September 19, 2017
Vera Cruz, New Mexico
Having lived so close to the elements for so long sometimes I forget their proximity. It is the wind that reminds me this morning, and I had to capture the thought. The wind, cooling with the season and now colder than it was at daybreak. If I donned a warm shirt at dawn, so I shed it, only to find just a few minutes later I required the comfort of the same. If it was windy earlier, it is more so now, and the breeze finds its way through the house.
House you say? What that it is little more than a mean shack, but it is also my home. If it was never fully secure the years have been unkind to it, and now it is less so. What was once a solid home has suffered the wear of the years and the wind and storms have pried at all the weak places. Even in the writing I am reminded I need to recaulk the remaining windows before they too fall out. I repaired them when I first came here but the seal has cracked and broken. Even before I came home the big window in the kitchen fell and broke. The board that covers the one in the back bedroom has warped also and I can now feel the breeze.
If this was never a perfect shelter it has served me well all the same. I have found much comfort in this place and in so many ways kept it standing. If I had not been here the rats would still reign, and the windows would have gaped to the elements. I have patched and repaired them as they began to fail, even if I never replaced the glass. The house is not mine and of no value to anyone else, though they are proud of the land and care not to sell. It works well for me, I have paid the taxes and resided here for years, and feel blessed for the opportunity.
Still yet, like the elements I have become so familiar with, in the writing I am reminded of the fragility of my circumstance! What if I have to leave here someday? Can I expect another fourteen years of such comforts, or the absence of the same. Can I expect the remaining glass to remain firm, even as I patch the other spaces? Could I hope to be resilient enough to brave all those winters going forward as I age? These are the elements of living we so easily overlook, until that chill wind reminds us.
I will not ponder the latter just now, I am too close to the things of more immediate necessity. I am listening to the fall wind and perusing windows, challenging enough for one day. I realize how such things have kept me honest, and so close to the earth, and have no desire to alter that. I will patch the aging caulk when I return, and cover the gaping windows. Having built my bus over the last few years I have found the value in Styrofoam and will cover the broken frames with the same.
As I have done in years past I will batten the hatches in anticipation of winter, and ready myself for the onslaught. I will do so happily also. I enjoy the challenge of the elements as much as I do the warmth of my fires. There is a smug satisfaction in finding such comforts in such a borderline existence. If I have chosen my lifestyle quite deliberately at no time have I ever been so aware of that. I traded this life here for a leaky RV and then built a shelter in the confines of a bus. I have to say I am grateful to return here in the end, even if it has its failings. It is the proximity to the elements, so the same as in the bus, but different, that I treasure the most. The wind, in its return, has reminded me of the same! If the windows were more solid I might have missed that!
September 16, 2017
Vera Cruz, New Mexico
Break of Day
The day broke with perfection and if there was any concern as to the quality of the hours to come it was abolished. If some days seem born of struggle there are others which are blessed, as if the alignment of the stars has deemed them so and nothing can change that. I can only hope this holds true with this one!
Waking with the dawn has become a good practice over the years, as much out of necessity as desire. There is a calm beauty of that first few minutes of the day which seems to depart through the passage of time. There is so little reason to miss it and so many to justify the effort of getting to the door before the sun breaks over the mountains. If I have written of this one hundred times I have witnessed it by the thousands. Today was no exception.
This morning was filled with the usual beauty and in so many ways surpassed it. The seasons have changed and the first hint was the glow of the broom weed. The last few days have been warmer than usual and even as it bleached the green out of the summers’ ample grass so it coaxed the weeds to flower. Before the sun even brought its light the hills took on a golden cast and changed the nature of the view. In contrast, one spare cloud took pause above my house and greeted me with raindrops before it traveled on.
Not to be outdone a raven whooshed by and offered his greeting and in the back ground the elk sent up their song. They are coming into the rut and their high whistle reverberates from the canyons. It is the song of fall and one cannot avoid being captured by their exuberance. I had to stand quietly and listen before moving on with the day. It seems even my morning fire was caught in the spirit of the dawn and came to life quickly, the chunk of juniper crackling happily even after the rest was down to coals. My tea will be hot this morning and the oatmeal boiled quickly!
In the midst of this my eyes followed the solitary cloud as it drifted to the east, taking all promises of rain with it. After a good summer the earth has already dried and every bit of moisture is a blessing. The last of the rain drops touched my shoulders as I said my morning prayer. As if in answer the rising sun caught the topmost blades of the windmill. It is turned to the perfect angle as the wind still catches it even when the brake is set. The first light glowed off the blades and it was framed by the cloud.
So often the break of day is such that we can only bear witness but never capture to glory of its beginnings. It seems today I was able to do both, savoring the wonder of it and then finding not only the words but the perfect picture as well. If the mountains are already bathed in sunshine and the long shadows of the dawn washed away, the first light remains upon the page. If my morning prayer encompassed all of it I extend it further yet and hope that that first light, that soft glow of the sun on the windmill and the raindrops touch everyone today. There is, in the end, no greater beauty than the beginning of a new day, for all of us.
September 7, 2017
Vera Cruz, New Mexico
The Power Of A Dream
I was up late last night, captured by some sense of urgency to complete a couple of projects. I am going to work on my camper today and needed to stain some boards. I should have done that days ago to let the odors dissipate but at least they will be dry. So too, I oiled an old harness I had packed away years ago. It was in poor shape when I found it and even worse now but the oil will improve its appearance. It is a wall hanger in all respects but now it will find a new home. I am selling it, along with so many other old things I no longer see a use for. If they once gave me a comfort I required they are now more a burden than a pleasure. Perhaps this is a function of age, or maturity, or simple satisfaction with my chosen lot in life. It is now full enough of all the wonders of experience that I no longer need these ‘things’ to assuage me. The empty spaces they leave behind are even more liberating than the small financial return I will receive from their sale. What I cannot sell I will give away!
I will mention one other thing about this harness. As a horsewoman I have an affinity for leather and tack. Having ridden and driven horses and mules all of my life each piece of leather becomes a serviceable piece of equipment worthy of respect and good care. This practice is also practical, the equipment cannot perform without being in good condition and could be injurious to horse and user if it breaks. Picture the harness in particular, connecting the horse to a heavy load and its passenger as well. So it was, as I oiled and straightened the brittle leather, that I marveled at the repairs it had suffered before it was tossed in the crate I purchased it in. As I pulled the last bunches of some long dead horses hair from the creases, (it must have been spring time as it was in bunches) so I came to rivets and wire where the leather had been patched back together.
This harness must have belonged to a man of meager means. As old and dry as it is I would date it back to my youth, and I am fifty nine years old. I would imagine at that time it was an essential piece of equipment, not some pleasure horse and buggy of our modern days, though there were some pretty rivets on the carrying piece behind the collar. The reason I bought it was the collar braces were still in good repair, essential as they are. Still yet, whoever last used the equipment used it until it was no longer good enough to trust and they either retired themselves or simply never retrieved the useable pieces that remained. I imagine they must have just walked away from it for as frugal as they were it is surprising that the collar braces were abandoned also.
My reason for even mentioning this is more personal than the nostalgia. Whoever it was that so depended on this now defunct piece of equipment, it was his livelihood. A man of meager means who set to work with his horse each day to eak out whatever living he could find. Or perhaps he plowed a field each year to provide sustenance for his family. All told he made do with what he had and if I am romanticizing the possibilities, it is what I heard as I oiled the tangled remains of the harness. The thing is, if someone came here to this house after I had been gone for a few years and saw it, minus the creative efforts that grace every wall, they might think the same. It is what I saw when I first arrived. In fact, I live much the same way old Ernest Wright, the previous dweller here, lived. Or not, he used the gas lights and had no need for the generator, and he kept the windmill in good working order as he ran the water to the kitchen sink. I have done the same in years past but for the moment lack the funds for the repairs, or to fill the big propane tank, so I carry water instead and use either the generator or kerosene lanterns for light. I am sure I love the woodstove as much as he did, and I built the hearth for my summer needs, as I would rather burn wood than gas.
The point being is that he, as I, embraced the necessity as much as he created it. We too appear as people of meager means though in my case it is by choice to live so, as it may well have been his. He lived here for more years than I can imagine and stayed until he could no longer do so. I require the simplicity and embrace it whole heartedly, but I don’t have to live that way. I no more than have to pick up the phone and make a few calls and I could be employed, but I don’t want to, not yet! Even going forward I have every intention of keeping it simple, though I will improve on things where I wish, including the income to do so. If for now I am content to take a well-earned handout and savor some leisure time I am also laying the groundwork for the time when it will no longer come my way. By November I had better have a plan in place or things might not be good.
This leads to the power of a dream. If I worked late last night so I slept late this morning. I woke at dawn but dozed off again and in the ensuing hour dreamt a vivid and powerful dream. Forgive me, but I am a wastewater operator so for whatever reason it is what I dreamed of. Still in all it was out of context. I have spent my career learning and working in a basically rural environment, not the industrial size ones of the cities. In fact, I have seen very few systems that handled more than a hundred thousand gallons per day, yet I dreamed I was in Ohio at a much bigger facility. I dreamt I was at a training there and the processes were amazing and such as I had never seen performed. I am still marveling that my imagination, and some part of my education, allowed me to create and experience such detail! The insight will stay with me in more ways than one.
That was it, the insight. When I awoke I was able to recall every detail of the dream, and even the faces of the workers. The fascination remained with me also and in those waking moments I had a life altering epiphany. If I am absolutely content with the utter simplicity of my life at this moment I know from experience that I could either allow myself to settle into it and languish or I will find the need to venture forth once again. My desire to attain a few more goals will lead me forward and if I have already formulated a plan, so it is clearer yet. If I intend to teach now I see the lessons as they need to be shared. If my audience will be as rural as my own experience, so now I see the larger picture. If my purpose was already clear, so I see it fully.
As if in answer to that my phone rang before I even combed my hair. I was standing on my porch marveling at the stillness of the air. It was so still in fact that I could hear the whoosh of the ravens’ wings as three bird flew past above the hillside. I was nearly holding my breath so as the follow their passage for as long as I could hear them when I was interrupted. I stepped back inside to answer it. One of my previous coworkers has just moved into the lead position at a wastewater plant and his call could not have been more timely. He is now responsible for the things I was doing before I was dismissed, and far less qualified in experience for the task. He is qualified in his abilities, he simply lacks the education and experience. If I was directed through my environment and education to seek a viable means of supporting myself I never envisioned myself in a place of authority. Neither did he, but in the same way I was he is capable of the same, and willing to pursue it. If my intent has been to fill that need with my outreach and teaching, so I had the immediate chance to offer the same. Such an affirmation it was to my dream and first thoughts, and more than coincidental from any perspective.
So there is a lesson, as there is in all things. I have lived so much of my life in a deliberately slipshod manner. There are those who would argue that, and I would have to agree because I have also been focused and professional, but only insomuch as I have chosen to be. I might have achieved far more in the material sense if such was my intention, but it never has been. If I have cultivated my skills and applied that energy to so many efforts, so I have stepped back and lived as I am living now, riveting and wiring the proverbial harness in order to keep it in usable service. I will leave behind the remains of that effort in my passing also.
Who knows, that same harness may have graced the back of some fine well bred horse, the better equipment sacrificed for the ownership of the same. So too it may be with me. If I have lived a very simple and basic existence, content with the bare minimum of creature comforts, so I drive a really cool array of vehicles and live a glorious comfortable life by my own standards! I can continue to have both, while also filling my obligation to the broader realm of our existence, without sacrificing the simplicity and peacefulness I have defined my life with. I can venture out to those places I wish to explore and reach out to those like myself, who have embraced a life of community service by providing for others essential necessities. I can go back to those water and wastewater plants where I have spent so many of the last eighteen years and instead of working there I can help those who have taken my place. I can do this for two or three days at a time and then return to my roost and my fire. If this was already my plan, the dream and the phone call affirmed it.
When I sell that old harness I will point out the repairs that kept it in service for so long. If I have the chance I will also share some of the insight it evoked. That pile of dried out old leather and the treasures tangled within it have sat in my shed for more years than I can recall. If I have looked at it I never took it down until just a few days ago and only yesterday applied the oil it had begged for from the start. In doing so late in the day I also chanced to watch the moon rise over the hillside. I made appoint of savoring the peacefulness and the ritual of the care to the leather, as I have done so often in the past. It left me with a lasting insight, and somehow evoked the inspiration I discovered this morning. Such, is the power of a dream. What a fine way to begin this new day.
September 2, 2017
Vera Cruz, New Mexico
It is now the stillness which has become an essential. I noticed this first when I could not bring myself to start the generator in the mornings. It us not so much a necessity as it is a convenience. While I run it in the evening for light and to charge my devices, it is nice to begin the day with a full charge also. It is not loud enough to really be a distraction as I have housed it in the shed, but instead it breaks the stillness. This is key as I have discovered that the stillness reaches deep inside of me when it is present and I savor that feeling. I am learning to be still, even if I am so often in motion.
If I have spent so much of my life searching after outcomes I am now content with the present. So much so, in fact, that I am having to very carefully set goals for myself so as not to recreate the necessity which so often drives my efforts. For once, in all of these so many years, I can do this. It is that, coupled with my forays into the wilderness, which made my life such a pleasure when I worked for NM Tech in 2010 and 2011, and which has been so absent since then. I created the bulk of necessity then as I took the time off to so enjoy my life. I am doing something of the same now, though now that I have maxed my cards I will draw the line there.
I would rather pay as I go anyway and even now I have achieved that. Rather than run to town on a whim or purchase things I want but really don’t need, I have instead prioritized everything. If it is only 12 miles to town I still only go when I need food, ice and gas. I have little desire to go otherwise anyway, there is too much to do, or not do, right here. Of course I am doing, even as I am learning to be still. I rearranged my studio yesterday and am ready to return to my creative pursuits. I am also going through every piece of my possessions and will sell or give away the bulk of it. I will, as I was the last time I did this, be as happy to profit from the effort as to part company with those things I no longer require. And I require so little!
Having lived very comfortably on a 200 square foot dwelling for the last six years there is so little that I need! The bulk of what I have surrounded myself with is art and treasures I have amassed in my travels which enrich my spirit more than anything else. Aside from that there are the few other essentials, table, chairs, etc., and my books and tools. The rest is just baggage. I am blessed also in my solitude here, there is no shared attachment to things which would otherwise have little useful value! I wish to add to the stillness a degree of simplicity which allows for the separation from those things I no longer require. The ensuing freedom will be equally welcome.
And so it is I surround myself with a new level of stillness which I will defend with all my heart. By not thirsting after outcomes I can instead allow the universe to guide my course, while still actively participating. I will now set my mind and my hands to the things which bring me the most pleasure and live within my means on the returns. My long term goal has been to develop the ability to do so and I have succeeded in that effort. As always my old adage of, “If not now, when?” comes to mind and I have arrived at that juncture before. I can easily say I am now prepared to follow through, and that I am looking forward to doing so. I will keep it simple and straightforward and I know I will succeed, as I already have. What I will do differently is to make my choices carefully and not repeat the mistakes of the past. If I find myself wandering off my path I will right myself immediately and not allow any false pretenses to mislead me. What you see is what you get and no amount of wishing otherwise will change that. This applies to all things.
This is the beauty of what I have. I am surrounded by the efforts and accomplishments of the last many years since I established my presence here. If it is a bit unsettling to have so much stuff it has all served its purpose at a given moment. That I may profit from parting with it also brings its own reward. While any monetary returns will be most welcome the opportunity to share those items with someone who will put them to use will be an equal pleasure. Each piece will carry a lesson also, of how, as we complete ourselves, we require less and less to do so. By arriving at the level of stillness I have now acquired I can see this so clearly. I no longer require distractions or possessions to feel I am complete as it instead emanates from within my own self.
It has taken me many years to attain this level of stillness, even if I have sought it out from the start. I can still recall my forays into the ‘woods’ as a very young child. I would wander off into the trees or into the field just beyond our yard and sit down on the ground by myself. I might even lie back in the grass or the leaves and watch the clouds drifting by on the breeze. I would surround myself with that stillness and feel as content as I ever did anywhere else. In so many ways I was retreating from the noise and distraction of the rest of human kind, my family and the world which surrounded us. I found a solace there which has never been equaled by anything or anyone else.
It returns to me in its entirety now, and I have learned how to sustain it. I require so little else to survive. Another life lesson, well taken.
September 1, 2017
Vera Cruz, New Mexico
There Comes A Time
Such a year this has been! I have made so many of the changes I had hoped to make, not so much in the order I had envisioned, but changes all the same. If there was no intention to return here the transition was a good one and now that my feet are back on the ground I can see its full value. I have no desire to consider what the alternatives might have been. I came here out of necessity in more ways that I had known. If the restoration is not yet complete it is closer each day. If for the first few weeks I struggled terribly there was no desire to alter the facts. Now, after three months, I am assured that I have turned yet another corner in my life.
Out of necessity I have been contemplating future endeavors and even went so far as applying for potential employment. That option has been the least appealing of the choices, but also a viable one. For that same reason amongst others, I ventured forth to the ITCA Tribal Summit in Isleta this week. There again is another potential source of employment, as well as a chance to network with representatives from RCAC, the organization where I applied. There too were my peers, who are doing the same work as I have proposed, as contractors with ITCA as well as independently. They are all very successful and I admire their skill sets as much as I do their devotion. I also have some desire to emulate their skills, but not their lifestyles.
There comes a time and mine has arrived. I have battled these choices for my lifetime and spent so much of it moving between the two realms in search of the solutions. I have been the proverbial gypsy through it all, keeping my personal life simple and unfettered as while still working my way through as I must. I have been a devoted employee as well as living on the fringe. I have eked out a living with the bare essentials and I have made a plentitude of money and lived quite well, at least by my standards! I have cratered and I have excelled. I have never failed to recover from the worst times, or stayed the course through the best. I have always retuned here in the end, as I have done again now.
If there was ever a time to decide what I wanted most out of my life it is now. There are a few tears in wait all of a sudden, such is the weight of the emotion. The desires remains unchanged. Having stepped away for three days the return here is an assurance I am living as I wish, with very few exceptions. The exceptions are external, ownership and income being the greatest. If this place was my own the rest would be simple. I would pay my debts and necessities as I go and be done with the rest. I can do the same anyway and for the moment I shall. It is almost enough! I have set a goal professionally also. I need to make enough money to maintain myself and my commitments and I will do so accordingly. I will not make a full time commitment to anyone but instead apply my skills where and when they are required so as to meet my current needs. If I can make $500.00 a week I can hold my own…….
I had thought for a moment to take another job. The appeal of a steady check, benefits, and all the perks sounded appealing, and it is. I know I have the skills and ability to do it well, and even with some pleasure. I could even excel at it, and be well paid for my efforts. I would be paid to travel and to share my expertise. There would be airports and hotels, days on the road, restaurants and the endless cycle of that effort. Or I could stay here and build another fire, create my artwork and offer the same service as the need arose, which it will. If ITCA adds me to their list of ‘Subject Matter Experts’ there will be interim trainings for me to present to tribes across the states which I will gladly present. I can do the same under my own moniker also, when and where I chose. That, and a small water system or two, will be more than enough. And I can stay here.
There comes a time when all that matters is one’s own comfort and security. Never in my life have I had fewer needs or wants. I need to maintain my stability and to meet my obligations, which I will. I want to do the same. I also want a place where I know I will always be able to return to, as I have done here, with the assurance it will be there. I have ceased to consider the chance that I may have to leave here someday, but it is still a constant reality. It keeps me from applying the extra effort to better things also, and I would prefer to do that. I would like to find an alternative, but it can wait for now.
From this day forward I am going to dig a little deeper to find the means to stay and make it work as best as I can, without sacrificing my freedoms. I am not feeling too well so I will keep it simple for the moment. I will make a few plans and phone calls and then clean out my studio. If my energy prevails I will do some artwork, and my laundry. I will spend my day as simply and productively as I wish for each one going forward to be spent. I will make every effort to produce enough to perpetuate that effort, through outreach and creativity. I will think of today and not worry about tomorrow. I saw what I needed to see to make that decision, and the premise of it is sound. There is no reason for me to do it any differently, and it is time to make that work.
The raven greeted me this morning from his perch atop the windmill. I will watch for him tomorrow.
August 24, 2017
Vera Cruz, New Mexico
On occasion there comes the perfect morning. I woke well rested and early, lying still in the cool greyness of the dawn. The rain clouds clung to the sky as they have seemed to have done all summer. The air was still and allowed for the full weight of serenity to surround me in such completeness I cared not to break the spell. How precious such instances are in a life that if simple still becomes hectic out of pure necessity. If I have been trying to be still I seem as busy as ever. Or perhaps I have become so selfish with my time that every distraction is noticeable!
This morning there are no distractions, though I turned on the generator to charge my devices. I would prefer utter silence but it is the price I pay for not investing in solar. If I have overlooked one thing that would be it, regrettable but something I must accept. If I have arrived at a place where I again live on shoe strings I still have goals. The remaining needs will be met in time. For now I am grateful to have the generator, and this warm quiet place to support me. It could have so easily been worse.
If the dawn was still and allowed for a perfect fire so the wind turned quickly also. It is one of those things I might have missed if I had not gone out and lit the hearth. Instead I am harshly aware of it and grateful for the woodstove which also warms me now. The wind, which was almost nonexistent when I lit the fire, turned and came out of the north. The stove pipe faces north and is bent at a 45 degree angle and catches the wind perfectly, smothering an otherwise lively fire. I brought in my tea pot and placed it on the woodstove instead. In the process I am reminded again of the change of the seasons, as I was when I looked at the thermometer this morning. It sits at 55 degrees instead of 60 as it has all month.
It is already colder than that at the higher elevations and summer is on her way out. If I have always lived close to the elements I am closer now. My existence is slightly more precarious than it has been in years. Not much mind you, the bus has been a fragile barrier in the worst of times when the electricity failed to be available. Though the woodstove suffices for a good heat source the fire box is small and on the coldest nights must be replenished to be effective. Here I have the luxury of a bigger log for the cold nights but no back up either. If I leave for a day it will be cold when I return. A propane heater would make a nice backup, but it is yet another investment I might have made before now! As with all else it will have to wait until I have a better income.
If I have done anything in the years I have been gone it is to grow a bit wiser and more attentive to my needs. Having never desired or needed much luxury the creature comforts are essentials. When I have traveled for work, as I am apt to do again, there were times I returned to a cold house and had to wait for it to warm. If it is a minor inconvenience for the most part it is one I could live without. Now, having had the pleasure of an electric heater to hold back the chill I am considering the need for a similar comfort here. Still yet, it will have to wait. I have only the funds for necessities for now and I have yet to have the desire to make a change. I have until November until my small stipend runs out and I intend to enjoy the freedom, even if there is no money for anything else! I can already see the merit of doing so and by the time necessity requires a change I will have rearranged my priorities. Even now, with the prospect of a job offer I may not be able to refuse, I am weighing the options.
Here in lies the challenge. Soon enough I will have to choose between a hard scrabble existence and the option of a steady income, at the cost of my freedom. I have spent the past two and a half months at my leisure as I feel I have earned and deserve it. I also recognized that the only way I could restore myself to my previous good health was to take pause. It is so easy for one such as I to occupy her mind and time with any amount of things, which I am still doing, but only as I choose. I have no clock to punch and no set schedule, beyond the items I have chosen to connect to.
I have been so efficient with that as to not even work on my art. Instead I am focused on putting my house and possessions in order, and to spend a lot of time out of doors, wandering the hills as I wish. It has proved a good practice. I fill my mornings with my fire and my words, sorting through my life as I go. The stillness, such as I occasioned on this morning, is immense. If others wonder how I could possibly fill my time my greatest lament is there is not near enough of it! Even now I ache to spend some more time on my book, or to begin another, aside from wanting to cut some wood, dig through some boxes and work on my camper. I do have art work to do also…..you get my point! I will never allow for an idle moment even when I am free to do so, but it is all of my own choice. That little of it pays is unfortunate, and the subject of my future, for at some point it will have to!
Such luxury I am surrounded by right now that I am resistant to doing anything else, which is why my artwork lies still. With that the question lies unanswered if I could support myself through those efforts, though I have tried in the past. As with my writing I am loath to risk the chance that either become a job I have to perform. I prefer the pleasure of both, even if it costs me in the end and if there is a challenge at this moment that is it. I am, in essence, my own worst enemy! The other danger is far greater than that though, for I have always found the means to meet my necessities and I am on track to do the same. Thus the quandary. I can continue as I am and surround myself with the simple joys and the effort of maintaining them, or I can step back into the quagmire and make some more money.
Sadly, money is the key, as always, to how I will decide. Soon enough I will need to displace the ‘thank you for not working check’ with the products of my own device. I know that I can do this, even from here if I wish, but the methods are diverse. I can pick up some work here close in, do my art and even perhaps market my words, or I can get another job. If I am living hand to mouth and finding much happiness I do not have to do that. If I have already chosen that alternative so I have the choice of the security of a steady job, less the complete serenity of this moment! I am, sadly, very hesitant to consider that, though I am going to apply.
Better to have the offer to consider a month from now than to leave it off the table, even if the pressure will be there until then. That is the trouble. If there is one thing I need at this moment it is the utter stillness I so seek. If I am never truly still I want, for just a moment, to have no pressing need to consider. If I so much as toss my hat into the arena I have altered that possibility, even if I choose to ignore it until they call. They will call, and they will interview me and they will offer me the job. They have done so before and I refused because I did not want to move to Arizona. This job will allow me to stay here…….or anywhere I wish to go. That is the key, it will allow me to go where I please also, even to Datil or Quemado if I am so inclined. That is something to think about. In even a year’s time I could so secure my future, but at the cost of a present I am loath to leave behind.
In so many ways I have been blessed. Here I sit on an August morning with no pressing need or commitments. Sure, there are things I need to do and I will be driving to Fort Sumner this evening to wrap up things there, but I don’t have to. If the generator is a mild distraction so there is the peacefulness beyond it. My wood stove is warm and I have ample supplies for the winter. I have enough wood and leather to meet my needs if I wish to work on that, at least for a while, and such perpetuates itself. I can ride this out until November and there is plenty of time to make a plan. I also have options, something that was far less available the last time I lived here! Given all that there are so few loose ends I need to pick up, at least for now. We all need times like that on occasion and I am going to enjoy it for as long as it can last! I can leave the choices for the future and enjoy the present for all it is worth. In the end it will decide itself…………for now I am going to stoke the fire.
August 13, 2017
Vera Cruz, New Mexico
A Steady Hand
For those I love the most:
I might have titled this the hearth and the fire but either name is fitting. I started my day as I am like to do by building a fire in the hearth. The practice is a good one for me, meditative and filled with reverence for the effort and the blessings. What better way to find ones knees and reason for a word of thanks as the new day begins? It takes some effort and the gas stove can achieve the same results, but it lacks the spiritual return. I need that return, in as great a measure as possible. Even if my life is so full of richness it is still a necessity. If I am burning walnut and mulberry I also toss in something aromatic and the waft of juniper or rosemary is medicinal, bringing a sigh of happiness I might otherwise miss.
The fire going and my water heating on the hearth I walked down to my shed to start the generator. I always top it off so I have a full run if needed and did the same this morning. I had raised and tipped the gas can to get the dredges when a spider, one of the biting kind, ran around the base. I might have dropped it, or at least spilled some gas, but set it down quickly instead. The spider cleared I raised the can again only to have a bird fly in the open doorway and flutterer frantically against my leg before she righted herself and departed! The rare encounter and the feel of her wings against my leg elicited a laugh. Hah, I didn’t spill a drop and it was that rare morning that there was no splash to wipe clean before I finished. I started the generator and returned to my fire.
I knelt again at the hearth on the soft blanket that I leave there. I exchanged my water for my oatmeal, dropped a tea bag in the pot and stirred the coals back to life. I build but a small fire as there is no need for anything more, but must tend to it as well. The draught of smoke was a pleasure though I reflected for a moment on the same. I will carry a bit of it with me if I go to town, and it will beg for a comment if I do. That mountain woman perfume is a strong one. I will add the touch of patchouli if I go, though I am like to stay here also. If I go anywhere I will walk fence and explore little more of the wilderness it encompasses. I have only the roughest part to check though, and it will be a good hike! If my efforts give me access to firewood the reward of the mountains peacefulness would nearly be enough!
Yesterday I picked and sold my peaches at the farmers market and took some artwork also. My tree, so weakened by age and so many droughts put forth its best this year. If I have been here for fourteen years I have never had a peach, this year there were hundreds! Having pruned it faithfully until recently I was able to harvest all but a few of the highest branches. If the fruit was small and hail damaged so it was sweet and before the morn was through word of mouth and a few free fruits brought people to my tailgate. It makes me wish I had a garden as the market was lively enough to support one. I sold some art as well, making the prospect of that another viable possibility, for an income is a must. If I have no desire to return to the mainstream I will have to support myself somehow.
So it is I write an ode to simplicity this morning, as I so often herald the same. My lot is not unique but my means is a little different. There are few who would wish to trade places with me but they share my sentiments also. Though we all have our necessities mine have never been fewer, nor harder to maintain. As always what I need is far simpler than the means of attaining them, though that too is simple enough. In returning here I am learning the art of staying still, even if I am busy at doing so. I have ventured hardly anywhere and limit my travails to necessity. If I need food, water, ice and gas, only then will I go to town. My limited funds require such frugality and I gladly acquiesce as I would rather stay here. It had been years since I was focused on my basic needs before those of anything else, and I find the practice fulfilling. The lack of distraction is more precious than any gain I might find elsewhere.
I go forward today with the knowledge of a steady hand, and a deep breath of wood smoke. If I prefer the utter silence even the hum of the generator is a comfort. There will come a day there will be solar panels, as I have yet to seek that goal. There will also be some greater effort to attain that, and a few other basic niceties. I somehow lost sight of some of that, even if it remained in the forefront. One becomes distracted by the effort to earn all those dollars and in the presence of such fruition, it will also fill those voids. If I have never been extravagant I have spent my money freely. It is so easy to do when it is in plentitude only to realize in its absence how much has gone to waste. I will waste no more! Though I have always been mindful of the exchange, the hours of my life equating to dollars earned, so those hours have become as precious as they have ever been.
Hours become days, days become weeks and months and as we spend them they also become years. I have considered that often but even as three of the most important people in my life near the ends of their travails, I must consider my demise also. I may live, as they have, into my eighties or even nineties if I am so lucky, or I may not. I watch as each of them cling to what remains, and the one most like myself holds on the hardest! He still speaks of more adventure though he can barely raise his feet to be rolled across the floor. He can walk but it is painful and slow, and he falls often. He is too stubborn to get in the wheelchair as he knows, in his heart, he won’t ever get back out. He would rather struggle to walk than relinquish that belief that he might yet get well and return to the life he has lived. He still speaks of it.
Of the other two, my ‘uncle’ Len, so like LB, struggles to even live and my mother seems to be relinquishing her efforts, though she still has the strength to recover. This becomes a learning curve for us all, as it is meant to be. I want to fly to California to give dear Len one more parting hug and kiss, as he means the world to me. It pains me to be unable to justify the expense and the effort to do so considering my current circumstance. Having been there so recently I will have to make it good. We had a wonderful visit and he knows how much I love him. He is in good hands and I know he’ll be ok. I want to fly to New York to see my mother also, in case she slips away. I called her just days ago and asked her if she was ok. She said, “No.” We talked a little more but she was tired and vague and it broke my heart to hear the resignation in her voice. I might could brighten her world for a moment if I went there to visit but she would also slip back away as I left. The knowledge of this is painful, but again, I would be there and leave. It has been my choice to be where I am, and so far from those I love. It is a necessity also, as I could never thrive where she is.
I will go visit LB as often as I can, we live but an hour apart. He and Noni have been my surrogate parents for the past thirty seven years, though I never see them often enough either. I have made a promise to do that now as I have the time to do so. The sparkle in that old man’s eyes is an inspiration which will forever follow me. I can recall from years back how he would slip away on some adventure when he could, returning with precious stones and stories. He still speaks of the same, and of going once again to those wilderness havens. He is done traveling, but his mind still takes him there, and I love him for that. I will be content to listen to his stories, and share a few more of mine before he leaves us. I will take away from that what I am speaking of today, a reverence for the fire and the smoke and the beauty of this life, that that can’t be bought.
I will wield my chainsaw and my pen for as long as my hands and mind remains steady, and be thankful for the chance. From this moment forward I will make every effort to maintain the mindfulness which is required to live my life to it’s very fullest, with or without the monetary returns I have strived for. Instead I will find the means to share my skills and my knowledge in hopes of such returns while living each day as fully as I can. In the end I need so little and as always, when my feet are on the right path, my requirements are fulfilled. It is so easy to forget that, and to become frantic and to think I must go above and beyond to accomplish the same. In the stillness I remember and even as the peaches slipped so softly into my hands, I am reminded of that. All I need is a steady hand…………
August 7, 2017
Vera Cruz, New Mexico
I woke early and with little desire to go back to sleep got out of bed quickly. I am glad I did, even if I had tossed and turned through the night. The near full moon and all the wonders of the sky, the pending meteor showers and the soon to be eclipse are all whirling about in the universe. If I have always been sensitive to the celestial influences this seems to be no exception, my energies are moving as fast as the stars. If I was drawn outside to stare at the moon and the clouds of the evening this morning the early rain, such a rarity here, did the same.
I stepped out the door just in time to feel the soft drops from the light shower which came with the dawn. I couldn’t move or go back inside, it was too magical for that, though I did grab a jacket. I stepped away from the shelter of the porch to cover my hearth, left open in the clear night just past, and then watched as the wonders of nature filled the sky. If the fog hung heavy over the Vera Cruz, so it was topped by the moisture laden clouds, which sent forth their gifts to the earth. Even now the sky is gray and dampens my plans for the day, though I will venture forth regardless. If I sat in front of my computer all day yesterday and made much progress I have no desire to repeat the effort today! I need to get out and walk, if nothing else.
This morning I looked back into my archives as I so often do and I found an affirmation. It was a letter to my friend Rudy, who I still touch base with on occasion. I attached to that letter two lists, one from 2013 of the things that bring me the most happiness, and another I penned much earlier, 2010 or 2011. I cannot find the date and the original hangs in my bus, which is still in Fort Sumner. Both of them offered an enriching perspective which I will carry with me through the day, and much further I hope! Funny but when I woke this morning and looked at what I am surrounded by I saw how close I was to what I have desired and the lists simply affirmed that.
Not that it is perfect, for it isn’t, as I am still battling the malaise which followed me here, but it is better! If anything I am suffering from the self-imposed limitations I have placed on myself in an effort to make some well thought out choices instead of just plunging forward. If change has always been a challenge for me, and having had so much of it forced on my unexpectedly, I am still trying to adjust. Having come to the realization that I have to find the means to cultivate my own happiness wherever I am rather than always gazing to the west, or elsewhere, I am still working on that also. Being a dreamer and living the dream are two very different things! That I have both and am still yearning for something more is purely of my own device.
I can peruse the lists and see how far I have come. I can look at where I am and find much reason for satisfaction. If I have chastised myself for spending so freely in the past five years, for initially I struggled badly, so I have more to show for it than I have acknowledged. Ironically the material gains are the equal of my remaining debt, but I have them in my possession and they offer much freedom in return. I have a dwelling(Bus) and a studio (Bus), a camper (Bus) (LOL!) and three running vehicles, two which are four wheel drive (1990 GMC and the 1986 Ranger), and one of them a classic (1974 Jeep Cherokee) . They are worth more to me than anyone else but they are all treasures also, especially for the gypsy I am. That they are all mobile, to some extent, is a plus as I may need to move again, though I hope it will be the last! If I am rooted here for the moment, as much by choice as necessity, is clear, but the dream of ownership remains, even if it seems out of reach for now.
The remainder of my earnings went to my basic requirements, rent, food, bills, a lot too much beer (Karl) and a fair share of adventure and travel, my greatest pleasure, and failing as well. There were some other necessities, and not a few medical bills, but still a lot of spending beyond what I had thought! I would not trade it though, even if I could have been out of debt. I also invested in the studio and I have a lot of materials to show for that effort. There will be a good return when I put my hands back to that effort. For now they wait for me to do so but I find myself busied with a barrage of other things, including my effort to forge a viable future. Time moves fast and there will soon come a day when the weekly check is no longer an option and I will have to go back to work, something I am still struggling with. The thought of a full time commitment to a structured work place appalls me! The freedoms I have rediscovered this summer have altered my perspective and I will find it difficult to sacrifice any part of that, though at some point I must.
If there is a game plan it is a tentative one for the same reason as I have yet to fully commit to any commitment. I am going to teach, and am trying to formulate a plan. I am also going to put out some feelers for well measurements and sampling though I would have to get a tape or sounder to do that. LOL, I am SO CLOSE. On que I called my old friend David Chace who brought me into the water level field, and the finest days of my career, looking to buy or borrow some used equipment. In the conversation I was reminded that I had an old sounder lying around. Sure enough, I did, and one worthy of repair, as well as an old steel tape with a very functional reel.
David told me something years ago when he was using military time to calculate gallons per minute of flow on water wells off of the metered water use. He did that rather than standard time which makes such calculations all the more complex, as I was doing. When I commented on the epiphany I had experienced and asked why he had never pointed that out to me, he replied, with his standard logic, “There are some things a person just has to figure out on their own.” So it was I reminded him of that comment when I sent him a picture of the tools I had found. Here we go again! I am so close………..It was a welcome reminder!
August 2, 2017
Vera Cruz, New Mexico
Oh Be Joyful!
There are so many things to be joyful about this morning! I slept well, and late, but it was worth it. It was one of those blessed nights when I never awoke and the blankets on the bed but had to be pulled forth to fix it. It was so cool last night that I built a fire in the woodstove before I bathed to be comfortable and the wind and rain lulled me to sleep. I woke to a clear blue sky, the sun well above the hills. I might have hurried as there are things to do, but I did not.
Instead I built a fire, as I am like to do these days. As an afterthought I started the grill and mixed up some marinade as I had planned to do. There is chicken in the cooler and if I am to buy more ice this morning so I have to cook it first to make room. I fired the coals and mixed some molasses, soy sauce, sugar, salt, pepper and garlic and a pinch of red chili, shaking well, thank you. I boned the chicken and let it marinate while I prepared my morning oatmeal. All the while as the smoke wafted in the door which I forgot to close and I perused my lot in life at this moment.
If not for the smoke I might not have considered it so closely but sometimes the cars slow on the road as they pass. It then came to me that people so often have a note of wonder when they ask if this is where I live. It is an age old haunt at this point in my life, to them it is as it once was to me. I used to drive by here and think how much I wanted to live here, alone on the hillside in this old run down shack. It was the ambiance of the house, coupled with the wondrous view that drew me in. Now, so many years later, with the wood and the windmill, it has become the definition of my life, wildish as I am. People so often marvel that I live as I do, but only a few are willing to visit!
There is so much to be joyful for this morning! I grilled my chicken outside and placed some fresh rosemary on top, just because I could. My tea and oatmeal boiled quickly over a small and lively fire and my wash water heated over the same. I drained the water from my cooler and carried it down to the peach tree as I went to start the generator. The peaches are getting rosy and fat and one of the low hanging ones I can reach is just starting to soften. I will have to watch them closely now as they will have to be picked before the birds find them! I will have to share them when they are ready as it is just not practical to can them. Or maybe it is? I can make the time if I choose, and I do have the tools for the job.
By the time I was done with my chores the chicken was done before the oatmeal, so I had the latter for dessert! Both were delectable. Only then did I sit, an hour later in the morning, to capture my thought. I looked back, as I so often do, on pieces I had written over the years and found an old favorite. I had first penned it in August of 2009, and later added on. It is titled, “Incorrigible” and dedicated to my dearest old friend Marcella Garcia, who dubbed me as the same. It is perhaps one of the best things I have ever written and is destined for publication, should I ever make the leap! I am closer now to doing so than I ever have been, yet another reason for joyfulness today!
If my life has been something of a struggle of late, digging through the proverbial baggage as well as my old stores, so I am beginning to heal. I need only get a good nights’ rest, build a fire, peruse my camp and have a good breakfast to restore my fragile spirit. There is so much to be joyful for and so much to fill my life with. As I sip my tea and savor the mild smoky flavor which permeates everything on my table I am reminded that I have realized a dream I have had since my youth. It is one so many others never will. I think of the friends I have made at the Mountain Man Rendezvous who occasion to live as they wish for a weekend at a time but have to return to such structured lives afterwards. Instead I get to live that each and every day, albeit at a price on such occasions!
This is, in the end, yet another life lesson for me. I may bemoan the uncertainty of my future but my present is the best. I have, for today, almost all that I can ask for. The day is my own to do as I please, even if there are a few must does on the list. I will go to the ranch and cut a little wood, and there is more in the yard which begs the same effort. There I a pile of leather waiting to be cut and sewn and an article to be written and submitted. Perhaps it will be one of the next by-lines for my portfolio and I shall title it, “A Rendezvous Each Day” for all of my Mountain Man friends. It will be, as this one was, a reflection on a simpler life that we so often chance to miss. In a way it will be some sort of ‘work’ to write it, as it will require some conscious effort, but I do it from this desk. I also need to reach out and find some place to publish, as it is part of my game plan going forward. I will have to very ‘creative’ if I want to stay here for keeps. I still have to make a living, and am on shoe strings for now!
Oh be joyful! Sometimes I forget to see the things which contribute to that statement and fall into reflections on my failings instead. I have failed, but all the same I have succeeded. I stepped away six years ago, against my better judgement, to try to do what I believed was the best. I had debts to pay and a useable skill, and I applied my best effort to the same. I returned here with an equal measure of debt and a few things to show for my effort. Was it a waste of my time to leave? Not even, I would not take it back, but neither will I repeat it. I have returned with an added measure of wisdom, reverence and appreciation for the simple things I left, and those I took along. I have perfected my methods and kept them in practice. I came back and built a fire and every waft of smoke reminds me of its blessings. Oh be joyful! Yes. I am.
July 25, 2017
Vera Cruz, New Mexico
Once again I wake at dawn before the sun crests the mountains. I do not hesitate to rise as the joy of the dawn draws me out. I have no wish to miss it and I am never disappointed. The sun finds her way joyfully as she dances across the mountainsides and sweeps across the valley. The ravens make their morning flight and the dove coo quietly from the trees. Dawn in Nogal is always precious and I am out the door before I am even fully awake.
I have begun to say a morning prayer also, in gratefulness as well as for restoration. If my spirit is far from empty neither is she full and the healing process is a gradual one. I have never been able to walk in spirit and the modern world with full balance. When I am in spirit I am open and free but so vulnerable also. My senses are heightened and therefor sensitive to every interruption or threat. There are too many of those. If I am closer to a balance now I am still unwilling and unable to cross the boundaries with ease.
It is only here and in like places where I can disarm and bare myself to the universe. It is why I stay when I can, and why I live as I do. It is all returning to me now and I have taken to this morning prayer, again. I lift my arms to the dawn, palms turned upward, open to the new day and all she has to offer. I stand quietly and feel the richness as it surrounds me. This morning the breeze ran across my palms like a caress, steady and soft. It was amazing to feel how it flowed into my body and filled me with spirit and I had no desire to break the spell. I stood very still, quivering from the richness of it.
This then is true restoration. I am immersing myself in the process before I do anything else. If I will have to make more choices going forward for now I am still, there is much work to be done on myself. If I have learned anything it is that I must protect and preserve the depths of my soul. I must also honor them. I have no regrets for the past six years but neither do I wish to repeat them. I will go forward from here. I will be patient and take the time to listen instead of pushing forward as I have been. Now is the time for myself, everything else will simply have to wait!