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……..
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 too 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 here head to be of any good. 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 and severed it with the pressure of my foot. Even that took several attempts, and that being 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 ate snake once before and if it was tolerable, it is far from being my favorite, and 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, thirty feet from the last time, when I had just arrived back home after an extended absence. In 2005 I was greeted in much the same way as I was moving back home from Oklahoma. Yesterday, I was doing the same, from a slightly closer location. Because of the coincidence 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. 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 fortunes, 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 great gift and the very same day, having decided to walk up the mountain, in spite of the newly discovered danger, I was given a precious gift. 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 breath. 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.
So 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, acting 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, she deserved the same.
Alive and Well
I fired the porch cook stove this morning as it was warm enough outside to do so. The weather has shifted and suddenly the coolness of the house feels nice rather than cold. Where I have been building a fire in the living room woodstove to heat my water and warm my tea, now it feels too hot. Come evening it is still welcome for my evening bath, but the days are getting warm. I envision now the outdoor kitchen I have dreamed of for years. The porch is ready for that with the greenhouse blocking the wind and the roof firmly shored. A few windows and a door and it will be a proper room but it is already inviting. My feral nature draws me outside and to sit indoors while I am here is almost sinful. I am inside enough at my gallery, why do so here? I have retreated to my camper in the evenings and now my mornings beg for the same. Having struggled for years to return here I am finally home to stay.
A friend ask me once why I went ‘camping’ when my lifestyle was the equivalent of the same. I go camp to retreat to the wilderness even if it surrounds me here as well. I sleep outside for the same reason for the walls of the house are like the constraints of society and keep me from my dearest love. I love the wilderness, the utter silence, the cool breeze, the high pitched howl of the coyote. I have yearned for the closeness of nature since my childhood and later spent years on the road, camped on the roadside or in the shelter of my camper. I chose to sleep outdoors even when offered shelter, and so often still do. I suppose I have simply never been tamed, and I am okay with that. Even as a young woman I lived in fear of the demands of convention and feared that it would consume me. I have never gotten over that and the fear still exists, though I have already run the course in so many ways. I quit my last full time job two years ago and I have no intention of seeking another one. I hope I never have to.
I am alive and well today. Free of the stress that I lived with for so many years I have grown calm and well in the process. I have shed those extra pound that my body thought were needed for some pending crisis that I created on my own. I have found stillness instead and I am fit from exercise and cutting wood, and the woodpile is growing each day. My art and creativity are sustaining me and I will soon publish another book. I have done all of this on a limited income, and still flourished. If I am grateful for the material things I amassed when I was employed I have need for little else. I am working for myself now and I don’t pay very well, but I am making ends meet also. The frugal lifestyle that has ensued befits me, and simplicity is the rule. I would rather burn wood that propane, and there is plenty to be had.
Growing up in upstate New York in the 1960s led me to grow close to the earth. We were all about getting back to the simple things of life that we saw slipping through our hands. The industrial age was in full swing and we were surrounded by the fruits of that effort. We had Avon, International Paper and Nabisco warehouse factories in shouting distance and Ford was turning out cars every day, take your pick. I lived in fear of having to choose and I fled as soon as I could. I flung myself as far west and close to nature as I could get, and never really came back. I worked but to sustain myself and my family, and suffered even that. My kids are grown now and but for some debt I am free. Free, to live and do as I wish, to live as simply and basically as I care to, and to embrace the wilderness in my heart. It may not look like much, but it is more than enough. It took me forty plus years to get here but I have finally come home to stay. I am alive and well and that is all that really matters. Life is what we make of it and surely it is good!
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
May 1, 2020
Indian Divide, New Mexico
Allowing Joy to Find Me
Today I will allow joy to find me
I will allow myself the state of grace
That the universe always has to offer.
I will take pause for a moment
And breathe deeply of the day
Feast my eyes on the beauty
Of sun, sky, earth and light
And think of nothing else.
I have searched all my life
For that joyful place in spirit
The peaceful respite from work and worry
Often enough I been surrounded by that
But mourned when it was absent.
It has taken me years to realize
That the joyfulness was a constant
And that it was me who interrupted it.
Today I will allow joy to find me.
These last few weeks have been a learning curve for all of us. The forced confinement and solitude presented challenges for us which I never would have anticipated. I have lived alone for the past four years and for much of the time preceding that. I am accustomed to solitude and enjoy the lack of distractions. Still yet, I had a routine which kept me from being too alone and I ventured out at will. Having to stay at home and distance myself from those people I choose to share my time with created a void that was hard to fill. In addition, the inability to move forward and pursue my plans added a sense of inertia I am equally unaccustomed to. I am a goal driven person and I operate best under pressure, even if that is as simple as just paying my bills each month. I am always working at and towards something and the reward of the returns from that effort affirm my actions. When the entire process came to a screaming halt I had to devise other ways to maintain my momentum.
Those first few days were filled with a flurry of effort. I did all the things I felt I needed to do to prepare for the duration of this pandemic while not knowing just how long that would be. I shopped and stored food, planted an early garden, stripped and rearranged my living room and built an art table by the window. Then I stopped and couldn’t get going again. My creativity and motivation left the room and for a long moment I struggled. If I rarely get depressed I suddenly had to deal with that also and there was little opportunity to escape myself. I started cutting wood instead, which helped as it got me outside, kept me active and brought a return I could put my hands on. I gradually adjusted and have spent a good part of my time since being creative and active. I have adjusted my diet and exercise routine and devotedly bettered myself. Physically I am as healthy as I have been in the last few years and I intend to stay that way.
Having achieved some basic goals I have now turned my attention to my spiritual needs. I am usually a pretty happy person even if I whine on occasion. Having had to reassess my approach to life within the confines of my solitude I have now had to develop a new approach to things. Where before I could jump in my truck and go socialize or take a road trip I have had to bring the happiness to me instead. Where it is easy to adjust ones diet, especially without the temptation of convenience stores or restaurants to contend with, addressing my spiritual needs is more of a challenge. I can pray daily and often, which I do, and remain grateful for everything, but I need something more. I can walk the hills as I have and find much solace, and reflect on my journal entries from better times and find the direction I require, but joyfulness is evasive. It has been my morning and evening prayers which brought me back to center and offered the key to that joyfulness I seek.
Years ago I returned to a peaceful place deep in the Alamosa Canyon in the Monticello Box. The entire stretch of that creek bottom is spectacular but there is one place in particular that always thrilled me. It is a narrow stretch of the creek where the road is in the water and the rock walls of the canyon are narrow and close. I have parked there many times just to take pause and immerse myself in the beauty. It was in one such moment, surrounded by the utter stillness of the place that I realized that that spot had remained untouched and unchanged, aside from drought and flood, for all the time it had existed. It will always be that way as there is nothing anyone can do to change that and the ensuing floods would restore it to its present state in one fell sweep. Beauty and joy are much like that place. They remain a constant, always. The mountains that surround my perch will always be here. The sun and the sky, the contour of the earth, the birdsong outside my door will always exist here. If I am joyless it is because I am not allowing those things to get through to me. I have to allow that joy to find me because I cannot find it otherwise. It is my responsibility to remove all of the distractions from my mind and spirit so that the joy can fill that space. If I do not it cannot exist.
There has been the threat of sickness, death and suffering surrounding us for months now. The news is inundated with every possible scenario of these things and it is almost inescapable. I followed it closely for weeks and allowed it to dominate my life. What about New York where my sister lives? What about Japan where my oldest son and his family live? What if I get sick, and will I survive? Am I sick? I drove to California the end of February and flew back from there on March 3. Those next two weeks were worrisome and even after that it seemed that every time I went somewhere those two weeks started all over again. Now I barely read the news or check statistics. I wear a mask in public places and sanitize my hands continuously. I am still very concerned but far less fearful than I was. All of this has become a familiar routine. My garden is up and growing and I feel like I have been through the worst of it. I am prepared for the future, as uncertain as that may be.
I am allowing joyfulness to find me. I have stripped off the layers of worry and distraction and rediscovered my basic necessities. I have learned to fill my time from day to day and how to fill the voids in my solitude. I make phone calls to friends and make it a point to get to town a little more often so I can socialize a bit. The fearfulness has eased as we have been so blessed to not to have much sickness here. By nature there is a lot of space between us and people have been mindful also. Nobody wants to get sick and we have made the adjustments we had to avoid that. I am reminded of that blessing each and every day. I have always been glad I left New York but I am now certain that it was a good choice! I would take utter solitude over crowded streets at any time, but especially now. Dawn came quietly this morning with a bank of clouds to the east shielding the horizon. I watched as the sun broke over the haze of moisture and then dissipated it into the air. I listened closely to the various birds songs and watched as the ravens traveled west on their morning flight. I built a small fire to heat my water and went out to water the garden. The fresh young sprouts promise many good meals and the sustenance I require. They also bring joy to me. Their bright green leaves, as with the glowing white blossoms of the iris and pink of the apache plume fill my heart with happiness. The water sparkles in in the morning sun as I moisten the soil on each plant. These are all simple things but they remain a constant no matter what is going on in the rest of the world. I have been confined here long enough to realize how important their presence is and that there isn’t, and never has been much more that I required. When one removes all of the distractions and interference all that remains is that joyfulness we thought that we were looking for! It has found me once again.
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.