Wide Open Spaces

Wide Open SpacesMarch 7, 2015
Bohemian Grace
185 Nogal Canyon Road
Bent, New Mexico

Wide Open Spaces

A week has passed since I last wrote and reflects the need to adjust my timing to the better good. With daylight savings pending it will require some discipline I am afraid, I have become complacent and allowed my priorities to shift, sleeping later than I ever have and leaving no time for my precious reflections. My thoughts are no less valuable but have instead been set aside and left unrecorded, a regrettable oversight as the practice of centering myself each morning has served me well. Though my sleep may be precious I need to shift the hours I require and my mornings are the best time of day; I can cut the evenings short instead.

I have yet another excuse all the same. I traveled this week and made the journey west across the mountains and plains to Reserve to interview for a job. I wasn’t looking for another job, not just yet, with my store ready for business and my efforts devoted to the same. Rather than seeking another post I have set my sights on the possibility of working for myself instead. I went to Reserve because I had to satisfy my heart and see if there was a place for me there, which I now know there is even if it is impractical at best. Having focused my efforts on finding more time for my art and my words rather than simply going to work forty hours a week I hesitate to turn back to any other alternative. That desire was affirmed when I returned here and walked into my store. Though the wares may be sparse the prospects are rich and I was thrilled at what I have accomplished.

It is the wide open spaces that I miss. Travel has always served as an opportunity for me to peruse my life and all of the possibilities that it has to offer and I was far from disappointed. This journey in particular, in spite of being brief, was rich with insight all the same. I left here late on Tuesday, two hours after noon as everything at work seemed to go wrong at once, a challenge which I withstood better than usual as my determination to leave overrode everything else. I also stuck to my plans in spite of the adversity and stopped to see a friend in Nogal on the way through to absorb some of his valued wisdom and then went to my house on Indian Divide to put that in order as well. I remained there for an hour at least, as much to absorb the peacefulness as to put it back into some semblance of order, the weather and the mice having taken their toll in my absence. Old houses weather fast when they are left empty and it has been three years since I have lived there, even if I visit and stay on rare occasions.

It was late afternoon by the time I headed west and the sun set before I made it to Socorro. Though the drive from Nogal to San Antonio travels through the high desert and rolling hills, Socorro is the gateway to the plains. The Magdalena Mountains stand guard between the traffic on Interstate 25 and the true wilderness beyond them and I regretted that darkness would overshadow the remainder of my travels. I had hoped to have dinner in Datil but stopped to eat at Arby’s instead, less than healthy meal but the onion rings were tasty. I gassed up my truck and then had to hurry more than I wished to as the store in Datil closes at nine and I needed a key for my room. The moonlight illuminated the landscape and my heart clenched a little as I passed through Magdalena and the entrance to the Alamo Indian Reservation and I thought to call my friend Monte Chee but did not. My thoughts were the center of my focus for the moment and the phone signal is spotty at best. Instead I recalled the drive across the plain on the dirt road which meets back up with Interstate 40 another fifty miles to the north. Everything after the pavement is desert and high plain and barely interrupted but for an occasional barn, house or trailer and those are but a momentary distraction from the untainted wildness beyond them. The windswept dirt which covers the landscape continually realigns itself and the human presence becomes yet another part of it, there is no place for lawns or landscape here and even the fences lean towards the hillsides.

I arrived at my destination at five minutes after nine and was welcomed warmly as always. I got my key and went to the familiar room in the small hotel, having stayed there often enough to know all the pictures and the weathered furniture. I can even recall when they tiled the floor, a cold reminder of the warmth of the aged carpet they replaced. I paused as I unloaded my truck, the silence of the plain cloaking the evening air and reminiscent of the years past when I would have had all week to enjoy it. All places have their own unique quality and once familiar they bring back that feeling with an immediacy which we either savor or wish to avoid. This place makes me want to stay and the emotions run high each time I return, there is something I need there which I cannot find anywhere else and it is as much a part of my destiny as are the moon and the stars which glow in the dark skies above.

Here I must correct myself because I did find the time to write before I departed as it was a necessary part of the journey. I found my spot in the café in front of the fireplace, adding another log after I asked permission to do so and grateful that I felt enough at home to be able to do so. I had my breakfast while I reflected on the emotions evoked by the precious memories of the time which has since passed. The reflections were brief but heartfelt all the same and the pending storm which loomed on the mountains was reminiscent of years past when I would have been a bit hurried because of it. With an hours’ drive ahead of me I rushed off but the emotions remained and I promised myself to return by the same route so I could linger a while longer on my way back.

Reserve had all to offer that I had imagined it would, a small community huddled by the San Francisco River which runs through the canyons to the south, down past Cliff and all the other places I have thought that I could live if and when I was to move further west. The people too were as I imagined them to be and the Village Mayor and Council were the sort of folks I have always wanted to work for. I must admit that I felt a sense of belonging there even if my reservations were strong also with the promise of another forty hour week being the greatest challenge. I am so close, or so I hope, to another brand of freedom that I cannot freely commit to anything else. That they need my skills and the full commitment of my time is clear but I have to be selfish also, I must first consider how I want to live the remainder of my life before I make any sort of choice. To take a cut in pay and relinquish my freedom is to go backwards rather than forward even if the advantages are there also.

It is the wide open spaces I miss the most. It is the very nature of the country which shapes the people and the place and it is that which stays with me now. The interview went well and I stayed in town for lunch so as to get a better feel for the place. I quickly found a spot for both my bus and my horse, close to the river even, and before I left a few of the people were familiar to me, and I to them. I departed reluctantly and by the time I stopped in Datil for gas I was in tears. I have driven Highway 12 enough times to recall so many familiar places, the turn of the river it follows, the mew of the cow elk on the hillside and the names of the subdivisions which always have land for sale as the pilgrims who move there so often come and go. What stays with me the most though is the plains, the wide sweep of the rolling landscape and the broad sky above with the storm clouds lingering on the mountaintops waiting for the wind to push them across. The shafts of sunshine were interspersed with the snow and rain as the storms struggled to reach the ground and I thrilled at the vistas which surrounded me. I recalled quickly how the storms always seemed to follow me and as I drove I reminisced about every well and windmill I had visited during my stay there.

Every journey has its own lesson and this one does as well. What became clear to me upon my return to Mescalero and Bent is the closeness of the mountains in comparison to the plains. It is not that the mountains are any less beautiful but they are all way too close. Where to the west the rocky crags of the hills sometimes border the highway and the roads wind through narrow canyons the road always leads back to the plains. Here the mountains are blanketed with trees and come down close at every curve, hiding the storm clouds and shadowing the sunrise and sunset both. I need more space around me and the confines of the canyons are more clear because of that. Even if the mountains block the wind so it keeps it from cleansing the earth also and the clutter it leaves behind is more that I would choose. Though the wide open spaces are available here also one must drive a ways to get there.

There is another contrast also. While Reserve is one hundred miles from anywhere this place where I live is closer to everything and I yearn for the remoteness I have once more left behind me. The decision will be a difficult one though I have already decided to stay here. The argument is this; I do not wish to go backwards and the best option for the moment is to go forward instead. Reserve, as with the plains which surrounds it, will remain as it is, the wind and storm will preserve that place as it has from the start. My goal has been and remains to be that I may return there someday and make it my home, either in Datil or further west. I am as certain as I have ever been that I need the wide open space it has to offer and I want to be a part of a community which requires the same. I could go there now if I wish and it would work well enough but the distance holds me back and offers a challenge I am far too familiar with. Before I make such a change I must consider what my goals are and how quickly I wish to obtain them. I have a book I want to publish and I have already waited too long and that needs to come first. And I still have my Nogal House perched on the mountainside of the Vera Cruz. The wide open spaces wait for me there also…….they will have to suffice for now.

2 responses to “Wide Open Spaces”

  1. Nancy says :

    Way to go Cathie! Stick to your plan, it’s good. If it doesn’t work, you can always go off in another wide open direction. No gain, no loss, free spirit.

  2. Jody Solome says :

    I agree with Nancy, Cathie. As much as I savor your thoughts and writings of the plains you love, indeed hunger for more, your plan is a good one. In spite of working a ’40 hour week’ you live your heart. May all your dreams come true when you need them to. My wish for you.

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