August 2, 2020: I find it ironic that I had just shared a portion of this story with a friend of mine in response to her question if I had snakes at my house. Someone else asked the same thing just days ago. I will be mindful of the coincidence that this story also reappeared on my Facebook page from a year ago! Perhaps it is a warning that I should be watching for snakes. Or perhaps, as I am again in transition, there is a deeper meaning to the occurrence. I will certainly be listening to all of it.
July 29, 2019
Indian Divide, New Mexico
As I was walking up the driveway back to the house this morning, I heard a sharp rattle. I ducked away from it instinctively, as I am well-schooled on the practice. Rattlesnakes and I have been in residence with each other for years, and they are to be taken seriously. If they are gracious enough to warn us of their presence, so they are as likely to coil and strike as they are to flee. This one slid away a few feet, and then paused near the edge of the pile of branches I have yet to burn. I froze for a moment, started towards the porch and then recalled that the shovel, ever ready for such moments, was now in the shed. I had just recently moved it to keep the handle from getting weathered, and now I needed it quickly.
I walked briskly to the shed, giving the snake berth so she would remain still. I quietly returned and took a quick stab at her, but too far back from her head to be of any harm. She thought to flee into the pile of branches but then coiled instead, her head flattened menacingly and her rattles shaking vigorously. Though I chopped at her with the sharp blade of the shovel her body was so thick that my blows bounced back and she fled through the fence and under a nearby bush. I might have let her go and hoped she would die, but I knew better, these snakes are hard to kill. Knowing that just yesterday I was all over the yard with my nine year old grandson made the necessity of her death even stronger. If I had nearly stepped on her and been spared, young Jeremy may not have been so lucky! One of my greatest concerns is getting snake bit, my concern for that little boy is one hundred fold!
I followed the rattle of the snake to the bush and prodded her into view. Not having the option to flee the snake held her ground and came towards me instead. I took more time now, having calmed myself into focus, and soon pinned her head firmly with the sharp edge of the shovel and severed it with the pressure of my foot. Even that took several attempts, and that was at the narrowest part of her body. At the widest berth she was five inches around, large, but not the largest I have killed here. In length she was as long as the shovel, which is nearly as tall as me, all five foot of it. The relief I felt when she was dead was complete, and I was glad she had not escaped. I will skin her here in a few minutes and stretch her skin on a board. If she would also make a tasty morsel for dinner, I will pass. I have eaten snake before and if it was tolerable, it is far from being my favorite, an inherent repulsion perhaps.
The Rattlesnake. Rattlesnakes have many different symbolisms to various cultures. I find it ironic that this is the second time that I have encountered a rattlesnake in my path while in the process of moving back home to this spot, and just thirty feet from the last time. The first encounter was in 2005, when I had just arrived back home from Oklahoma after an extended absence. I was greeted in much the same way as I was yesterday. Because of that I am looking for a reason beyond the coincidence. I have killed four snakes here over a sixteen year period, so it is not an everyday occurrence, even if they are plentiful enough in the area. The generic symbolism is rebirth, transformation, immortality, and healing. I am ok with that definition, and it would be easy to accept that as I am in fact in a process of rebirth, transformation and healing. Another meaning speaks to alertness to warnings from others, respect for boundaries, and offering them courtesy as they make their passage, as well as offering them warnings before we strike. Alternatively, the rattlesnake may mean an increase of the activity of the spirits in our lives, heightening our senses and requiring we pay close attention to our senses. This guidance certainly served me well this morning.
The other meaning is this, and so applicable to my present circumstance. Not long ago a coworker, who was already a threat to me, sent me a picture of a rattlesnake he had killed just outside the door where we worked. His message said, “Be careful!” My gut feeling was that the warning went far deeper than the immediate circumstance, and I made note of the same. My instincts proved correct, and that is much of why I am moving home, again. The meaning I just read said, ‘ The rattlesnake appearing before you is a message that, you are aware of some unforeseen or hidden dangers and you have avoided them with dignity and grace, and is a message that as your reward, you will receive some good fortune, that is to enter your life immediately.’ How could I not embrace that guidance, or not feel that such energy is already in motion in my life, as I truly believe that it is.
I will take all of this guidance with great seriousness, and go forward from here with a greater measure of caution, as I have in the past. In 2005 I learned much of the same lesson, and diligently watched where my feet were placed. Ironically enough, in that instance I was led to a reward. The very same day of that encounter, having decided to walk up the mountain in spite of the newly discovered danger, I climbed the hill and walked carefully, with my eyes more clearly directed towards the ground that before. I came upon a flat rock decorated with a most beautiful petroglyph, and dubbed it a prayer stone for the placement of its pictures. I still visit it today. I also discovered, over time, how that rock tied together two other sets of petroglyphs, some ancient markers and messages I can only wonder about in these modern times. I still feel blessed to have been led to each and every one of them.
I go forward with those blessings in my heart as I begin this new phase of my life. I have been warned and affirmed, all in one step. I regret having had to kill the messenger, as she meant me no harm, and even warned me away from the danger. I should respect that, but I also had no alternative at the moment. Just yesterday I walked all over the yard, crossing that same location, in the company of my nine year old grandson. If I had been bitten, it would have been regrettable, if he had been bitten, it would have been tragic! I am most unwilling to risk either alternative.
Just recently, while I was in California, I was taught a valuable lesson on how to capture and handle a rattlesnake without doing it harm. I reflected on that lesson after I had killed the one I encountered, having acted fully out of instinct and past experience. I have always killed the snakes in my yard. I considered the fact that I may well have captured her and set her free elsewhere had I had the tools, and I think I will prepare for the possibility of doing so next time. Given the symbolism of the rattlesnake, and the fact that she warned me fully, and had no desire to wage battle, my mindset has been altered. I would not have killed the messenger, had I had another means of removing her from the yard. I will prepare to offer that respect, should I be visited again. I see no harm in choosing to do so. I have been blessed, and she deserved the same.
May 9, 2020
Indian Divide, New Mexico
Good To Myself
I am learning to be good to myself. If I have always aspired to that effort it has now become an essential. Having been here at home and much alone for the past two months I have run the gamut of emotions, along with everyone else in the country and much of the world. We were ‘all’ sent to our rooms and told to stay there and no amount of whining could get us out. Who wanted to get out? Not I said the cat. Those first few weeks I was more than happy to stay home, even if I yearned for some greater measure of human interaction. Now, knowing what I know, I venture out a little more but with all the precautions. Going forward I will cautiously expand my boundaries. I have also made a fair number of phone calls and hope to stay in better touch with friends going forward.
In the interim I have learned some valuable lessons, and I hope to never forget them. I am still learning and if I am looking forward to expanding my circle again I would do well with more time also. The good lessons are never easy and more than ever I am recognizing the substitutes for true spiritual practice. I have never practiced mindfulness but I am beginning to learn the essentials of that. If my way of life has connected me to much of that I have also allowed so much to escape me. I have craved serenity and reveled in it when I found it, but fail to maintain it as a constant. I have elevated my sprit to great heights only to crash back to the ground when the mundane necessities pulled me back down, the wax dripping from my hand fashioned wings. How I mourn those failures! Over time I have learned level flight but the ups and downs still exist and these weeks of confinement have taught me that I still have much to learn.
Is it necessary that we, I, learn how to fill all the voids in our spirits independent of other people or means to do so? Deep question that! Maybe, maybe not. Given that I am a solitary person who for the moment has a near excess of solitude I would say that in my case the answer is yes. Yes, but because that is what I want it to be. I want to fill my own spirit with joyfulness, to allow the essence of joy to enter into me and remain there. I need that as well, and it is one of the few actual needs I have beyond the immediate necessities of survival. I have provided for all of those and at this moment, with a belly full of oatmeal, the morning sun warming my house and the time and clarity to record my thoughts I require little else. A raven circles and lands in my yard and the glimmer of the sun on his wings is joy enough for me. When he lifts and lands for a moment on a fence post before departing he makes me feel as if he dropped in just for my benefit. There is joy in that also. Did I mention the utter peacefulness of a springtime morning with no wind as of yet. I am satisfied to say the least. That the day is my own to do as I wish is just one more layer of happiness. Life is good.
My point is that this might be more of a constant if I was to remain focused on that. Why bemoan my solitude when I have chosen it? Why try to remedy the fact that the isolation of these weeks of confinement sent me into a momentary tailspin when I have risen again into the light? Why bother when in just a few days, or weeks at the most, I may be able to open my gallery and get on with my life. Why? Because I have discovered that I can open that channel to true happiness that has come and gone over the years by being mindful of the desire to do so. Easier said than done but when I focus my energy and effort towards that goal I can open myself to it more consistently than I have ever consciously done. I can allow it to come to me rather than having to venture out in search of it. If I had not been confined to my house for the past two months I never would have taken the time to consider that. I do not want to forget that lesson or fail to maintain the same level of consciousness going forward. In the end that will take an ever greater effort than the one which brought me to where I am now because all of the distractions and alternatives are waiting for me right outside my gate. It is really no different than being sober and walking past the liquor store and I understand addiction quite well. I have been there and done that in other ways. I do not want to be distracted from this heightened sense of awareness but to instead embrace it fully.
Two months. If my initial preparedness was focused on my physical sustenance it evolved over time. I stocked up on dry goods and improved my refrigeration methods by adding an icebox. I will very soon have a 12 volt/propane refrigerator and be as self-sufficient as I have ever been. With that out of the way my next effort was directed at my physical wellbeing. With no distractions from my focus I returned to my exercise routine and as strict a diet as I have been on in years. Without the temptation of a quick taste of junk food while I was in town that was so much easier than usual. After a couple of weeks it became habit and since then I have shed nearly 15 pounds and tightened my belt by two notches! I have added muscle where flab was residing and restored much of my youthful vigor. As always, for which I am blessed, once I focus my efforts I can see them to fruition, at least in the physical sense. Emotionally, spiritually, not so much!!
Having brought myself to an even keel I can now reflect and try to find the means to maintain the much needed balance in the rest of my life. Prayer is great and I have learned over the years that my morning prayer, spoken with arms upraised to the morning sun is powerful. These last two months have redoubled that return as there is so much to be thankful for. Even the solitude is a blessing when I consider the challenges my sister is facing in Nyack, New York, which is within the epicenter of the pandemic. If I regret looking at the map of the cases and the glowing red of the hot zones it was humbling as well. In stark contrast, I live in a place with no shading. When I walked outside last night and looked at the soft glow of the light in my window, powered by solar as I am completely off grid, it drove home the blessing of where and how I live. I want for nothing and I am so wonderfully safe here! Who needs running water and electricity when going to the grocery could be life threatening? Add to that the inability to grow or forage for any food at all? Do I miss the access to a broad community of diverse personalities and ideas, OH YES, but not at the cost I would pay to have that. Especially not now, but I do miss that and it is the root of any real discontent I now have.
My answer is this. I have for the time being leaned deeply towards my inner serenity and the means to maintain this. I recognize how deeply personal that is (after all this is my journal) but that is what works for me. Honestly, we all have that place within us but we need to approach it from our own angles because our needs are so diverse. I am satisfied by the simple things so in some ways it is easier for me. From the other perspective, because I am such a solitary person, some of it is different. With no other person to provide for any immediate emotional exchange I must then do that for myself. I am grateful for having the means to do that, but then again, that is why I chose to live alone! Today it is the stillness, and the birdsong that feeds my spirit. It is the blossoms on the apache plume and the green sprouts in the garden. I find a great comfort in the recording of my thoughts and it is my conversation for the day. My artwork waits on the other table and here directly I will put on some native flute music and perhaps even take a small toke before I slip into the zone of creativity. I will find that sweet spot with ease today and be grateful for the luxury of doing so. If only it was so easy every day, but I am as close to that as I have ever been and I want to maintain it. I am going to do my best to put that effort into practice.
What about the bad days? There have been fewer of late but they have taught me a lesson as well. There is nothing worse than a bad day when there is no place to go to escape it. I’ve had more of those in the last two months than I can recall though they are cyclic as well. We all have bad days, even in the best of times! The difference being that there are more alternatives when one can escape the house, at least for me. Where I might have fled to the saloon in White Oaks for some company and distraction (as I do not drink) instead I stayed here. In lieu of escaping the house I busied myself with the things that I never seem to get to otherwise. I didn’t just pass the day in misery but improved on my space instead. Again I am blessed as there is much more to do here than there would be in a smaller space. If the yard and the woodpile aren’t quite enough there is still a collection of books and treasures to finish sorting through. If I had to escape the house I went and cut wood at the ranch and was so thankful for that escape. I have made much progress! Hell, my porch isn’t just clean, it is gone! If you have ever seen it you would greatly appreciate what that equates to. In the end I felt better for just having done ‘something’. I seem to have gotten through the worst of it now and if I am looking forward to more freedoms going forward I can tough it out with grace if they are not forthcoming.
Lesson learned? I value my friends and family as much as I ever have but my survival mechanisms are in place. I want to get out more and am looking forward to opening my gallery sometime soon, though I am not thrilled at the potential risk of doing so. Could I, would I choose to stay distant if it was an option? Maybe so, but I will welcome getting out and mingling with people again, just at a relative distance. There will be fewer hugs I am afraid but some valuable conversation for certain. At the same time I will value my solitude as much as ever and fill it as richly and completely as possible. I will make even better use of it going forward and will be more mindful of the same. Sure, there will be bad days but the good days are even better than before and I can appreciate them for what they are. I am going to keep on with my diet and exercise also as they really paid off. Being good to myself is not an option, it is a necessity! Every day is just a little more precious than it was before this pandemic wreaked havoc on all of our lives, and I won’t ever forget that. And, if you have read this in its entirety I want to thank you for being a friend and a follower! Stay well and many, many blessings to you!
A repost for one of my dearest childhood friends who just died from the Coronavirus while advocating for the people who most needed to be represented! Rest In Peace old friend!
August 6, 2015
Mescalero, New Mexico
For Josh Kovner RIP
If this was the last summer of my life I would be living it differently. If I knew that for whatever reason I would never again visit the warm silence of an August evening when the day had been a little too warm but the evening breeze felt cool to my skin, I would have to take pause in this instant. I would peruse my life and dispose of all of my baggage immediately and without the slightest regrets.
If I knew that by some twist of fate my life had been foreshortened, regardless of how unfair that might seem, I would make a change. I would quit my job, no matter the possibility that by some miracle I might survive and have to maintain a steady income. I have always managed to get by. I would move back to my Nogal House on Indian Divide this very evening and set myself to making sure the wood pile was ample, as I might live through the winter. I would patch the seam in the attic which has gaped for too long for the same reason, there is a draft there, and I would fix the ceiling also.
If I knew that I would never again have the leisure of the cool summer mornings to make my way to the mountaintop I would seek that out tomorrow, as I did so often in the past. I would wake myself before dawn and watch the sunlight flow across the Carrizo, and I would write about it before I took my walk. I would allow myself the pleasure of reflection on my life before I did anything else, as I have so rarely found the time for of late, and I would savor the words as I always have, but more so!
If this was the last year of my life I would write another book and fill it with the wonders of every moment which was allowed to me, and live those moments to their fullest. I would free myself of all of the complexities and worries which seem to cloud my days and return to the place I left just three short years ago, and remain there. I would cease to worry about what the future had to hold and stop stressing over my bills, though I would still try to honor my commitments. I would go back to doing my artwork and plant a late garden. I would go to work on my friend Candy’s ranch for the rest of the summer and admire the glimmer of the sunlight on the water as it flooded the fields and to watch the pastures green and prosper.
If I thought for a minute I would never again watch the clouds as they build on the horizon, or see the glimmer of first light, or the brilliance of the sunset, I would make my life as simple and carefree as it has ever been and keep it that way. I would busy myself with the most rewarding and productive efforts possible, as I have always professed to do, and disallow anything else which might interfere with that. I would live my life as I have always wanted and needed to do and not worry about what the future had to hold, because the relevance would be absent. I would treasure every waking moment and know it for the gift that it is, and record it so that others might know the same.
If I don’t do that now, when will I?
March 16, 2020 This is one of my favorites from six years ago. I am so glad to have recorded it!
March 15, 2014
Nogal Canyon Road
Bent, New Mexico
Earth and Sky
I wish that I was walking the ridges with my native friends (Karl and Rusty) today, but I am not. I begged off as I was neither physically or emotionally fit for the effort today and the remains of last night’s rare storm still threatened to return. The sky is peppered with clouds and the air is rich with moisture while the peaks of the higher mountains are still kissed with snow, it is a lovely day. I might have joined them with some encouragement but I am grateful for the respite, I am still coughing out the remains of the dust which has clogged the air and my lungs until this morning and I need some more time to recover. For the moment it is enough for me to picture them on the mountainside and to recall their shouts through the canyons as they sounded off to each other as the ravens do in flight, I can still hear them. They will come back richer in antlers and I will be fuller of thought, we will all profit from the effort.
I am still trying to learn more from and about my Native compadres. While we are the same in so many ways, being human beings on a shared planet, in others we are inherently different. Our sensibilities may be shared and yet they differ as do night and day, and some things make no sense at all. Where I, as an Anglo person, seek the peace and clarity I have attributed to the Native Tradition of earth and sky so it seems these men I know I have embraced everything but that and they seek solace in distraction instead. Where I walk into the desert to find my peace of mind they turn up the music and guzzle vodka. I seek respite from the world which surrounds me while they embrace the chaos. What, I have to ask, is the sense or the logic of that? It defeats all of my judgment and contradicts everything which has brought me to desire to live and work amongst this community. Where they seem to fail in their quest for knowledge I enhance my own existence with the very essence of their faith and find more solace in the elements of this earth than I do in the company of humanity. They crowd the hillside to share their bottles of whiskey and stumble down the road inebriated to the point of senselessness without ever achieving the comfort they desire. I escape to the desert to replenish my spirit in the utter solitude I find there and when I attend their ceremonial dances I am transported into another realm of existence. When their ceremony ends at midnight and we Anglos are banished from the feast grounds they celebrate the event by getting drunk. The contradiction is so maddening I cannot even define it.
Just days ago I parked my truck alongside the road and climbed the gate to the wilderness. I wandered along a dusty path to a deep arroyo where the river runs winding down the slope through rock and sand. Willows and elms towered from the depths of the draw and the glow of their fresh new leaves was illuminated by the setting sun. Filtered through the branches of the trees the sun’s rays spread like a fan into the canyon and I captured the moment on camera while kneeling on the crumbling edge of the wash. All the while I hoped the sandy wall would not crumble beneath me and send my body plunging to sure death below, buried in dirt and stone. The resulting photo portrays a celestial moment of glowing light through which the curve of the river can be distinguished upon closer inspection. It was Godspeed to say the least, heavenly light at a bare minimum. I saved the picture and texted it to my friend, who was off on another binge, with the caption, “May all be well with you fool, I will leave you alone now.”
Having satisfied my need to risk my life in order to capture and share the moment I wandered further into the desert as the sun slowly made its way to the distant horizon. Its glowing orb faded from white light to a rich golden glow as it settled on the distant mountains on the western horizon and the sky took on an amber tint. As the last light glowed over the mountain peaks I found my knees. I was mesmerized by earth and sky and drawn to the moment with a reverence that required absolute devotion of mind, body and spirit. It was in this instance that the contradiction between my personal practice and faith glared in such a contrast to that of my closest friends. While I found absolute comfort and solace in the complete and utter solitude of the moment and established such a connection with the totality of life itself my Native counterpart was whirling out of control in an alcoholic stupor. Such a terrible injustice seems beyond belief and comprehension to one such as I who has found such comfort in the simplest things which life has to offer. The very set of values it is based upon is something I learned from the study of the native beliefs! Just where is the disconnect and how can it be reattached?
If our ancestors captured the Native peoples and herded them onto the Reservations like cattle into a corral did they also effectively slaughter their spirits? Can such a strong and proud race such as they who lay claim to being the “First People” simply lay down their weapons and allow themselves to be killed off by a far lesser human presence? Of all the tribes in this state the Apaches were the last to be driven into captivity and yet they are as defeated as any other I have met with. Can the force which is so effectively destroying the very atmosphere of this world even poison the spirits of those who inhabited this planet in absolute harmony with the earth and the sky and who held such a reverence for the same? Can the distillation of alcohol, rendered from the very fruits and seeds which nourished generations of people, be the final destructive force? What an injustice that would be! That these men and women willingly allow this to occur is the greatest injustice of all and I must ask each and every one of them how they can permit this to happen. Who then will inhabit this earth when the other peoples have destroyed their own lives and the animals return without the Natives? They will have relinquished their own right to the planet by making such a choice.
I implore that there will be Natives who will read my words and wish to contest them. I hope and pray that they will rise above the defeat and the apathy which has allowed so many of them to relinquish their very spirits and that they can vnquish the demons which were introduced to their lives in order to conquer them. I beseech them to return to the desert and the forest and to call upon the same Gods who have blessed my heart and to find the strengths in themselves to restore all which has been taken from them. I have searched my life through to find the solace and the comfort of earth and sky and have found it no place else except for the solitude of the desert and the forest. I wish for them to do the same. I cannot know their Gods or their spirits but have found something equal to them instead and I can only imagine the power they have for their own people!
I am amazed and saddened by the failings of the people who I have idolized from the early days of my life. I have taken the Native American wisdom and imparted it on my own spirit in order to rise above the fear and the strife which defined my youth on the east coast of this great country. I fled from the masses for the protection of the forest and desert here in New Mexico and sought to heal myself from that pain. I succeeded to a great degree but have also nearly defeated my purpose at the very instant I thought I might have found sanctuary! It is the very failing of these people who I have idolized which has driven me to the brink of my own failure as I have taken on the very sorrow which they have allowed to destroy them. If they cannot survive it how can I possibly manage to do the same?
Survive I will, it is an inherent part of my nature to do so. I have communed with the earth and the sky and found it to be good. I have embraced the warm breast of nature and found the comfort I required. I have found strength and direction in the wind and the sky and all is well with me. I have walked in quiet solitude as the day faded to night and found the answers which I needed for my questions. I will walk forward proudly and in strength and offer my words and my accomplishments to everyone I meet with who might wish to listen. I pray that I am able to share that. I will turn my back, as I already have, to all which is out of harmony with life itself and instead embrace the goodness of the world while hoping that the very people whose wisdom taught me how will also do the same! May all be well with you, my Native friends.
February 3, 2020
Indian Divide, New Mexico
The Perfect Storm
This is the perfect storm
Arriving on the heels of a bitter wind
Laden with dust and drought
And having led me to question the merit
Of a life on this windswept hillside.
The winds come in March I thought
And if this is winter
Summer will be unbearable,
Until this morning.
The flash mob of snowflakes
Bursting from a unknown place
Unexpected and enlightening
Became the perfect storm
I am rarely as surprised as I was this morning, waking to snowfall. It rained last night from a clear and star filled sky, so of course it would snow, wouldn’t it? There were clouds, yes, off to the west where the storms now come from. They always came from the east before now, but everything else is awry, so why not the weather? This has been one of the driest winters, and warmest, until today. What was it yesterday but for a minute like summer, until the winds came. We have run the gamut of seasons in the course of twenty four hours, and I am okay with that! I scurried to bring in wood thinking myself a fool, and that it would warm again by noon. Now I am happy to sit by the fire. I have been tricked before, and even the weather man did not predict this. It will be twelve degrees tonight. Last night it was thirty two, and that hasn’t yet wavered since this morning.
The perfect storm, when I had a list of ‘must do’s’ for the day. Instead I can add one more thing to my list of things I am grateful for. There is nothing I wished to do that cannot wait until tomorrow, and no crisis in allowing that to occur. Instead I can fall back on all of the things I wanted to do, and find pleasure in the doing. There is a book to finish, and perhaps another to begin. There are the loose ends I can tie, and a few phone calls perhaps, or not even that. What about the perfect silence of the falling snow? I can revel in that as well, and there will be no visitors either. I have come to treasure the silence as much as I do my solitude, in careful measures. Better that I take the time to ponder the blessing of the snow, knowing that the drought makes it all that more precious. The dust will lay low for days, or maybe even longer.
This is a good day for a slow fire, a big log and a little air, cozy. The stove pings quietly with the flickering flame, and the heat radiates softly through the room. There is a slight draft somewhere, but not intolerable. The breath of cool air through the window frame is a welcome reminder of the cold I need not face. There is a great comfort in that, knowing there is no ice for me to break or chores to be done, even if I miss the horses. It would be worth it, to brave the storm for their sake, as I have done in the past, but for now I have been spared. I would also trade the exhilaration for the comfort, gladly. I will have to consider that going forward, but neither shall I complain. For today I shall revel in the perfection of this storm, unplanned for and unexpected. It caused me to take pause, and I will take full notice of that. Sometimes, no matter how mindful we think we are, we forget the essence of things. There is nothing that I have to do today that cannot wait until tomorrow. Instead I will do all of those things that I had chosen to let wait. Turn around is fair play, isn’t it. That has made this the perfect storm.
I AM SO EXCITED TO ANNOUNCE THE PUBLICATION OF MY FIRST BOOK, “IF NOT NOW, WHEN?” I WILL BE READING SOME OF MY ESSAYS THIS SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE ADOBE PALACE BALLROOM (NIKE BAR) IN CARRIZOZO, NEW MEXICO, AT 7:30 PM. I WILL ALSO DO A BOOK SIGNING AFTER THE EVENT. PLEASE JOIN US FOR THE ART WALK FROM 6:30 PM TO 9:30 PM.
IF YOU CANNOT ATTEND AND WOULD LIKE TO PURCHASE A SIGNED COPY OF MY BOOK FOR $15.00 (plus postage) PLEASE MESSAGE ME HERE OR ON FACEBOOK AND I WILL RESPOND IMMEDIATLY.
THANK YOU FOR FOLLOWING MY PROGRESS AND MAKING THIS DREAM A REALITY! MORE EVENTS TO FOLLOW SOON!
November 2, 2009
Vera Cruz, New Mexico
Body, Mind and Spirit
My feet found the mountain paths yesterday and led me far and high on an ancient road I had not found in previous journeys. I often set my direction for my walks, pointing myself to the places that beckon the most, but as I often allow the mountains and the canyons to guide me. I have walked these hills for years and am familiar with the sacred spots where people before me worked their flint, stood guard or made camp. So I am with those who carved and pecked their art into the stone, a sign board for all who came after them. I cannot ever fancy myself being the first wanderer to find these places, but also know I am one of few who frequent them on a regular basis.
I found myself straining at the first steep ascent, having not climbed in weeks but rather taking a few more casual ventures down the arroyos I had never explored. My time has been well spent on other ventures but cannot replace the elation of attaining the higher haunts. They are well worth the effort of the climb and even the strain has its returns as my muscles recall their uses. I find the strength to persevere and in but a few minutes have the added vigor to climb the next hill. I find that our bodies, as well as our minds, given the chance and the determination, have a phenomenal ability to rebound from inertia, given there is a sound foundation to return to! Having climbed these hills, having even run up the slopes, it is simply a matter of making it past the nominal effort to find that selfsame vigor of the past. My heart speeds up, my lungs expand and my muscles stretch, soaking up the added oxygen and giving me the strength I require. My mind suddenly finds the greater depth of perception, perhaps from the adrenaline but in equal proportion from the concerted effort that is missing in more casual pursuits. Something greater is required here, another doorway flung open onto a far broader perspective, literally as well as figuratively as I turn to gaze back across the Vista del Valle Ranch!
I have often pondered how it seems such a challenge to apply myself to the things that are the best for me. There are dual reasons for this; the added effort, the denial of more pressing need such as work vs. play, the ease of taking the lesser task over a greater challenge. There is always the temptation of immediate gratification and it is so easy to slip into the comfort of inertia and put off such things for other days. In time it becomes easier. Yet for me there is always the nagging sense of loss and the absence of the genuine elation that can only be found through the genuine effort to achieve some greater goal. Though on the short term we can appease ourselves with some simple pleasure nowhere in that will we ever find the lasting reward of the purer pursuit. Even as I can wander down the arroyo and find the pretty stones left behind from the torrents of rain I can never see over the high walls of the wash to the horizon.
Perhaps for some people simple satisfaction is adequate, but not for me. I fancy myself to be amongst the thrill seekers, but in rhyme and reason more than excess. I need not feel the rush of a plunge from great heights, no more than the adrenaline boost of risking life and limb, but challenge I require. I want to test my muscles, my wind and my mind. I want the heightened awareness to kick in as I climb a steep rocky slope, to watch where I place my feet and my trust, be it mountain or highway, where my instinct alone can guide me. I want to hone my skills, physical and mental, to where they can serve me best, so I can make a flash judgment and have it be sound. There are the same opportunities to address these desires as there are to placate them. As always, the later be readily in reach while the previous will be something to work towards. Such a sad state of affairs that we have learned to cater to the lesser of the two. We even condemn those who make the other choices to being seen as “over achievers” or extremists of one sort or another, non-conformers, for the lives of those who decline the higher pursuits pale in comparison to theirs.
I cannot afford the risk of inertia at this point in my life, for I have reference points to look back on. There have been times when I sought and allowed myself the thrill of the instant pleasures, and I have lived to pay the price. In fact, I believe that having done so makes it even more difficult to attain the goals I have set for myself. My resilience was weakened, the very fibers of my nerves and wit stretched beyond their capacity, and the horizon widened further than the limits of sight. Just as once we have allowed that extra layer of fat cells to form on our waists and thighs, those same voids refill quickly once they have been emptied. I believe our minds do the same, and once the vessel has been stretched any input slips into those empty spaces before it reaches our senses. We must ever reach for a greater height to replenish that. Can it be restored? Only if it remains full, if the effort is a constant, so those spaces, and that muscle memory, are continually replenished, and the voids are never again emptied.
Years ago my mother pointed out to me someone who had worked to achieve a great deal of muscle mass, biceps, pectorals, etc. She explained that having increased these muscles to so great a size this person would have to devote the remainder of their life to maintaining that state of fitness. Otherwise, she advised, it would fall to flab, having been increased beyond its normal boundaries. How well I have learned this as years of hard work kept me slim and fit and those behind a desk allowed the flesh to soften. Even as I gained few pounds the flab outweighed my muscle and my clothes grew taunt as the muscle became soft. I regained that fitness last summer, with no small effort either, but have promised myself to never allow the rebound of such excessive bulk. This means I too must work hard the rest of my life. Such a requirement is a small price to pay for the returns, for even as I must apply such a discipline to my physical activity, so it replenishes my mind as well! For me the pleasure is tenfold of the pain, for to lose my strength, to relinquish the fitness that has been restored would be to surrender my mind, body and spirit. That is far too great a price to pay for even a moment’s pleasure!
August 15, 2019
Indian Divide, New Mexico
I brought things back into focus yesterday and will make every effort to keep them there. I woke well as a result of that same effort. Yesterday it was the wind that ordered my thoughts, today it is the stillness which followed it. That and the rain, and one such as the earth has begged for all summer. This was the true monsoon rain, arriving late in the day after threatening from early morning. The clouds cloaked the mountains at dawn, and then circled and built through the day. I watched them from the ranch, sitting on the tractor, for eight hours. They built and circled, turned the southwest sky dark grey, moved east, and built again. Ironically, the true storm came in from the north and moved south, threatening for an hour before it let loose.
If I danced all day with that storm, watching and waiting for it to come in, I also misjudged it in the end. I am working on my friend’s ranch mowing the fields, and I thought sure it would catch me on the tractor, but I was close to my truck. It takes likely ten minutes to circle the field I was mowing, so there was no worry. I have done this before, and I might get damp, but not soaked. The fact is, usually the lightning will make me flee before the rains ever come. I have been in that same field when the lightning struck so close that the cows ran. I was close behind them. That never came yesterday. Instead I finished the field and even thought about moving the tractor to the north end of the ranch, but decided against it. By then the sky to the north had turned dark, and the storm gathered in earnest.
Instead I drove my truck along the two track north, to check the one crossing at the arroyo before I moved the tractor to that far field. This arroyo, or some branch of it, dissects the entire ranch. This particular crossing is steep on the edges but sandy on the bottom. Of all the crossings it is the one that stays clear, but it is best to be sure, as the banks could wash out there as anywhere else. It is also far easier to reach and return from by truck. If the old Ford tractor is resilient, so it is slow, and if I needed to turn back I would lose more time, and maybe even get wet. So I drove. The crossing, as always, was passable, though I had to use the four wheel drive to get through it, as the banks are soft and dry, or they were! The way the rain came through made the arroyos run last night, and it might merit yet another inspection today.
I turned back after the arroyo and crossed it to the south with the storm still building behind me. The rain was close but I spotted a dead pinion to the east and drove across to inspect it. As I pulled up I spotted a deer antler laying nearby, and laughed joyfully at the discovery. It is always a gift to find a horn, but after the years spent on the Apache Reservation in search of the same, the find had even more meaning. I took the horn to be a blessing, on myself, the day, and the choices I had made to arrive there. I might have waved the extra effort, I might have returned to the tree I was already cutting on, I might have just gone home, but I didn’t. It was already five o’clock, I had mowed for eight hours, but I still chose to cut wood instead. Following past experience I took a moment to look for the other horn, small as it was. The two forks told me it was a young buck, and the horn was already turned white, so it had lain there for at least a year, if not two. If they so often drop both horns close together the other was likely gone, fodder for a porcupine or some other creature, searching for salt. Whatever the cause, the other horn was nowhere to be found, but the brief search was joyful all the same. Even after a day in the field, simply being outside is a joy in itself, and a pleasure in every sense of the word. Failing at the effort to find the prize, I returned to the tree and sharpened my chainsaw. If the storm was building fast, it was still several miles away.
I cut wood for a good hour before I felt the rain drops, but I savored the cool breeze also. I perused the sky, and kept at my work, even as the thunder drew close. I was on a slight rise, but the lighting was far off, miles yet to go. Finally, it began to rain, softly, but gaining strength. I stacked the wood I had fallen and gathered my tools. Even as I stripped off my chaps it began to rain in earnest, though not heavily. By the time I rolled up the truck windows the drops were steady and I started to hurry a bit, given that the road would get slick by the gate. I have four wheel drive, and it was engaged, but the road is risky at the end. I crossed through the brush to the two track I had followed north, and turned back to the south, stopping at the tractor to close the hood as I had left it open to cool. When I had driven north there was still a chance I might have moved it to the other fields, and would have fueled it if I had. By this time it was pouring rain, and enough to soak my jacket through in seconds. I laughed at myself, and recalled the knowledge that rain represents those who are passed from our lives, and returning to see us. I knew who it was in a glance, and welcomed his presence, he who I hunted horns with for so long………..
When I reached the mowed field I stayed to the grass to keep from tearing up the road. Just an hour ago I had taken a picture of the old two track to show it had finally grown in, and did not want to disturb it. Besides, the grass isn’t as slick, and the field was still dry enough to cross, even as the rain began to soak in. I made the gate in style, even if the dirt was already slick, I had minutes to spare. The gate was different. I paused a moment to peruse the storm and it gathered strength immediately. I laughed again, as I knew better, and it was pouring when I exited the truck. Of course it took a minute to straighten the chain also, long enough to get soaked, and even my pants got wet. Back in the truck, I opted for the heater, and recalled my thoughts from the morning, that the wind sounded like winter. It won’t be long now!
I drove out to the highway slowly, enjoying the storm. The mountains were cloaked in the haze of the rainfall and I thought of the blessings it brought. The ground is scorched, and begging for moisture. The field was dusty when I mowed, and just a dull green from the broom weed, with the grasses laying low in waiting for this storm. They will green now, and reward me for my efforts with a late crop of pure grass, and the weeds a fine mulch. If the rains continue it will be better yet, and this storm, late as it is, was still a good sign. We have a few weeks yet, and maybe the monsoon will stay. I admired the small horn as I headed home, its surface smooth and soft, and a little darker on the bottom. It has a few deep scratches, perhaps from a scrap or two, a rambunctious young buck so it seems. Perhaps I may see him one day, though I will never know if it is him for certain. Maybe I will find the other side, or better yet, this years’ sheds, if I am so lucky. I am home, back at the ranch, and cutting wood, and I am focused. And quite blessed I must say! Life is good when we allow it to be. Such is my focus.
January 31, 2011
Indian Divide, NM
I stepped out my door this morning into one of those Zen filled moments I would have missed, if there had been even a moment’s hesitation. As is my habit, I looked to the east for that first vestige of the sunrise. I was greeted instead by a moment of pure beauty such as the early morn and sunset seem to offer, more than any other part of the day. A small grey cloud hung in the sky, framing the fine sliver of the waning moon, itself aligned with Venus, and the final glimmer of the night. In perfect harmony with the view, was a raven, hanging still for that rare instance when his wing force was equal with the wind, as if he too was destined to be part of the moment. What, I must wonder, made me so worthy as to be the witness?
So I begin my day. The soft clouds of moisture, such a pleasure to view in our arid clime, make me think of springtime. The day has far more of that quality than it does for mid winter. The temperature is already above forty degrees and feels balmy. The wood stove is already too hot, and the buds on the trees are straining to grow, even as the wind threatens of storm. How can this be winter? I watch the small birds that I so selfishly feed for my enjoyment, and wonder if they are fooled as well. Just a week ago they were huddled in the cold, their fine feathers fluffed to stay warm; what do they know? My eye is drawn to the bright magenta that paints the heads of a few of the birds, and wonder how I can be so pleased by such a simple thing. It is enough to watch them flitter and fight.
I have once again regained the simplicity of my life. I have returned home, though I find this in other places as well. What that it has once again become an integral part of my life, and there is no way that I can disrupt this! I want for so little else that it is difficult to even consider any sort of change that would alter this element of my existence. For a moment I can be still. I can also see, as I realized just last night, that I have successfully reached a goal, one which I set myself on not so long ago. It was an attainable one, which I started on as soon as I decided on it, and it is now in full motion. I can thank my friend Antonio for this, and if this is all that ever comes of our alliance, it is more than enough.
I can remember gazing on the utter simplicity of his home, as well as the overwhelming desire to make it my own, and thinking that there was something there to be learned and incorporated into my life. Not just the simplicity, but for the need to be free of all that is not necessary to my immediate existence, excepting the true keepsakes of course. I returned here ready to ‘clean house’ and have, since then, accomplished that! Certainly there are still a few superfluous items, but for the most part the clutter is gone! I not only sold off the vehicles I no longer needed, I also emptied my silver trailer, and sold. Most of what it contained is gone as well. I shall repeat the process once more, and be quite pleased with the outcome.
There is another element of that goal, which is my book, and all that it entails. This has been a long term goal, and I find myself perched before my laptop for the hours that are required and realize that I am, in that process as well, and devotedly so!
Goals. We set our direction early on and then do our best, or not, to navigate in that direction. As I once held a compass, when I was working on the White Sands National Park, perched on the sand dunes there doing a water study, so that we might pull our cable as straight as possible, I have of late set my direction in much the same way. The reward has been heartening, and I am moving towards all that I wish to accomplish. The affirmations of this last week are more than I could ask for. Focus, the element of life that is so critical for success, seems within reach. I must learn to manage that carefully, for I do not wish to wander from this track. Unlike with my work, I haven’t the compass there to direct me, and I must be my own instead!
Zen. There are some things that one must capture with the eye, and save within their mind, as no camera can replicate them. They occur in such fleeting moments as I found outside my door, just before the dawn. It repeats itself in the brilliance of the sparrow, perched for but an instant amongst the bright red branches of the peach tree. The new growth is as brilliant a red as the magenta feathers on the birds head and breast. I want to save that view for eternity. I must embed it in spirit for to do so. You cannot take of picture of true beauty, for it exists only in the minds’ eye. It is this that I shall carry with me.
August 22, 2018
Vera Cruz, New Mexico
Played the fool
And let this
Have I left here
With all intent
Only to be
Have I ignored
The very basis
Of my existence
And how often
Have I returned
I am leaving
Out of desire
Not because I
I have created
That I have to
As I continue
At the desired
That so often
Before it is done
Why is it
When the solutions
Are at my fingertips
And how often
Will I pause
To consider that.
I have realigned
For the umpteenth
But my focus
Than it was
In years past
And though I
The first one
And my word
Is as good
As it has ever been
And it is clearer
Than it was
In the past
And it has never
That I hold
To that promise
For how often
Have I not.