Archive | September 2015

Footprints

9.27.15 Footprints
September 27, 2015
Nogal House
Indian Divide, NM

Footprints

I never really considered how much I disrupt nature until this morning. I walked out the door and headed to the outhouse in pure innocence. I flipped the stump which holds the door shut with the toe of my slipper and glanced down to see a stink bug who had found some shelter for the night beneath it. I stepped inside and raised the lid and grabbed the broom to sweep any spiders away who might be waiting there as they are sure to bite and then settled myself comfortably on the seat. I watched the stink bug walking away, his hind end raised slightly as if to express his displeasure at my disturbing him. That’s when it hit me!

Such a footprint I make on this peaceful place! In but a moments time I have ruined a bugs rest, killed some spiders and changed the entire atmosphere here on the hillside. Before I left I tossed some ashes down the hole in the outhouse which was a former rats nest before I took the post hole diggers and cleaned it out so I could put it back to use. They will have had to set up an entire new household because of me and they have yet to return. After that I proceeded to the shed door. Entering the shed I surely kicked some dirt into the narrow tunnel that all of the residents use to go beneath the door and then, worse, started the generator. If the noise didn’t ruin their day the rats and mice huddled in corners will be gassed by the exhaust and it is no wonder they leave the sharp spines from the cholla cactus all over the floor for me to pick up in my shoes and track back into the house. Though I draw no pleasure from bothering them I am sure they are pleased to know those stickers will at some point find their way to the soles of my bare feet. I step softly in the night because of that.

The generator running I then returned to the house, checking the tea pot and my wash basin as I did. The small fire I built in the outside hearth serves its purpose well and though I likely burned a few bugs in the process I make but a small footprint also. It requires only a handful of sticks to heat my water and the smoke is minimal from the hard woods I use and it is carried off in the morning breeze. My water use does little harm either since I carry it here and leave it behind. With no electricity or running water I only use three gallons to bath and wash and toss what’s left on the bushes. If I didn’t poison the rats and mice in the house there would be little disruption there either, though they would strongly disagree, this place was a palace for them before I took it over.

All told in the course of a day I, one solitary human, change the world of an entire community by simply performing my daily routine. I won’t even mention killing rattlesnakes when they show up, that is a given. I would not seek them out for the pleasure of gathering their skins and rattles but this is my domain and they are not welcome here. I have had people argue that they are rodent killers but I have already dispatched that also, poison and traps work great and I have no pets to worry about.

My presence here is minor all the same. My Nissan is a far worse contributor to global warming or earthly injury than I am and if we all lived as I do there would be so much less to worry about. Of course I am a consumer also and the things I do when I am gone from here are more injurious. Although frugal I still have necessities and the efforts that go into the products I buy are damaging at best. If I could limit my life the where I am I would, and I am trying to. When the windmill works I use more water and have a garden, but even that brings more good than harm and I share the produce with the rats and gophers that evade my efforts to kill them. The outside rats and I get along pretty well as long as they stay out of the woodpile but the gophers are greedy and I battle them constantly. Still in all, if that was the worst thing I had to worry about I think we would all be happy with the way things are. My footprint is small compared to most and I hope to keep it that way!

I Need To Be Here

9.19.15 I Need To Be Here

September 19, 2015
Nogal House
Vera Cruz, New Mexico

“Returning to my Nogal House always brings nostalgia and this visit is no exception. I camped out on my way to Albuquerque and drove as far as here on the way back, in no hurry to get back to Mescalero I might add!”

I Need To Be Here

I need to be here
Or somewhere like here
I need the cold wind
And the clouds
The solitude
And the sky
I need to be here
Or somewhere like here
Where the solitude whispers
As loud as the wind
And the earth and sky
Fall together
In a tangle of endless love
And happiness
I do not need another person
Just this place
And all that it offers
To be happy
And I will never
Be satisfied
By anything less

I need to be here
Where the wind and rain
Snow and drought
And the endless wilderness
Unfurl before me
Where I can walk for hours
And never be lost
And never be found
Either
But rather evaporate
Into the canyons
And watch the shimmer
Of the dust
Illuminated by the sun
As I pass through the veil
Of nothingness
That opens up
Before me
And I fold myself
Into the solitude.

I need to be here
I am
As some feral creature
Satisfied by the fulfillment
Of all my simple hungers
For nothing more
But wind and sky
Warmth and safety
And a full belly
When I need one
I need not
The comfort
Or the luxury
That defines our society
And instead flee
From the necessity
Of the same
Just give me my
My freedom
And I will ask
For nothing else

I need to be here
As I need nothing else
The quiet peacefulness
And the howl of the wind
Provide me with all
The comforts I desire
And I can build a fire
When I am cold
Give me back
My weapons
So that I may survive
The challenge of
The elements
Which I will gladly meet
Each day
I need but a saw
And axe
And a tree
And few gallons
Of water
The strength
Of my body
And the freedom
To use my mind
As I wish
I need to be here.

Some people need more, I need less. From the beginning of my adult life I have fled convention and the confines of a modern life and instead chose the wilderness and the ensuing struggles. I hitchhiked around the country for eight years running, working when I wished or when I had to and rambling when I was not. If I stayed somewhere three months it was a long time and even now three years seems like the limit, though I am now working on four. Perhaps I am getting a bit wiser for the wear, or maybe the money is getting better and more important, but I cannot say I am happy either! My needs and wants have never changed and even if the paycheck is rewarding there are other things that money cannot buy. Peacefulness and happiness are at a premium these days and somehow I still find them in the simplest of things. Sadly, ironically, I can barely afford the luxury of either, my retreat is an hours drive from my job and there is no viable employment any closer. I could survive as I always have, but little more and that somehow defeats the purpose. I could grow old here and never get out of debt or find my forever place either, I would just get older. When the day comes that I can no longer carry my water or wield an axe I want to have something to fall back on!

Some people might wonder what I am talking about but they could look at my arms and know the answer. I was teaching a class yesterday and afterwards someone asked me, among other questions, if I was a body builder. Hah! I am fifty seven years old and worried about my chicken wings and I am still getting that question! I told him no, I just work hard….Yeah, I have chopped a lot of wood in my life, and shoveled a lot of poop too, back in the horse racing days, and well before that. My point is this, I am still strong and I want to remain that way in mind, body and spirit, whatever it takes to do that. It all comes down to hard work and that of the sort that so many people make such an effort to avoid. I prefer, instead, to embrace it. Give me back my axe and saw and I will survive just fine. Let me go back to running the irrigation water and digging ditches, even if my hands hurt, I will be happy! Give me back these early mornings beside the woodstove to record my thoughts before I do anything else, and I will be content! I may have to go start the generator soon as I have no electricity here but my tea is hot and the house is warm. If I have yearned for the feeling of this place in the past three something years it has now become a necessity.

I suppose that we all create a philosophy towards life as we move from being children to adulthood. Mine became clear early on and instead of following in my parents footsteps in the search of wealth and comfort I chose quite the opposite. Jack Kerouac introduced me to the free wind and I was eager to follow him and as with him the pen and paper came along. Even now I continue to record my travels and I still hunger for those voyages which defined my life for years. True enough, I am more sedentary now and even if the highway still calls me so I am content to be here, it is the freedom and adventure that must remain a constant. My greatest desire at the moment is to wander back into the hills which loom beyond my fence line and in spite of the wind and the cold or even the threat of rain I will go there if I can. For those who have never ventured thus it might be hard to explain but for anyone who has ever felt the wind in their hair and stared off into the wilderness, the feeling remains. My spirit lightens at the thought of it and though my heart will beat hard and my breath will be short, as I have so rarely exerted myself of late, so will come that second wind which will allow me to venture deep into the canyons if I have the chance to do so.

These canyons, and mountainsides, how I need to be there. Gone are the worries of today or tomorrow and instead there is the cool bite of the wind on my face and the swell of my chest as I draw the deep breaths the effort requires. Instead of concern there is joyfulness and the sweep of the basin stretching off to the distance lifts my spirit in the same way the wind currents carry the ravens who will fly above me, calling out a warning to their friends even as they greet me also. They know and remember me I am sure and the same one who has haunted my windmill for years returned this morning to do the same, cawing loudly as he circled above me as I built my morning fire. There is nothing else I need in such moments and I have to question what is more important than my health and my happiness? The sorrows I have written of lately pale in comparison to the joy and happiness I find in the break of the new day, cold as it is, and the challenges here are far more worthy of my efforts.

I toss another chunk of pine into the woodstove to keep the house warm, too frugal to waste any of the juniper or walnut, but glad for the comfort of the fire. I will finish my tea and go for a walk before I leave, but I also plan to return for at least another night. There is something here which I need more than any monetary reward will ever provide and I must be mindful of that knowledge. I am not quite certain how I will accomplish it, but I need to be here!

Seeking Solitude

Sunflowers

September 12, 2015
Bohemian Grace
Nogal Canyon
Bent, New Mexico

Seeking Solitude
(For my friend Ann and her ‘Big Love’)

My friend Ann asked me last night, in the midst of a discussion of my past relationships, if I was still hoping to find my life’s partner. I answered her, “Apparently not!” I think the answer surprised her more than it did me. Having so recently perused my past and present relationships, or the lack of, I am at least for the moment quite content with my solitude. In fact it rather surprised me that I received several messages this morning from people that I know and I had to reconsider my present stance. I am glad to be alone but I am also comforted by the close proximity of those who I can truly call friends, and they are assuredly pleased with the same. It bears a strong argument for keeping at least some part of my current existence a constant even as I consider other options, as I am so apt to do.

Ann is going for a job interview in Montana with the Crow Nation. I have a similar opportunity if I wish to pursue it, lending light to the irony that I so recently purchased a book about their history and culture. I lent it to Ann last night in spite of my own strong desire to read it, the few pages I perused offered insights into the Native Culture which I so wish to explore. Still, she will read it avidly and quickly and her choices will be influenced by it for certain. So will mine in the end….if she decides to make the move I may be eager to follow her on another life’s adventure. Perhaps that is her purpose here, to lead me off in another direction? She has been a reminder of things I might have chosen to overlook in my own life and I must say that the twinkle of love she shares with her spouse stirred some buried emotions in me also. There is an innocence in their love for each other which I have never shared since my youth and they have preserved the same in their enduring relationship. Perfect it is not, and I would not trade my freedom and experiences for that at this point in my life, but I envy her all the same. The irony that she might inspire me into another empty handed leap of faith is clear though I imagine I have also given her the same.

I will seek out my solitude today even if I have a strong desire for the opposite. I have a commitment to field and tractor which requires my sole attentions and yet I might wave the effort also. I could call Ann and take her on an adventure into my life but my first loyalty requires me to do otherwise. So I could saddle my horse also and wish to do the same but I won’t, I have a promise to keep that I have too often broken this summer and even as the season turns to fall so does the time which I will be allowed to work. It will be winter soon enough. The sunflowers wave joyfully in the wind just outside my window and they are now in full bloom. August flowed into September in but a blink of an eye.

My coffee is done and there is much for me to do today. I had, and still have, the strong desire to pen something deeper and poetic, something to share with many ears and which they might applaud, but now is not the time. I will return to Nogal today, to work and perhaps to write and sleep, I need the pure solitude the place has to offer. I also need the comfort I have always found there and the deeper emotions threaten to break loose even now. I need the warm arms of my familiar haunt to comfort me. I have yet been able to explain that fully to Ann, the story of the “Big Love” that I found out on the Plains, the one I should be writing about right now. Perhaps I will, before I seek out my solitude.

(And so I did!)

That Big Love

My friend Ann asked me last night, in the midst of a discussion of my past relationships, if I was still hoping to find my life’s partner. I answered her, “Apparently not!” I think the answer surprised her more than it did me. Having so recently perused my past and present relationships, or the lack of, I am at least for the moment quite content with my solitude. In fact it rather surprised me that I received several messages this morning from friends and I had to reconsider my present stance. I am glad to be alone but I am also comforted by the close proximity of those who I can truly call friends, and they are assuredly pleased with the same. It bears a strong argument for keeping at least some part of my current existence a constant even as I consider other options, as I am so apt to do.

What I haven’t had the time to explain to Ann is the concept of the ‘Big Love’ and how it has come to dominate my life, or how it did for so long. I have other considerations at the moment, no matter how fallible they are, and it is only in my solitude and the depths of the wilderness that I find the comfort I speak of. It lends a strong argument for a retreat and a change of venue, but I have yet to decide. I have yielded to the security of a good paying job but at such a cost also, I am paying for the comforts in other ways and I am suffering from the same. It has only been on rare occasions such as solo walks in the mountains and long drives on the back roads that I have touched on the love that I speak of. Even when I drove for days in company of my dearest friend, through the mountains and the plains, it was for the most part absent.

Several years ago, while traveling on a long dirt road across the San Augustin Plains, I asked myself a question, and answered it as well. I asked if I would trade the freedom and adventure I had found in such complete solitude, as I had at the moment, for a Big Love. The answer was, “This is a Big Love.” In that moment I was surrounded by the wide open sweep of the one hundred mile Plain and the broad blanket of the sky, and very little else. Perhaps there was the wind, or the shimmer of the sunlight on the fine particles of dust suspended in the air which made the distant mountains appear like an illusion on the horizon. And maybe there was the utter clarity which only comes to us in such instances, where there are no distractions or concerns but only the absolute brilliance of the moment, the true present with no pressure from the past or the future. Such instances are beyond explanation except to say that it is the very essence of pure solitude and there is no greater love that I have ever experienced. Neither do I think I ever will………

That said there is the ever present desire to share such a moment with but one other human being. I have done this also and my heart aches for the same, it always has and it always will. I have had that chance and it was as precious, and as fleeting, as any other. Sadly I have found it far more often when I was alone and yearn for the same more often than not. I have long ago come to accept that in the end we are all solo entities and we are fully responsible for our own happiness. It was the acceptance of that which led me to the discovery of that ‘Big Love’ and I will carry it with me to my grave, ever grateful for having found it! It has become the gateway to my freedom, though it was also a lesson I understood from my youth, I had simply not made the distinction. I don’t know that it would have changed much in the way I lived my life but I would have been far less concerned about the outcome had I recognized it sooner! It is only now, in my advanced age, thank you, when the biological clock has ceased to tick and my children are grown and on their own, that I have come to so fully appreciate the value of my solitude and the freedoms it has afforded me. I might have been spared some mistakes if I had found a functional partner, but so I might have missed some adventures also. I might have never wandered off into the wilderness as I chanced to do, or met that ‘Big Love’ in such an intimate setting, but then I might not have required it either!

I look out my window as two golden butterflies twirl into the sky above the blossoms of the sunflowers and I reflect on the symbolism they have to offer. I might have shared the same, and on occasion I have, but neither would I be recording the sentiments. Writing is, after all, is a very solitary venture and requires the absence of distraction. I might have woven my spirit into the fabric of another person and never recorded the adventure. Or he might have provided me the freedom to do so at a greater length? This is a question that may well never be answered but at least there is one thing I am certain of. I have found and embraced that ‘Big Love’, which we all have searched for, and I have no regrets or misgivings for having done so. I should also thank my friend Ann for reminding me of that!

The Mirror

5.2015 Myself

September 3, 2015
Bohemian Grace
Nogal Canyon
Bent, New Mexico

The Mirror

Even though I look at myself in the mirror almost every day I don’t often look into my eyes, I save that for my exchange with others. Sure, there is a glimpse, such as one might give a stranger to see who we have encountered, but it is brief. Perhaps a stranger might even get a deeper view, that short searching gaze we sometimes chance, seeking a glimmer of humor or intelligence. I always hope for that connection as it is so hard to find and may even stare on occasion. I am not afraid of people or of that exchange and it is most welcome when it occurs. When it does I offer a smile and hope for the same in return and I have met some wonderful people by doing so.

As for myself, those lingering looks into my own eyes are saved for deeper soul searching and in so many ways it is a measure of my life. I have to make myself do that, as I would imagine most people do. It is, for the most part, the moments of crisis that draw my gaze to my own eyes as I stand and stare into the mirror of my life. Most often I seek out an affirmation and will smile at myself and look for the twinkle of life which defines who I am, and who I wish to be. If it is absent I am in deep shit, though such is rarely the case for I almost always center myself well before I crash, I am good at that. While I may not always look into the mirror I have other means of centering myself and they have served me well.

I am a writer, a memoirist. I have kept a journal since my childhood and over the years compiled a history of my life. For me the page and the written word are my mirror to my soul and they have offered me an opportunity to reflect closely on the ebb and flow of my life. Even the blank spaces serve their purpose as they tell me I have drifted from my path and my Blog now serves as a harsh reminder of the same. If I intend to write daily, my posts are weekly, and when I miss them both I have strayed……..

What of this mirror of my life and how has it served me? It is hard to imagine a life unrecorded and with no reference points to reflect on. Certainly there are memories, we all have those, but so they are subjective also. I may well recall the best and the worst moments but what of the others, those with more subtle nuances which in the end define my life? There was a poem, for instance, which I titled “Foolish Girl.” I was but a girl when I wrote that for Mitch Mitchell, a man I still love after all of these years though I am grateful we never consummated that. I wrote that poem in 1985. In 1996 I retrieved it so as to share the inspiration with a friend though it was in regards to another such man as he. In that instant I had a life altering moment, rereading those words and realizing how little I had changed, and just how foolish I was! I might not have ever learned that lesson, though even now, nineteen years later I can see my flaws.

We all need to look in the mirror on occasion and oddly enough I just made my point. I can see my reflection so clearly and my eyes are just a little troubled.