exercising a rare frugality, but that doesn’t hurt anything. Come the deep of winter I will keep the fire stoked but for now it is but a luxury to have one. The practice of living so close to the elements has served me well thus far, and I chose to continue that for so long as I can. Illness drove home the effort of it yesterday, but thankfully I am so rarely ill. That my son David is only ten miles up the road is a comfort also, and he would come to my aid immediately if I was to ask him to. I was ill enough last night to consider that, and texted him to be sure. It was a relief this morning to let him know I was okay.
So I begin a new day, grateful to be here to enjoy it. I will be pleased when my strength is restored but content to be healing for now. It is a good time to be still, complete projects and savor the fall season. I am here to stay and so looking forward to creating the means to do so. I pause to consider all of the years I have spent away from here, trying to return to the simple way of life that this place represents and offers each time I come home. Those were adventures I had to embark upon but I will be satisfied if there is never again the necessity to do so. Not that there isn’t still a sense of restlessness, as such is my nature, but at least for now there is no place I would rather be. Future adventure is certainly appealing, and I need to see and do different things, but there is so much I can do from here as well. Perhaps my investment in a gallery in Carrizozo will pay off and mine and everyone else’s desire to enrich the culture there will come to fruition. There are more and more people moving into the community, in part because of the Valle Del Sol, but also in town. They all want and need much of the same thing I do, intelligent conversation and creative activities. Just maybe we can team up and make that a reality.
Time to get on with my day………
September 12, 2019
Indian Divide, New Mexico
I am remembering things that I have somehow forgotten. The peacefulness is returning to my life, and the frantic sense of necessity slowly fading towards the background. I am remembering what it was like to live my life with purpose and intent rather than the driving force of commitment to the needs and requirements of others. It isn’t that I don’t have things I still need to do, but the way that I am approaching the task that has changed. I am no longer driven by the force of having to do things, I am simply in the process of getting them done.
This change was not deliberate or thought out, it was made in a moment of pure desperation. It is regrettable that it took that to make the adjustment, but it was likely one of the best ones I have ever made. My debts have not changed, but the approach to resolving them has. If I had planned to be free of that burden by October, it will take far longer than that now, but it is ok. I have remembered what my life was like so many years ago, when I lived day to day, and I am not going to forget that again. I am still working, and will always have to, but it will be on my own terms, regardless of what I do. I pray that going forward it will only be myself I have to answer to. If I am unhappy with those terms, they should be so easy to adjust.
I am forgetting the effort I forced on myself for all these past years. Even the times when I have returned home in much the same manner I did this time, I never forgot. Though I stayed here for months with the same freedoms or even more than I have in this moment, I never forgot. There was always the understanding that I would have to leave again, go back to work, and keep on trudging forward. My goal has never changed, and neither has the approach, even if I had considered alternatives. How I have wanted alternatives! Though I love the work I have done all these years the ongoing challenges of dealing with other people’s failures and attitudes has worn thin the fabric of serving the communities and agencies I have worked for. If I struggled for years to return to that same challenge, I have finally reached the breaking point. I am so glad that I did.
I am remembering. Sitting here at my window I am listening to and watching the joyful activities right outside my door. Nature is having her way, and the birds are chattering and fluttering in their daily activities. There is a light breeze, the air is cool and even somewhat moist from the recent rains, and the hills have a tinge of green. I would go for a hike if I was not nursing my knee, but that will have to wait. I should go mow some grass and a few hours on the tractor would serve me well. That time in the fields is almost as good as a hike….I am learning that my life can and should be a gradual process, and that forced effort is no longer acceptable. I can and will do whatever it is I have to, but at my own chosen pace. I will also seek out any and all of the things that I require for my own happiness, because I am responsible for that. My time is now my own to choose and I will make the best of that I can.
I am remembering who and what I was so many years ago, and seeking to restore all of which I can. Where spontaneity was once an integral part of my life, I wish to restore some part of that. I need not run off half hazard to find my happiness, but I can choose the course of my day, and what I wish to focus on. There is plenty to focus on, and so much of it which can and will contribute to this newly restored freedom and happiness. My words and my art bring me so much happiness, and a return as well, and I can do them as I please. Yes, I have to stay steady in if I am to survive, but it is also a pleasure to do so. I will survive, just as I will rekindle my spirit as I am doing now, even as the tears of refound emotion well in my eyes. How I have missed this feeling and only now is it peaking back out from behind my armor, the forced protection I have had to surround my spirit with.
Why did I even choose to go there, except that I thought I had to in order to accomplish my goals? I have spent years of my life making myself work in less than favorable places in order to arrive here in basically the same circumstance that I departed from. If it was not a waste of time and energy, it was certainly a sacrifice of the same. I learned a lot, experienced a lot, contributed a lot, and I sacrificed a lot. I have detailed every bit of it (LOL). And now I have returned to the peace and the serenity that I have spent that part of my lifetime dreaming of living on a day to day basis. I have dreamed of publishing a book, and I have done so. I have dreamed of making a living with my artwork, and I am trying to. I have wanted to open a gallery and try my hand at that, and as of yesterday I am on track to put my hands to that as well. Wish me luck!
How many times have I said that all I really wanted was so much of what I have at this moment? I have come and gone from this place here on the hillside for the past sixteen years. I returned from Oklahoma in 2005, some fourteen years ago. I have come and gone ever since 2008, returning every time things fell apart elsewhere. Now, after all these years, I am going to do my level best to stay. If I am successful and happy I will have achieved everything I have ever hoped to accomplish. If I am not I will have to access the reasons for that and try a different tack, plain and simple. I pray that this works for me, and my hopes run high that it will.
In 2009 I was here. I had returned from Tucumcari after my dismissal from NM State Parks, much disillusioned as to my next step forward in my life. It was then that I realized my efforts to succeed professionally would be wrought with challenges that I would always struggle with. It tainted my desire to work for anyone, even at the state level, and the months after that time were a struggle to decide how I was going to find suitable work. I was blessed to find work here on the ranch and with NM Tech, and the ensuing two years were, and always will be, some of the finest times of my life. From there I resumed the struggle, went to Arizona and back, then to Mescalero, Fort Sumner, T or C, and back to Fort Sumner, before I came back here. The past eight years have been tough, and I have a lot of forgetting to do, while I work to recall the finer times as well. I feel now that I can truly begin.
I wanted a gallery, a small trading post, now I have it. I have inventory, time, and very little money, but I have enough. Having woken to this new reality, I feel deep in my heart that I will succeed. What I have above and beyond everything else is the pure desire and willingness to make this new effort succeed, and a genuine opportunity to do so. Am I fully prepared to do so? Actually, yes I am. If my plans were not geared in this direction, they were in more ways than I have considered. I have adequate resources, materials and timing to make this work, and I intend to do so. If I have been trying to establish a direction for my efforts, I seem to have succeeded. I cannot take full credit for my success, because I have been struggling to find my direction, but having also put some trust in the machinations of the universe. I seem to have found the path forward. Now all I have to do is apply myself to staying on it and moving forward. I think I am remembering how to do that! Now, I am going to work on just that!
I have made a decision, off the cuff, even if I had been considering it. Even before I returned here to stay I had been considering trying to run a gallery in Carrizozo. I decided to wait for several reasons but it was never far from my mind. When I drove through Carrizozo on Tuesday I then saw the doors open to the shop I had been considering, so I stopped. In essence, I was forced to make my choice, as my friend already rented out the building. I told him my thoughts and that I seemed to have missed my chance. In return he told me he had not rented the portion I would want to use, and a deal was struck. I feel even now, just going in, that there was divine intervention.
August 17, 2020
Indian Divide, New Mexico
A Breath of Normalcy
A breath of normalcy
A sigh of relief
Elk song at daybreak
Clouds wreathing mountain slopes
Bright flowers in the garden
Lush foliage of the leaves
Squash, onions, carrots and chard
Lettuce, garlic, mint and rosemary
I run my hands through the leaves
Inhaling fragrant scents
The drops of water sparkle in sunlight
As I water thirsty soil
The soft breeze caresses my skin
As I turn to greet the day
Sustenance of the purest sort
Nourishing body, mind and spirit
Leaving no room or desire
For anything else
With no need for explanation
I am truly blessed.
Thank you, Ixehe, thank you.
There is a breath of normalcy today, the blessings of a cool summer morning, the elk coming into rut and singing through the hills. I woke and dozed, unwilling to break the spell, mesmerized by peacefulness and curled beneath the blankets of my bed. I am camped out in my bus, the door and windows open to the hillside, as close to nature as I could possibly be yet safely perched as well. At night I can admire the stars and at daybreak watch the changing colors of the dawn while breathing in the freshness of the cool morning breeze. My morning prayers are full of thankfulness and there is so much to be grateful for. I wander into the garden and the greenhouse before I go to the house, soaking up the beauty that surrounds me. I have created an oasis here on the hillside and the good graces of the universe herself have beckoned me to stay. For the first time in so many years I have.
I wonder now why I ever left. I left because I thought I should, to make money, to pay my debts, to buy some land. I left in 2008, and returned, I left in 2011 and came back quickly. I left again and stayed gone for years, coming home to visit, coming home to stay, and leaving again. There were adventures, yes, and love, for a while, but I always came back, and in the end so very little changed. I returned this time with an even greater determination to stay and then, as the COVID became such a stark reality, found the necessity as well. What better place to weather the storm than here where the very definition of self sustainable exists? Suddenly my lifelong desire and effort to be able to sustain myself took on a new definition and I discovered I was better prepared than I had imagined. Still yet, the urgency was greater than I imagined and for a moment I saw all the failings in my life. If I had always aspired to feather this nest so I had failed to do so. If there was plenty of wood there was no solar power. If there was a water well there was no pump, even if those items sat clearly on my list. How the years fly by when one is well employed! How the money gets spent when it is plentiful. How the simple things we so desire slip so quietly through our lives, unrealized and unfulfilled. If I ate so well and traveled so far, if I built not one but three campers, if I paid my debts and created new ones, I never bought those basic things I needed to survive. I then scrambled to do so just in case.
What a year this has been! If I had hunkered down to try to get by and stay here out of a pure desire to do so, the effort redoubled in February. It became pure necessity by March when we were advised to ‘stay home’. Maybe I took it too seriously? Time will tell, but in the two plus months that I stayed home I became as focused on my livelihood as I have ever been. If I suffered the confinement as much as anyone else so I turned the effort to a positive. With no distractions or temptations I created a regiment of wellness, one that I have maintained ever since. I didn’t get fat, I already was, so I honed in on my diet and exercise and lost twenty five pounds. In the process I also regained a level of fitness I have aspired to for years. There were no excuses to do otherwise as I couldn’t go anywhere and had little desire to do so either. When two friends of mine succumbed to the illness my fears were confirmed and my efforts at preparedness justified. If I have always aspired to be healthy as possible now is as good a time as any to be so! I have been rewarded tenfold by the effort as I feel better than I have in years and some semblance of youthfulness remains even as my age creeps up as well.
There have been other gains also. I have always tried to make a positive out of everything. Having decided that this is the safest place I can be in the face of so much uncertainty I have bettered my life in so many ways. Staying home led to a deep clean of my house and surroundings. Gone is so much of the stuff I have gathered over the years. Gone is the sagging porch that was waiting to fall, and so is much of the junk it had sheltered beneath it. I had a collection of things I no longer needed or cared to hold onto. In its place there is a greenhouse. If I planted an early garden, another just in case effort, I battled the elements continually. If COVID wasn’t enough to struggle with there was drought. The garden provided sustenance, for every rat and mouse in the yard. There wasn’t a seedling that survived that first round, nor the second. Even as the greenhouse took form, as much out of desire as necessity, the raids continued, rodents and then bugs, and my precious food source remained at risk. It took a good while before it flourished but the effort was worthwhile. The garden is now full and so is the greenhouse and my trips to town are few.
Maybe I have over prepared but I have always wanted to be self-sufficient and I am so very close to that now. I am still concerned about the winter and I will take no chances either. Even if it is clear sailing going forward why not be prepared for the worst? What greater joy for one such as me than to know I can close the gate and stay put and not do without any comforts I require? I now have my solar panels that I always wanted, simple as they are. If I had envisioned a costly array instead there is a cheap set that provides for my needs. I have all the power I need for what little I need it for. So it is with the water well. If I had considered the expense for so long I found a cheap solar pump and need not haul water either. The garden and I are both happier for that and I wish I had found one sooner! A single trip to town for groceries and laundry once a week creates no hardship and all I lack now is a propane refrigerator, though I have done well with the ice chest for years. Come winter that is even less of a concern and the summer days are shorter already. I have my dry goods also and all the greens and root crops I need if I require them. Add in some dried meat and I am good to go. If I never require any of it my life is easier than it has been in years and what effort it takes to maintain that is gone about with a joyful heart. I’ll be cutting wood before the day is done.
There is a breath of normalcy today. The late rains have greened the hillside and my garden now flourishes. The summer days are beginning to wane and there is a cool touch in the breeze. It is a good day for wood cutting. The squash plants are doing their work and having pickled the last batch of fruit they have a few more days to go, or at least one or two. I will pick some tomatoes this evening and gather some greens for my meal. I have planted the seeds for the winter garden, though today I will start more lettuce in the greenhouse. I will plant some collard greens also, to be for sure, for sure. That will be a learning curve for me but years back we had tomatoes in December in a far less resilient structure. I hope to have a harvest well into the winter and there will be a heater inside come the cooler nights. If much of the effort was begun with some urgency the rewards made it worthwhile. My immediate needs have been met, which is all I have ever really cared about. There are more, of course. There is still my debt to society that I have acquired with the years and never seemed to satisfy. I am still concerned with that and sadly it is my greatest challenge. At least I know I will survive to continue that effort. Yep, it seems that at least for the moment things are back to normal. I can’t ask for anything else!
August 2, 2020: I find it ironic that I had just shared a portion of this story with a friend of mine in response to her question if I had snakes at my house. Someone else asked the same thing just days ago. I will be mindful of the coincidence that this story also reappeared on my Facebook page from a year ago! Perhaps it is a warning that I should be watching for snakes. Or perhaps, as I am again in transition, there is a deeper meaning to the occurrence. I will certainly be listening to all of it.
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.
May 9, 2020
Indian Divide, New Mexico
Good To Myself
I am learning to be good to myself. If I have always aspired to that effort it has now become an essential. Having been here at home and much alone for the past two months I have run the gamut of emotions, along with everyone else in the country and much of the world. We were ‘all’ sent to our rooms and told to stay there and no amount of whining could get us out. Who wanted to get out? Not I said the cat. Those first few weeks I was more than happy to stay home, even if I yearned for some greater measure of human interaction. Now, knowing what I know, I venture out a little more but with all the precautions. Going forward I will cautiously expand my boundaries. I have also made a fair number of phone calls and hope to stay in better touch with friends going forward.
In the interim I have learned some valuable lessons, and I hope to never forget them. I am still learning and if I am looking forward to expanding my circle again I would do well with more time also. The good lessons are never easy and more than ever I am recognizing the substitutes for true spiritual practice. I have never practiced mindfulness but I am beginning to learn the essentials of that. If my way of life has connected me to much of that I have also allowed so much to escape me. I have craved serenity and reveled in it when I found it, but fail to maintain it as a constant. I have elevated my sprit to great heights only to crash back to the ground when the mundane necessities pulled me back down, the wax dripping from my hand fashioned wings. How I mourn those failures! Over time I have learned level flight but the ups and downs still exist and these weeks of confinement have taught me that I still have much to learn.
Is it necessary that we, I, learn how to fill all the voids in our spirits independent of other people or means to do so? Deep question that! Maybe, maybe not. Given that I am a solitary person who for the moment has a near excess of solitude I would say that in my case the answer is yes. Yes, but because that is what I want it to be. I want to fill my own spirit with joyfulness, to allow the essence of joy to enter into me and remain there. I need that as well, and it is one of the few actual needs I have beyond the immediate necessities of survival. I have provided for all of those and at this moment, with a belly full of oatmeal, the morning sun warming my house and the time and clarity to record my thoughts I require little else. A raven circles and lands in my yard and the glimmer of the sun on his wings is joy enough for me. When he lifts and lands for a moment on a fence post before departing he makes me feel as if he dropped in just for my benefit. There is joy in that also. Did I mention the utter peacefulness of a springtime morning with no wind as of yet. I am satisfied to say the least. That the day is my own to do as I wish is just one more layer of happiness. Life is good.
My point is that this might be more of a constant if I was to remain focused on that. Why bemoan my solitude when I have chosen it? Why try to remedy the fact that the isolation of these weeks of confinement sent me into a momentary tailspin when I have risen again into the light? Why bother when in just a few days, or weeks at the most, I may be able to open my gallery and get on with my life. Why? Because I have discovered that I can open that channel to true happiness that has come and gone over the years by being mindful of the desire to do so. Easier said than done but when I focus my energy and effort towards that goal I can open myself to it more consistently than I have ever consciously done. I can allow it to come to me rather than having to venture out in search of it. If I had not been confined to my house for the past two months I never would have taken the time to consider that. I do not want to forget that lesson or fail to maintain the same level of consciousness going forward. In the end that will take an ever greater effort than the one which brought me to where I am now because all of the distractions and alternatives are waiting for me right outside my gate. It is really no different than being sober and walking past the liquor store and I understand addiction quite well. I have been there and done that in other ways. I do not want to be distracted from this heightened sense of awareness but to instead embrace it fully.
Two months. If my initial preparedness was focused on my physical sustenance it evolved over time. I stocked up on dry goods and improved my refrigeration methods by adding an icebox. I will very soon have a 12 volt/propane refrigerator and be as self-sufficient as I have ever been. With that out of the way my next effort was directed at my physical wellbeing. With no distractions from my focus I returned to my exercise routine and as strict a diet as I have been on in years. Without the temptation of a quick taste of junk food while I was in town that was so much easier than usual. After a couple of weeks it became habit and since then I have shed nearly 15 pounds and tightened my belt by two notches! I have added muscle where flab was residing and restored much of my youthful vigor. As always, for which I am blessed, once I focus my efforts I can see them to fruition, at least in the physical sense. Emotionally, spiritually, not so much!!
Having brought myself to an even keel I can now reflect and try to find the means to maintain the much needed balance in the rest of my life. Prayer is great and I have learned over the years that my morning prayer, spoken with arms upraised to the morning sun is powerful. These last two months have redoubled that return as there is so much to be thankful for. Even the solitude is a blessing when I consider the challenges my sister is facing in Nyack, New York, which is within the epicenter of the pandemic. If I regret looking at the map of the cases and the glowing red of the hot zones it was humbling as well. In stark contrast, I live in a place with no shading. When I walked outside last night and looked at the soft glow of the light in my window, powered by solar as I am completely off grid, it drove home the blessing of where and how I live. I want for nothing and I am so wonderfully safe here! Who needs running water and electricity when going to the grocery could be life threatening? Add to that the inability to grow or forage for any food at all? Do I miss the access to a broad community of diverse personalities and ideas, OH YES, but not at the cost I would pay to have that. Especially not now, but I do miss that and it is the root of any real discontent I now have.
My answer is this. I have for the time being leaned deeply towards my inner serenity and the means to maintain this. I recognize how deeply personal that is (after all this is my journal) but that is what works for me. Honestly, we all have that place within us but we need to approach it from our own angles because our needs are so diverse. I am satisfied by the simple things so in some ways it is easier for me. From the other perspective, because I am such a solitary person, some of it is different. With no other person to provide for any immediate emotional exchange I must then do that for myself. I am grateful for having the means to do that, but then again, that is why I chose to live alone! Today it is the stillness, and the birdsong that feeds my spirit. It is the blossoms on the apache plume and the green sprouts in the garden. I find a great comfort in the recording of my thoughts and it is my conversation for the day. My artwork waits on the other table and here directly I will put on some native flute music and perhaps even take a small toke before I slip into the zone of creativity. I will find that sweet spot with ease today and be grateful for the luxury of doing so. If only it was so easy every day, but I am as close to that as I have ever been and I want to maintain it. I am going to do my best to put that effort into practice.
What about the bad days? There have been fewer of late but they have taught me a lesson as well. There is nothing worse than a bad day when there is no place to go to escape it. I’ve had more of those in the last two months than I can recall though they are cyclic as well. We all have bad days, even in the best of times! The difference being that there are more alternatives when one can escape the house, at least for me. Where I might have fled to the saloon in White Oaks for some company and distraction (as I do not drink) instead I stayed here. In lieu of escaping the house I busied myself with the things that I never seem to get to otherwise. I didn’t just pass the day in misery but improved on my space instead. Again I am blessed as there is much more to do here than there would be in a smaller space. If the yard and the woodpile aren’t quite enough there is still a collection of books and treasures to finish sorting through. If I had to escape the house I went and cut wood at the ranch and was so thankful for that escape. I have made much progress! Hell, my porch isn’t just clean, it is gone! If you have ever seen it you would greatly appreciate what that equates to. In the end I felt better for just having done ‘something’. I seem to have gotten through the worst of it now and if I am looking forward to more freedoms going forward I can tough it out with grace if they are not forthcoming.
Lesson learned? I value my friends and family as much as I ever have but my survival mechanisms are in place. I want to get out more and am looking forward to opening my gallery sometime soon, though I am not thrilled at the potential risk of doing so. Could I, would I choose to stay distant if it was an option? Maybe so, but I will welcome getting out and mingling with people again, just at a relative distance. There will be fewer hugs I am afraid but some valuable conversation for certain. At the same time I will value my solitude as much as ever and fill it as richly and completely as possible. I will make even better use of it going forward and will be more mindful of the same. Sure, there will be bad days but the good days are even better than before and I can appreciate them for what they are. I am going to keep on with my diet and exercise also as they really paid off. Being good to myself is not an option, it is a necessity! Every day is just a little more precious than it was before this pandemic wreaked havoc on all of our lives, and I won’t ever forget that. And, if you have read this in its entirety I want to thank you for being a friend and a follower! Stay well and many, many blessings to you!
A repost for one of my dearest childhood friends who just died from the Coronavirus while advocating for the people who most needed to be represented! Rest In Peace old friend!
August 6, 2015
Mescalero, New Mexico
For Josh Kovner RIP
If this was the last summer of my life I would be living it differently. If I knew that for whatever reason I would never again visit the warm silence of an August evening when the day had been a little too warm but the evening breeze felt cool to my skin, I would have to take pause in this instant. I would peruse my life and dispose of all of my baggage immediately and without the slightest regrets.
If I knew that by some twist of fate my life had been foreshortened, regardless of how unfair that might seem, I would make a change. I would quit my job, no matter the possibility that by some miracle I might survive and have to maintain a steady income. I have always managed to get by. I would move back to my Nogal House on Indian Divide this very evening and set myself to making sure the wood pile was ample, as I might live through the winter. I would patch the seam in the attic which has gaped for too long for the same reason, there is a draft there, and I would fix the ceiling also.
If I knew that I would never again have the leisure of the cool summer mornings to make my way to the mountaintop I would seek that out tomorrow, as I did so often in the past. I would wake myself before dawn and watch the sunlight flow across the Carrizo, and I would write about it before I took my walk. I would allow myself the pleasure of reflection on my life before I did anything else, as I have so rarely found the time for of late, and I would savor the words as I always have, but more so!
If this was the last year of my life I would write another book and fill it with the wonders of every moment which was allowed to me, and live those moments to their fullest. I would free myself of all of the complexities and worries which seem to cloud my days and return to the place I left just three short years ago, and remain there. I would cease to worry about what the future had to hold and stop stressing over my bills, though I would still try to honor my commitments. I would go back to doing my artwork and plant a late garden. I would go to work on my friend Candy’s ranch for the rest of the summer and admire the glimmer of the sunlight on the water as it flooded the fields and to watch the pastures green and prosper.
If I thought for a minute I would never again watch the clouds as they build on the horizon, or see the glimmer of first light, or the brilliance of the sunset, I would make my life as simple and carefree as it has ever been and keep it that way. I would busy myself with the most rewarding and productive efforts possible, as I have always professed to do, and disallow anything else which might interfere with that. I would live my life as I have always wanted and needed to do and not worry about what the future had to hold, because the relevance would be absent. I would treasure every waking moment and know it for the gift that it is, and record it so that others might know the same.
If I don’t do that now, when will I?
March 16, 2020 This is one of my favorites from six years ago. I am so glad to have recorded it!
March 15, 2014
Nogal Canyon Road
Bent, New Mexico
Earth and Sky
I wish that I was walking the ridges with my native friends (Karl and Rusty) today, but I am not. I begged off as I was neither physically or emotionally fit for the effort today and the remains of last night’s rare storm still threatened to return. The sky is peppered with clouds and the air is rich with moisture while the peaks of the higher mountains are still kissed with snow, it is a lovely day. I might have joined them with some encouragement but I am grateful for the respite, I am still coughing out the remains of the dust which has clogged the air and my lungs until this morning and I need some more time to recover. For the moment it is enough for me to picture them on the mountainside and to recall their shouts through the canyons as they sounded off to each other as the ravens do in flight, I can still hear them. They will come back richer in antlers and I will be fuller of thought, we will all profit from the effort.
I am still trying to learn more from and about my Native compadres. While we are the same in so many ways, being human beings on a shared planet, in others we are inherently different. Our sensibilities may be shared and yet they differ as do night and day, and some things make no sense at all. Where I, as an Anglo person, seek the peace and clarity I have attributed to the Native Tradition of earth and sky so it seems these men I know I have embraced everything but that and they seek solace in distraction instead. Where I walk into the desert to find my peace of mind they turn up the music and guzzle vodka. I seek respite from the world which surrounds me while they embrace the chaos. What, I have to ask, is the sense or the logic of that? It defeats all of my judgment and contradicts everything which has brought me to desire to live and work amongst this community. Where they seem to fail in their quest for knowledge I enhance my own existence with the very essence of their faith and find more solace in the elements of this earth than I do in the company of humanity. They crowd the hillside to share their bottles of whiskey and stumble down the road inebriated to the point of senselessness without ever achieving the comfort they desire. I escape to the desert to replenish my spirit in the utter solitude I find there and when I attend their ceremonial dances I am transported into another realm of existence. When their ceremony ends at midnight and we Anglos are banished from the feast grounds they celebrate the event by getting drunk. The contradiction is so maddening I cannot even define it.
Just days ago I parked my truck alongside the road and climbed the gate to the wilderness. I wandered along a dusty path to a deep arroyo where the river runs winding down the slope through rock and sand. Willows and elms towered from the depths of the draw and the glow of their fresh new leaves was illuminated by the setting sun. Filtered through the branches of the trees the sun’s rays spread like a fan into the canyon and I captured the moment on camera while kneeling on the crumbling edge of the wash. All the while I hoped the sandy wall would not crumble beneath me and send my body plunging to sure death below, buried in dirt and stone. The resulting photo portrays a celestial moment of glowing light through which the curve of the river can be distinguished upon closer inspection. It was Godspeed to say the least, heavenly light at a bare minimum. I saved the picture and texted it to my friend, who was off on another binge, with the caption, “May all be well with you fool, I will leave you alone now.”
Having satisfied my need to risk my life in order to capture and share the moment I wandered further into the desert as the sun slowly made its way to the distant horizon. Its glowing orb faded from white light to a rich golden glow as it settled on the distant mountains on the western horizon and the sky took on an amber tint. As the last light glowed over the mountain peaks I found my knees. I was mesmerized by earth and sky and drawn to the moment with a reverence that required absolute devotion of mind, body and spirit. It was in this instance that the contradiction between my personal practice and faith glared in such a contrast to that of my closest friends. While I found absolute comfort and solace in the complete and utter solitude of the moment and established such a connection with the totality of life itself my Native counterpart was whirling out of control in an alcoholic stupor. Such a terrible injustice seems beyond belief and comprehension to one such as I who has found such comfort in the simplest things which life has to offer. The very set of values it is based upon is something I learned from the study of the native beliefs! Just where is the disconnect and how can it be reattached?
If our ancestors captured the Native peoples and herded them onto the Reservations like cattle into a corral did they also effectively slaughter their spirits? Can such a strong and proud race such as they who lay claim to being the “First People” simply lay down their weapons and allow themselves to be killed off by a far lesser human presence? Of all the tribes in this state the Apaches were the last to be driven into captivity and yet they are as defeated as any other I have met with. Can the force which is so effectively destroying the very atmosphere of this world even poison the spirits of those who inhabited this planet in absolute harmony with the earth and the sky and who held such a reverence for the same? Can the distillation of alcohol, rendered from the very fruits and seeds which nourished generations of people, be the final destructive force? What an injustice that would be! That these men and women willingly allow this to occur is the greatest injustice of all and I must ask each and every one of them how they can permit this to happen. Who then will inhabit this earth when the other peoples have destroyed their own lives and the animals return without the Natives? They will have relinquished their own right to the planet by making such a choice.
I implore that there will be Natives who will read my words and wish to contest them. I hope and pray that they will rise above the defeat and the apathy which has allowed so many of them to relinquish their very spirits and that they can vnquish the demons which were introduced to their lives in order to conquer them. I beseech them to return to the desert and the forest and to call upon the same Gods who have blessed my heart and to find the strengths in themselves to restore all which has been taken from them. I have searched my life through to find the solace and the comfort of earth and sky and have found it no place else except for the solitude of the desert and the forest. I wish for them to do the same. I cannot know their Gods or their spirits but have found something equal to them instead and I can only imagine the power they have for their own people!
I am amazed and saddened by the failings of the people who I have idolized from the early days of my life. I have taken the Native American wisdom and imparted it on my own spirit in order to rise above the fear and the strife which defined my youth on the east coast of this great country. I fled from the masses for the protection of the forest and desert here in New Mexico and sought to heal myself from that pain. I succeeded to a great degree but have also nearly defeated my purpose at the very instant I thought I might have found sanctuary! It is the very failing of these people who I have idolized which has driven me to the brink of my own failure as I have taken on the very sorrow which they have allowed to destroy them. If they cannot survive it how can I possibly manage to do the same?
Survive I will, it is an inherent part of my nature to do so. I have communed with the earth and the sky and found it to be good. I have embraced the warm breast of nature and found the comfort I required. I have found strength and direction in the wind and the sky and all is well with me. I have walked in quiet solitude as the day faded to night and found the answers which I needed for my questions. I will walk forward proudly and in strength and offer my words and my accomplishments to everyone I meet with who might wish to listen. I pray that I am able to share that. I will turn my back, as I already have, to all which is out of harmony with life itself and instead embrace the goodness of the world while hoping that the very people whose wisdom taught me how will also do the same! May all be well with you, my Native friends.
February 3, 2020
Indian Divide, New Mexico
The Perfect Storm
This is the perfect storm
Arriving on the heels of a bitter wind
Laden with dust and drought
And having led me to question the merit
Of a life on this windswept hillside.
The winds come in March I thought
And if this is winter
Summer will be unbearable,
Until this morning.
The flash mob of snowflakes
Bursting from a unknown place
Unexpected and enlightening
Became the perfect storm
I am rarely as surprised as I was this morning, waking to snowfall. It rained last night from a clear and star filled sky, so of course it would snow, wouldn’t it? There were clouds, yes, off to the west where the storms now come from. They always came from the east before now, but everything else is awry, so why not the weather? This has been one of the driest winters, and warmest, until today. What was it yesterday but for a minute like summer, until the winds came. We have run the gamut of seasons in the course of twenty four hours, and I am okay with that! I scurried to bring in wood thinking myself a fool, and that it would warm again by noon. Now I am happy to sit by the fire. I have been tricked before, and even the weather man did not predict this. It will be twelve degrees tonight. Last night it was thirty two, and that hasn’t yet wavered since this morning.
The perfect storm, when I had a list of ‘must do’s’ for the day. Instead I can add one more thing to my list of things I am grateful for. There is nothing I wished to do that cannot wait until tomorrow, and no crisis in allowing that to occur. Instead I can fall back on all of the things I wanted to do, and find pleasure in the doing. There is a book to finish, and perhaps another to begin. There are the loose ends I can tie, and a few phone calls perhaps, or not even that. What about the perfect silence of the falling snow? I can revel in that as well, and there will be no visitors either. I have come to treasure the silence as much as I do my solitude, in careful measures. Better that I take the time to ponder the blessing of the snow, knowing that the drought makes it all that more precious. The dust will lay low for days, or maybe even longer.
This is a good day for a slow fire, a big log and a little air, cozy. The stove pings quietly with the flickering flame, and the heat radiates softly through the room. There is a slight draft somewhere, but not intolerable. The breath of cool air through the window frame is a welcome reminder of the cold I need not face. There is a great comfort in that, knowing there is no ice for me to break or chores to be done, even if I miss the horses. It would be worth it, to brave the storm for their sake, as I have done in the past, but for now I have been spared. I would also trade the exhilaration for the comfort, gladly. I will have to consider that going forward, but neither shall I complain. For today I shall revel in the perfection of this storm, unplanned for and unexpected. It caused me to take pause, and I will take full notice of that. Sometimes, no matter how mindful we think we are, we forget the essence of things. There is nothing that I have to do today that cannot wait until tomorrow. Instead I will do all of those things that I had chosen to let wait. Turn around is fair play, isn’t it. That has made this the perfect storm.
I AM SO EXCITED TO ANNOUNCE THE PUBLICATION OF MY FIRST BOOK, “IF NOT NOW, WHEN?” I WILL BE READING SOME OF MY ESSAYS THIS SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE ADOBE PALACE BALLROOM (NIKE BAR) IN CARRIZOZO, NEW MEXICO, AT 7:30 PM. I WILL ALSO DO A BOOK SIGNING AFTER THE EVENT. PLEASE JOIN US FOR THE ART WALK FROM 6:30 PM TO 9:30 PM.
IF YOU CANNOT ATTEND AND WOULD LIKE TO PURCHASE A SIGNED COPY OF MY BOOK FOR $15.00 (plus postage) PLEASE MESSAGE ME HERE OR ON FACEBOOK AND I WILL RESPOND IMMEDIATLY.
THANK YOU FOR FOLLOWING MY PROGRESS AND MAKING THIS DREAM A REALITY! MORE EVENTS TO FOLLOW SOON!