If Not Now, When?

teepeeNovember 25, 2013

Mescalero, New Mexico

If Not Now, When?

If not now,
Then when?
It does not mean
I should reject constraint
For frivolity
But neither
Need I sacrifice
For convention
I am too old
For that
And life becomes
More fleeting
With each
Passing year
I will not
Be judged
By a jury
Of strangers
But rather
Be my own
Of decisions
That my life
Be lived
By my own measure
Of fulfillment
And necessary
If not now
Then when?

Chris Prinz met me as I exited the door from work. I had watched him out the window, drifting by as he watched the door, walking slowly, watching the time as well. He knows I get off of work at 4:30, and also that I will be glad to see him. Still he hesitates, especially when he is sober. These men are tentative, and respectful, and just a little afraid of me, as most are, but for different reasons. I am Anglo, and I am different that the rest, but we share a direct honesty which so attracts me to them. These people are honest in a way that most of us are only honest to ourselves. These people are direct in the same way, a trait I treasure in myself but too often cannot share with others more like myself. I am Anglo, and they are Native.

When I interviewed for a job recently which would have seen me working with numerous Native American Tribes, the interviewer, an Anglo, asked me, “How do you get along with minorities?” I said, “Yes.” My reply is in keeping with my dry sense of humor but it also illustrated my direct honesty. Yes, I get along better with minorities than I do my own people. It is why I have lived my life as I have and I prefer it that way. It had also made me a near hermit, one who knew a lot of people but who has so few close friends. That has changed since I came here to Mescalero and it is one of the things which will keep me here. I have more friends and people who I truly love here on the Rez than anywhere else I have been since my childhood. I feel I am at home here and have no desire to sever the ties. In fact, I have every desire to strengthen them which I have already begun to do.

Chris and I met on the sidewalk and when he told me he was walking around I asked if I could join him. There were several reasons for that. I could feel his discomfiture even as he had sought me out, and I wanted him to stay. I also needed a walk as I have done too little of that lately and I love the motion and the effort. I also want to walk with him and to wander the paths he wanders daily and gain a better understanding of whom he is and why he is as he is. He intrigues me enough to want to do that and I offer him the same, we both have something the other desires in the simple way we live our lives. This is spiritual, not physical, though the warmth of the others presence is also a comfort, we are what friends are supposed to be.

So it is that I came to walk the trails this evening and into the darkness of the Mescalero night. The evening air was, at least for a while, warmer than the afternoon had been, perhaps because the wind lay still. The clouds erupted into a brilliant sunset and we commented on its beauty as we circled the Agency and wandered to the west. The conversation came easily and we spoke of all matter of things, all of them simple. We shared stories and insights as two new friends can do, and we talked of ourselves also. We never ran short of words though we walked for an hour. There were many others walking in the evening, for any number of reasons, as people walk here all the time and we spoke of them also. I would not walk these paths by myself, or not many of them anyway, and none of them at night. With Chris I am safe, we both know that, we are friends and I trust him as much as I would anyone else, and more than most.

I stepped onto a new path this evening and took a much needed walk. There are those who will question what I was doing and why I was doing it. There are others who will nod in agreement and approval, I have been made welcome here and I have been accepted. The ones who might judge me have no understanding, the ones who will accept me understand fully, and I will be the decider for myself. I have been made welcome into the realm of those who I have watched from afar. I have now walked at least a few of their trails and I will walk more of them before too long. Something has shifted, in myself and in the place I have come to call home. I move closer to it now. Chris met me as I left from work today, and I went walking, with him.

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