Archive | October 2015

If I Started Walking Now

Rock and flower

October 28, 2015
Bohemian Grace
Bent, New Mexico

If I Started Walking Now

If I started walking now
I could be to the highway
In forty five minutes or less
And once I hit the pavement
In another ten or more
I could be going down the road
At fifty five miles per hour
Or better
And in a little less than an hour
Given a few good rides
I could be to Nogal

If I took the initiative
Which I plan to do
I could be loading my backpack
Before I ever had a second thought
I would have my old sleeping bag
And my favorite blanket
Bundled and tied
Before I ever checked my bank balance
Or my phone messages
And neither one would matter

If I tied on my bedding
And a light weight tarp
And loaded a pair of jeans
And some shorts
Some socks and panties
And sweatshirt and vest
I would have all the clothes I needed
And still enough room
For a pot and a cup
Some food and a lighter
My Berreta pistol
A few bullets
A notebook and my tablet (priceless)
And not be overloaded

If I walked back out to the highway
There would still be enough daylight
To make it to Corona
As the going would be slower
With my pack on my back
Because people are more skeptical
And a lot more afraid
Then they used to be
Of offering a ride
To a hitchhiker
Even if she be female
And obviously functional
And healthy
Because if she was
Why in the hell
Would she be walking
That logic
Didn’t used to matter
But these days it does
But it wouldn’t stop me
Just slow me down a little
Is all

If I followed
That urge
Within my heart
Which led me to the highway
For more years than I can count
I would be happy
To be setting off
On yet another adventure
And I would leave behind me
All the work and worry
Which seems to rule my life
And find the freedom
At but a moments’ notice
Which is also
About all I would give
To anyone who cared
And even if my youngest son
Tried to stop me
He would never
Stand in my way
Though maybe
I wouldn’t call him
Until I got to Colorado

If I hitchhiked off
Into the sunset
Even with the cold of winter
Nipping at my heels
I would be satisfied
And there would be no reason
To consider turning back
I make a good camp
Even in the worst of times
And there is still enough money
On my credit cards
For me to rent a room
And there would be no reason
Not to
If I felt that it was best
But the necessity
So rarely arises
Because as long as there are back roads
And kind hearted drivers
Everyone who stops
Is going somewhere
And there is always a couch
Or a good camp
And a warm fire
Someplace along the way

If I hit the road now
I would still have a month
Before I had to stop
And I could travel north
As I would likely do
To catch the fall colors
In the higher mountains
And maybe even get to Montana
Along with the early snow
And then go east
To make a visit
In Rapid City South Dakota
To see Jim & Jacqui
Before I rambled on
Going to New York
And then back to the south
As I did back in the years
Of my youth

If I left now
I would travel
All the back roads
Till I ran out of weather
Or the desire
To travel
And then shake off
The restlessness
That led me there
In the first place
And then
And only then
Would I go home
To Nogal
To start all over again
Though it would never
Be the same

If I took off hitchhiking
I would still be safe
Because there really are
A lot of good people
In the world
And I have always been more afraid
Of a drive-by shooting
Than I was of the people who stopped
Just because I make
Such an easy target
And I am still
Far more frightened
Of the known factors
Of a stable life
Than I am of the unknown
Down the highway
The fact is
That has never changed
And I am starting to believe
It never will

If I started walking now
Nothing else would really matter
And I don’t believe
I would ever regret
Having made the choice
Because I am not leaving anything
That means very much to me
And everything that does
Would still be here
When I got back

What If

Gato Mountain Road

October 20, 2015
Bohemian Grace
Bent, New Mexico

What If

What if I had never stopped running every day? What if I had maintained that discipline and got up every morning and ran up the hill as I did for so long? Where did I fail myself and desert that effort and why did I never start again? For years I maintained a routine of daily exertion, bad weather aside, but just as often running into the wind also. I was lean and fit, or trying to be and even in the face of adversity kept up the effort until……until I stopped.

It has been years since I got up and ran every morning. In addition to that this is the first time I have established a daily exercise routine. I am doing situps and pushups, in lieu of cutting wood and digging ditches I might add. In the past there has always been the routine of manual labor which sufficed for exercise, now I see the requirement of the same. My body is fifty seven years old and if it is still healthy it also needs to be toned, it will not improve otherwise. Chicken wings aren’t cool either though they will likely remain a constant, my arms are still bigger than most and I still get comments about my ‘guns’ but they will never equal the firmness of the past unless I really work at it. Although I have never had to put any effort towards that attribute it is also a statement in itself, I have worked hard all of my life.

What if my life were such that the joy and exhilaration of forced effort had remained a constant? There is another aspect of this reflection which delves deeper than the physical. If I have struggled for the last three years so I have paid the price and now I seek to reverse it. Though I have reflected almost daily on my life for as many years as I can recall it is only recently that I have shared those thoughts on a routine basis. It is one thing to bare oneself to oneself, it is totally different to post it on a page! I owe it to a now faithful audience to provide them with the same degree of hope and inspiration I seek to provide for myself and that is what I wish to do, a lofty but worthwhile goal I might add.

So it is that I pushed myself this morning and ran harder and further than I might have otherwise. I am not a great runner I should add, my German heritage graced me with thick thighs and calves and a heavier step than I might have chosen. Where my Native friends are lean and quick, likened to the Arabian horses which have such endurance, I am as a quarter horse, heavier of bone and though strong not nearly as lithe either. Still, I can run, and walk, and with each passing day draw just a little more air to my lungs and reach just a little further in my efforts. This does more than just strengthening my muscles, it strengthens my heart and lightens my spirit in a manner I so require at this moment.

If I feel burdened by the effort of my life and my work so my heart lifts with every step and for a moment I am free of the physical and emotional strain. I ran before the sun came up and I was rewarded for the effort and the break of the day was as joyful as my thoughts. I have always been capable of lifting myself above the mundane struggle of life to see the beauty of my existence and this morning was no exception. Sometimes all we can do is to run through the pain and push ourselves beyond the weight of our legs and the ache of our muscles. In fact, it is easier to do that than it is to push past the ache in our hearts, though in the end they are one and the same. I was reminded of this just yesterday and it served me well this morning. Too much of my struggle can be equated to another person’s efforts at the moment and I have learned too well that we cannot take on someone else’s pain when it is greater than our own, even if some of us are inclined to do so. I am hard wired for the same and even if it brings me some satisfaction I also need to know when to quit, even if quitting does not seem to be an option! I shared his pain yesterday when he failed at his ongoing efforts towards sobriety and at the crux of it fled his company also. I escaped to the mountainside and didn’t stop until I reached the top, short of breath and with aching legs, but I summited anyway, I had to. I climbed through the ache in my heart and by the time I returned I was restored, that simple, that easy. What if I did that every day?

My friend lifts weights and runs when he is sober, and he has challenged me to do the same. If I have resigned myself to the struggle of staying with my job, which I am less than happy with, so I am determined to better my life, again. Having spent so much of my life trying to stay fit both mentally and physically I am a little disappointed with myself at the moment. I have been slacking at both even though I’ve tried also. I have no desire to become a prisoner of my own life, trapped within a mind or body that less than pleases me and the requirement of honoring that is as essential as it has ever been. I have lived by the premise of, “If not now, then when?” for years and yet I have also ignored the same. Now is of the greatest importance and if there is something I desire then it needs to be addressed. What if I had continued on that path I was on years ago and kept myself fit in mind, body and spirit? What if I don’t?

Soul Searching


October 19, 2014
Bohemian Grace
185 Nogal Canyon Road
Bent, New Mexico

Soul Searching

I write first for myself, I always have, even if I also tailor my entries for the eyes of others, as they are intended to be. I write because there is a voice in my soul which needs to speak, not so much so as to be heard but to express itself. The words are of utmost importance to me and if they are not released in one form or the other they ramble around in my mind in an aimless journey for they have not yet reached their destination. I think that in time such a failure of expression could lead to madness and it may well be the root of it. Thoughts formed but never connecting with something outside of themselves, wasted and unfulfilled, clashing against each other until the clamor is beyond deafening, could become chaos at its worst.

This is a frightening thought on a Sunday morning when I have been blessed with the time and the solitude for which to express and to ponder my thoughts. I am so fortunate to have an outlet available to me and I glory in the wonder of the written word, and that I have been blessed with the gift of sharing it. This is that joyful noise I have heard spoken of and it is one to be shared, in writing, in conversation, in the simple deep contemplation of silence, whenever it is afforded to us, something I require in plentitude to maintain my balance.

I have considered at times that I spend too much time in deep thought and have been accused of the same. In fact, I am not sure I have ever had a partner who hasn’t hushed me when I began to ramble on about one subject or another, though I have also chosen that also. As much as I enjoy a deep and heartfelt conversation I prefer to choose when and where I will have that. Even if these men allowed for it to some extent, neither did they instigate such on a daily basis. If I yearn for the opportunity to express these emotions more often than I do I also need the moments such as this to explore them at my leisure. There are so few people with whom I seem to share this with but I also need the levity and freedom of a lighter hearted soul and I would chose that as quickly over any other, laughter is another essential in my life.

What brought this to mind this morning is this. I was searching my thoughts and reflecting on those of others when it occurred to me that mine is far from a solitary pursuit, though I may take it more seriously than a lot of other people. Of what purpose is entertainment but to take us away from our own thoughts for a moment and to either distract us or educate us, to lead us to a more joyful moment or to study on some deeper insight beyond on our own. How few of us are there who do not lapse into some silent reverie when we are not engaged in some other practice. Certainly there are some who fall into a blank stare within their minds, God Bless them, but for most of us I think there is always an object of concern or interest waiting for us to attend to it. Isn’t there??? And doesn’t that then meet the definition of soul searching?

I search my soul a lot, as if no one has noticed. I was told when I first started reading my essays at the open mike that I was a brave person for sharing those thoughts, emotions and insights and it gave me pause. I had to go back and reconsider what it was I wished to divulge and then decided it all was meant to be shared, less a few deeply personal entries I preferred to hold back. Even those are important but they have sprung from my weaker moments and are not the paths I would want to walk back down, I prefer the higher elevations myself! I want to be inspired and affirmed, to rise above all the distractions and see the light of day or the glow of the stars; it is all and everything I live for.

Who of us hasn’t fallen into some deep reverie and discovered something precious at the bottom of that glistening pool. Even as we marvel at the rings of small waves in a pond after we have tossed a stone into its stillness, so we toss ideas into the depths of our minds to watch our thoughts reverberate within our heads! Such a wondrous gift we have been given to be able to do so and as we search those layers of knowledge and insight so we discover the means to an end, and forge a way forward to our futures. If we fail to do so we fall flat but as for myself it sends me sailing across the broad expanses of my dreams, pushed forward by the barrage of possibilities which well within my spirit.

So it is that I am rewarded when I search my soul and in sharing it I receive the same. I write because I have to, the voice within my soul requires an outlet but it also paves a path. I am blessed with the opportunity to share those thoughts with who so ever wishes to read them, and I receive their input as well. It is a rich exchange, one there has never been enough of it seems but yet I have chosen for it to be so. Ironically it is in our deep silent moments of complete solitude that we can do our best thinking and I require a lot of that. It has led me to places I never would have visited if I had chosen more constant company and I tend to venture further alone. It has also taught me the importance of not interrupting someone else’s thoughts, whether they are speaking or sitting silently and searching their soul. Both are of equal importance.

An Aging Perspective (Book Exerpt)


February 13, 2010
Spears Ranch
San Agustin Plains, New Mexico

An Aging Perspective

Working on the Plains of San Agustin takes Trevor and I to many an old homestead house and the inevitable meetings with the family members and descendants of those who first made this place their home. Some of them are my age but the elders remain also, often in the care of their children. I met one of these just yesterday, eighty nine years old, her fingers curled and useless, her body failing from a stroke which confined her to a wheelchair and her daughters care but neither challenge had robbed her spirit. Her blue eyes still twinkled with life and though she struggled with dates (who doesn’t!) she had a fine recollection of her life. Her parents had filed on some land many years ago. “A homestead?” I queried. “Well yes, I guess so,” she replied, they had settled in Quemado. She herself had been born in Magdalena, according to my math in 1921, and at some point had come to live where we now met. She told me she and her husband had built this house in 1945 and later sold it to her daughter. It was a lovely place out on the plain, sheltered with trees and the surrounding buildings and having worked out there for several weeks we have come to appreciate the need for the windbreaks!

In order to visit with her I had stepped away from the discussion of our work we were having with her daughter, preferring a rare chance for a visit and a piece of history. Instead I found a lively companion. Such life still sparkled in those old eyes and what a pleasure it was to meet one such as she who had lived so many years in this rugged country. What stories she must have to tell of her childhood adventures and the struggle they faced to survive! After I had asked her age I made a statement, “I hope to live to be 100 years old.” She quickly and clearly replied, “Would you?” with such seriousness and doubt it led me to correct myself. “Only if I am in good health!” I replied. She laughed sagely and the thought reminded me of how precious our lives truly are and how we should savor the finer moments such as these for someday we will be unable to relish them in quite the same way!

Such sturdy stock these folks are! The women are handsome and strong, direct and honest with so few frills as those have been torn away by the wind and work many years past! We were reminded of this as a young girl came outside before we left. She still had a youthful blush on her pretty cheeks and revealed a reflection of the beauty which her mother, grandmother and great grandmother had been blessed with but not yet weathered by the wind and the effort towards survival. I wish I could have photographed them as a group to capture the progression of age for they were as peas from a pod in their resemblance to each other.

The men are straight forward and friendly enough if not provoked but unappreciative of trespasses, they prefer forewarning of our visits and ask for some explanation as well. I have yet to investigate their common heritage but they are generally short of stature and slim, workers all! Of all their qualities I am most impressed by their resilience and perseverance as I study on their lives and their natures. They are a simple and determined lot, devoted to the requirements of their lives and keeping their cattle well fed and tended to whenever possible. Their gates and fences are strong and taunt, much as they are. This is such an unforgiving place there appears little room for mistakes or neglect, everything about it requires full attention. The effort is written on their hands and in their faces.

The qualities people such as these possess are inherent to their natures and yet seem to be absent in so many others who I know. I have long attributed these characteristics to people who live in challenging places and these folks offer no exceptions. They are a close knit bunch, as much out of proximity as by necessity and the very fact they live so far from each other requires they pay heed to each other’s welfare. This quality is also based on the fact they are often kin to each other; few others could or would come to this place. Every time I have mentioned someone we met before the person we are speaking to will rattle off their relation to them either by birth or by marriage. This in itself seems to keep people honest as one will be quick to correct the others history! I so appreciate all of this and I am drawn to their community; I want more of this in my own life even as many of them likely envy my freedom also. They are bound to this place in flesh and spirit but are land poor as well and every effort is required to maintain their livelihood. In many ways they are as at mercy to the elements as their forbearers were and failure means a loss equal to what theirs would have been as their very lives depend on their cattle and their offspring.

I have been reminded of something else by this journey through this country, its history, and its people. It is an aging perspective, one of my own as well as theirs and bearing a reminder that springs from both the old crumbling cabins as well as the sun weathered people. Life is so precious and even as we move through the rigors of our youth and adulthood so we age as well. The first half of our lives we spend building our dynasty and our families and then work our way through the middle of it. Just as we really get a chance to appreciate the glory of our existence we begin to age. My friend Dee McDaniel once told me, when he was 86 years old, that, “I was first a baby, then I grew to be a man and now I am a baby again.” So it is as we become frail and fragile, once again dependent on others and ironically (if we are so lucky) turning to the very ones we nurtured to look after us. There is such a reversal there and as we reach this turning point in our own lives we should view it from the same angle! We work so hard to get here, these middle years, striving towards a dream. Surely then we must give it full recognition and begin to savor it before it fades away so we will have and treasure those memories as we make our way towards the decline! I for one am grateful for the opportunity to do so.

My Own Best Friend

Best Friend

October 13, 2015
Mescalero, New Mexico

My Own Best Friend

I almost titled this “My Own Worst Enemy” but then I thought better of it, that is not who I want to be, even if at times that is just who I am. No, not today or ever again if I can help it, that is my affirmation for myself. Having spent a lifetime trying to live my life to the best of my ability I am once again confronted with my failure to do the same. If I am healthy and happy to a great extent and well along my chosen path so too I have my failings. There are those who would contest much of that but others would agree, they would recognize, as I do, the need to excel in order to meet those expectations we have chosen for ourselves.

I have been accused of being an overachiever and more than once compromised a viable form of employment for the same reason, just as I am currently suffering from the same. Go with the flow they tell me, keep your mouth shut, we do things differently here…..the list goes on. I have battled that frustration for the past three and one half years and yet I am still here, albeit at a cost. So it has been with my dearest friendship also, we have gone back and forth but as with my work we have made the necessary adjustments also, but at my expense as well. I will admit to much misery also, and it has been reflected in my words as well as in my actions. So too I have met the challenges and one by one addressed them, as I should, and have been rewarded for the effort.

Today I am my own best friend, and a better friend for my companion also. I will give him credit for this, he has taught me yet another precious lesson and if that is all I ever receive from him, though there has been much more, it will have been worth the struggle. Neither of us wishes to be failures and yet we share the same weaknesses as well. Although I don’t drink I get buzzed on his drunkenness and allow him to carry me to the carefree spontaneity that I don’t always allow myself. I have wasted days and weeks in the process, while also being drawn into his weakness. I am the caretaker, he the user. We have been doing this dance for years and I am quite good at it, so is he. The difference is that my life is not static, even if his is, and as time goes on I progress. He has made those adjustments also and even if he is still very ill, he is better also, or so I hope. He is sinking even as he swims forward, and only time will tell.

Weeks ago I swam to shore and took a breather, knowing that I must. A series of events, and failures led me to free myself from the weight of my friend’s failings. I walked away for a moment and I realigned my focus on myself and all of the things I had neglected. I came up with quite a list and have since addressed at least the easy stuff. I also looked at myself and realized that I could no longer fit into my ‘skinny’ jeans. I have some real skinnies (Size 4) that I will likely never get into again but so I have a lot of others (Size 6 Rustlers) that are but ten pounds away. My sorta skinnies (Open Trails) are getting threadbare and nobody has them right now so I need to make a change. My friend is getting a little chubby also and for the first time when he teases me for my ‘spare tire’ I can counter also, and we have had some good laughs, though it has made me serious as well.

My own best friend came to see me the other day. She waltzed into the room in her full glory and we had that ‘girlfriend’ talk which we haven’t had in quite a while. She asked me how I was and what I was doing with myself and I will admit I got a little teary eyed when I told her. She listened quietly and then she smiled and looked me deep in the eyes as she replied, “Time to get your shit together again don’t you think?” “Yeah, you’re right, huh?” was my reply. So I have, just as I, not so long ago, took that long look in the mirror and decided on the same.

My friend poked me in the belly the other day and said, “What’s this?” I laughed as I poked him back and he said, “Yeah, huh, I guess I can’t say anything” and we both laughed before I got serious. “I am going to get rid of mine before you get rid of yours!” “No way, I’m stronger than you!” “Oh really? We’ll see……….” “Ok, now you’ve given me a challenge!” “Ok!”

Since that discussion with my friend I’ve been working out, taking the example he has set for me and the same which brought us together in the first place. He is an exercise buff but I am not, as I prefer the forced labor of hard work. I would rather apply the concerted effort that goes into wood cutting, farming and gardening and all of the things I focused my life on for so many years. The trouble is I am not doing those things since I am getting paid so well to sit on my ass and be miserable. That has changed also and even as I have altered my attitude about work so I have turned my focus back to myself.

A week ago I did ten sit-ups and flagged. Today I did thirty, plus ten push-ups, 15 curls on each arm and I am jogging again. I already feel better and have to believe I look better, it doesn’t take me long to recover. The roll of fat over the top of my jeans isn’t quite so noticeable and my attitude is better. I am also, ironically, working harder. Productivity seems to spread across the board. If I have decided to improve my life, so I also plan to stay the course, at least for the moment. My best friend reminded me of all the things I somehow forgot. Oddly enough the moment I turned back to the path I so love, all the joy began to return also. Sometimes it is so easy to be our own worst enemy and to focus on all the negative things in our lives, and how they are defeating our purpose. So it is we can turn that around also and fight against the same.

My friend, he went back home yesterday to sober himself back up. He will be running and lifting again if I know him at all, ready to meet his own challenges as well as the one I have offered him. It is a quality I so admire in someone who struggles so hard to defeat his worst enemy, his self. So I turned all of my attention back towards myself also and I plan to stay just one step ahead of him this time……my own best friend requires that.


Nogal House

The journey back is sometimes so challenging, when we have allowed ourselves to languish and made compromises we really shouldn’t make, but feel we must all the same. I am working my way back, spending weekends at ‘home’ after too long an absence. It is good!

October 4, 2015
Nogal House
Vera Cruz, New Mexico


I will have to be careful today, my emotions are raw and far too close to the surface. I sit in my old familiar chair, my bottom propped on a cushion as I have never been able to raise it quite high enough for my comfort. I nearly cried a moment ago, but I stifled it, I don’t want to be sad or depressed as my time here is far too precious and not to be wasted. I have done that before and let the emptiness pervade my happiness and lost the day because of it. Not today, not here, not ever again if I can keep from it!

Why should I have to be careful? What force is it that can threaten my happiness when I sit in my a favorite spot of all spots, here in my Nogal House on the Vera Cruz with the mountains looming outside of my window? I am warm and safe, happy to be alone and heartened and inspired by all which surrounds me. The woodstove crackles happily at my side and I marvel at the landscape outside my door. I can see the cloud shrouded mountain which I have already summited, the gold and green of her hillside and the bright greens and yellows of the lower elevation. The broomweed is still flowering and the cedars are bright green in the cold morning air. The wind howls out of the canyons as it always does and the freshness of its moisture laden bounty exhilarates me when I step out the door. Maybe that’s it, I am simply too warm and need to step outside for a moment? That will do the trick, but there is more to this than that.

I must move carefully today, lest I disturb my wounds and bring a new flash of pain. The physical ones are easy to avoid. I dare not twist my knees as they are a bit stiff from the cold and a touch of what I am loath to acknowledge as age or arthritis. It will suffice to say I have abused them in the past, riding and running, climbing mountains and most notably rolling logs, something I won’t likely do again, unless invited to. I would roll logs again, if he asked me to, because the thrill of working together is worth the risk, but I would be more ‘careful.’ No, it is the emotions I must be gentle with as I explore the nooks and crannies of my psyche. It is those shadowed places where I have tucked away the deeper feelings and desires which cannot always come into play, not comfortably anyway, though they certainly need some exercise! Let’s come out and play they scream like a troupe of wayward children who have been cooped up and confined for far too long! Thank God I can release them with but a play on words rather than in the physical sense, they would plow me down otherwise!!!

Ahh, may the words win and I rejoice as I watch them roll across the page, gallantly surging forth and freeing my spirit once again. Just as I replenished my stores when I stepped out into the wind and the rain, the absent hood on my jacket but a momentary regret as the cool drops of moisture touched my hair and my face, I am restored. The walk to the woodpile, so reminiscent of years past and the most treasured memories of my children’s youth, when the walk was further yet, was all I really needed. So the recording of it heartens me, this is my stock in trade and what I am and have always been meant to do. There are no regrets and even my current struggle is but my penance, the price I must pay that I may truly appreciate the past and present freedoms in my life. I am not lost, I am found, found here on this desolate hillside in this run down shack which I have for so long called my home, and is my home still, even in my absence. I need but to write about it all to find my happiness and my success, it is that simple.

Yes, I need to be careful today. I need to be careful not to forget everything which is most precious to me and the ability I have to share it. How blessed am I that my very words and thought should be enough for me to find the means to survive? There are other things also, my art and my crafts contribute to the diversity of my efforts, as does my simple life. If it were not raining there would be wood to cut and split but not today. I have been offered a reprieve and in the space it has provided I have rediscovered my blessings. I do need to be careful, careful to preserve and honor the true essence of a simple life which I have forged from the start. I don’t need to get there from here, I am here, I simply have to stay and write.

Wood I

Wood Pile

This piece is dedicated to Jacqui Hatzell for following my words and knowing so well what I am trying to say! Thank you friend!!!

September 27, 2015
Nogal House
Indian Divide, NM

Wood I

I just walked past the wood pile and wished again that I had brought my chainsaw. Hard as it may be for some people to believe I can’t think of anything I would rather do today than to add to the supply. There is so much to be said for the effort. First off I like to have my stash well filled in the event of a hard winter, which this one promises to be. If I am here I will be certain to be warm and safe if nothing else. I can heat the house, cook my food, and boil my tea and bath water with no more effort than building a fire. There is nothing else I have to have to survive. The lanterns, candles and generator power provide for my light and I am all set.

There is more to the wood getting though. Although there is already an ample pile of cut and split wood there is also a stack of mixed pieces which still need to be cut to length, split and piled. I have whittled away at it for the last three years as I have been back and forth from other places but it would be nice to have it all put in its proper place. Then too I want to go to the fields and cut more walnut and cedar. I love the work itself, the roar of the saw, the crack of the wood and the muffled clunk of the pieces as they stack up against each other. The fresh breeze on my skin as it dries my sweat is a gentle caress and the thrill of it is unequaled by almost anything else. The final effort of filling the truck and stacking the wood at my house is the just reward. So often the latter is done by the fading light of the sun, or even in the dark, but it is a good way to end my day. I will grab a few pieces to heat my bath water and commend myself for the effort!

I often wonder what my life would be like if that was all that I had to do to survive. I have lived that way in the past and I yearn for the same. My children can tell you of the years they spent helping me gather wood and how much work it was. I enjoyed it more than they did though they both do the same when they can. My oldest lives a more favored life but would love to share the experience with his children, my youngest has a wood stove, a saw and a splitter and is grateful for them all. For so many years we heated and cooked with wood and I miss the simplicity as I do little else. For me it represents so many of the goals I have based my life on and it has yet to fail me. I wonder sometimes what will happen when I can no longer provide for myself but I am not there yet, it just hurts a little more than it used to.

My life has always been based on the principle that ‘less is more”, as long as I have enough wood. I don’t want or need all of the luxuries most people require and have no desire to make the sacrifice of time and effort to attain them. Still, I am as caught in the effort towards their attainment as everyone else is as there are things we all must have. I could not live without a job or a vehicle and my cell phone and computer are necessities as well. Even if I could live here full time, as I so aspire to do, those items would remain a constant and they force me to have an income. There are other things I can do to produce that, and I will find that path again, but it takes an equal effort. The less money I make the more time it takes to make it and that leaves so little time for wood cutting, or anything else. I would not change the adventure or the experience I have had over the last few years of my life but neither do I wish to continue on that path. If I could return today to the simple effort of survival this place has to offer there is little question what the answer might be. I wood.

Things I Take For Granted


October 3, 2010
Nogal House
Indian Divide, New Mexico

Things I Take for Granted

It occurred to me last night as I was sharing a glimpse of my life with a crowd of avid listeners at an open mike venue that I take a lot for granted. That same thought was affirmed later when I was talking to one of the young men and I mentioned that I lived off the grid when I was at my ‘Nogal House.” His comment was, “You really do live like that!” Having lived this way for so long it has become a constant for me and I take it for granted where others are surprised by the same. I realized that there are then several types of people in my audience, those who live as I do, albeit rare, those who would wish to live that way and those who, though they would never chance it, are still fascinated by the practice.

There are things I take for granted, the pure darkness when I arrive late at night, the welcome solitude which greets me at the door, the roar of the generator when I pull the rope to start it and the rattle of the loose board on the window. Then there is the familiar warmth of the house, the comfort of my bed and the pure brilliance of the scattered stars which twinkle so brightly in the moonlight when I step outside to pee. Couple this with the bugle of the elk this time of year and the chorus of coyotes and the pure peacefulness when everything is quiet. Others might call it roughing it but I call it serenity, it is an essential factor of my existence and I would be hard pressed to live without it.

I also take for granted good weather this time of year but was instead awakened by the patter of rain on the roof. I rose quickly and dressed as I gathered my fire making needs and stepped out the door. My wood pile is as of yet uncovered and my hearth is outside. In spite of the clouds and rain it was too warm to build a fire inside, though I resorted to the same after the storm moved in for certain. I cleared the cover from the hearth and twisted my papers as I am apt to do, tossing a few small sticks and kindling in and then recalling the speed of last weeks’ fire set myself to get some chips of juniper. For those of you who do not make the distinction, juniper is my wood of choice and since I haven’t been here full time in years it is also scarce. I have been using the pieces of walnut I have gathered for the hearth wood as it burns hot and long but juniper makes a quicker fire. Neither will I burn pine or pinion in the hearth though that is in easy reach, both are too pitchy and I don’t want to coat the hearth or my cookware with their soot.

Having a large stove in the house and ample kindling there is no hatchet here to make chips to start a fire. I have one in reach at my bus where I have a smaller cook stove. I chastised myself for the oversight and I will purchase one today as I am amazed I haven’t required one. Maybe that is yet another skill I have learned from my Native friends who are so quick to make fine juniper chips which spark in an instant. That said I grabbed the eight pound splitting maul and the few small chunks of juniper I have by the woodpile and split what I needed for my fire. Once done, and my water for tea and bath on the stove I stepped down to the bigger woodpile in search of more juniper. I found a good chunk but it will require the chainsaw so I grabbed another piece which looked like pine to carry back. Warmed up already I set to splitting it and soon realized it was a hearty chunk of pinion, saved back as it is best to let it dry, for years if possible being the gnarlier sort of wood. The added effort was welcome and well rewarded and there was even some pitch wood to be had, so rich in dried sap that it will spark with but a touch of a flame and best to be used carefully as well. I came away with a couple of good armloads of wood which I carried into the house when I was finished and by then my water was hot. All this accomplished without having even combed my hair……

I put a tea bag in the pot and then prepared a bath such as it is, two gallons of water makes for a good cleansing. I stepped out the door shirtless to brush my teeth having learned to disregard the neighbor’s presence, they are far enough away to be ignored. I watched as the storm drew closer and the thunder brought promise of the pending rain, and eliminated any chance of my mowing the fields as I had planned. I paused to admire the billowing clouds as they shrouded the mountains and drifted softly across the sweeping plain of the valley, heading west. The release of commitment was welcome even though it was disappointing, I wanted to work today but I will gladly write also.

There is so much to be taken for granted in my life and it is easy to forget that not everyone is so blessed. The many years I have lived in this old house, perched in the foothills of the Vera Cruz has led me to some sense of permanence, even though I come and go often as not. The routine is a comfort and pleasure rather than an added effort and the return is ascertained, I am always warm and dry and at peace with my life when I am there. My frequent visits of late have led me to restock my larder and everything I require is in easy reach. There is ample wood beside the stove, buckets and gallons of water and my tea and sugar is in easy reach. Today I even reconnected the gas stove for the simple ease of boiling water and to cook a meal if I choose. This may not keep me from building a morning fire but neither will I have to hurry to beat the rain on days such as this. There is so little more I need for the moment. That is something I will never take for granted, even if I do most everything else.