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……..
5/24/21 I wrote this piece 11 years ago. I still live in this same place and have come home to stay. The night sky is still dark and even last night the coyote spoke to me, waking me from my slumber in my camper with the door left open to the night. The bed in the house will be vacant until winter returns, I prefer the outside and my feral nature requires it. Some things will never change.
May 20, 2010
Indian Divide, New Mexico
I have become much as some feral creature, reliant on the silence for my safety and my peace of mind. Just as I am drawn to the complete darkness which can only be found when the moon rises late and only stars light the sky, so I find comfort in the same. Is this what pulls me to the Plains of San Agustin, making even my own familiar haunt a questionable shelter? Sure this is still my home but I am pulled away from it by some new temptation, a memory of something more which cannot be replicated here for it was stolen away many years ago. I am civilized, yes, but my deeper spirit calls for release and she languishes in the shelter of my soul. She gazes out but squints at the bright lights across the highway. She craves the dark silence that only the remote places can offer her.
What of those dark silent nights along the highway, so many years ago? I was hitchhiking through Montana and Wyoming, crossing the Great Divide where I made camp on the roadside in the trees and was as far removed from all I had known as I had ever been in my lifetime. Ah yes, she was a feral creature then as well, most especially when she was curled deep in her sleeping bag hidden from the world but equally so when she stood beside the roadway and waited for a ride. She still speaks to me, as do the canyons and the coyotes which call me off in the same way as those long narrow chasms do when I pass through remote places. I must wonder if they will release me and allow me to return!
Silence, it surrounded me late last night when I returned home, and once again in the darkness when I stepped back out my door. The chill is unnoticed at such times when the glow of the Milky Way is splashed across the sky and the breeze is but a whisper. The night birds chirp softly and the owl calls, waiting for an answer. When I am truly blessed there will come along a solitary howl of a coyote from some far canyon……….calling me home. I am done with all the rest it seems even as I try to cling to some sense of convention. I am struggling with it now. The pull of the wilderness has always been there and it draws me away but this is different, deeper and more solemn, more important than it was in the past for it is a pure element of my survival. As the material things matter less and less so I am pulled further away from them and all that is required for their attainment. What was nearly lost is once more found and abounds in the silence which surrounds me.
May 13, 2021
Indian Divide, New Mexico
Dawn rested soft clouds
On the peak of the Vera Cruz
Morning wind came
And swept them away
Dispersing precious moisture
And stealing hopes of rain
Yet still the air is cool
And moist with prayed for storms
Lifting our spirits
Above the drought
And sending tendrils of hope
From the heart of the yucca
Aching to flower
For the bring summer storms
I woke early to watch the clouds race through the morning sky while the heavier fog lay still on the mountain top. It is always heartening to see the mountain peaks cloaked in moisture and this morning it settled deep into the canyons to the east, only to disperse with the rising of the sun. Still, there was moisture enough for it to be there, and it makes me hopeful that some distant storm will bring a trace of rain to these thirsty hills. Drought has become the norm here and the threat of fire is omnipresent. It is a recent memory rather than a great concern. It all could have burned here but it didn’t. We were saved by a late winter storm that surely won’t repeat itself. Next time we may not be so lucky, and next time will be soon enough if it doesn’t rain. It isn’t raining, but there were clouds. We will pray for summer storms.
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
May 8, 2021
Indian Divide, New Mexico
I slept outside last night
Closer to the elements
And closer to the sky
I pushed open the back door
And left it open to the night
Allowing the wind and the sky
To surround me
With cool breathe and bright stars
And I rediscovered a part of me
That has been sheltered and confined
Her feral grace came quickly
The coyotes howled my name
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?