Things I Take For Granted
October 3, 2010
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.