Archive | November 2015

Again

Again.jpg

 

November 5, 2015

Mescalero, New Mexico

 

Again

 

I have ventured

To the edges

Of sanity

And madness

Just as I have walked

On the precipice

 Of darkness

Before I returned

To the light

Such is the dance

Of a life

Unfettered

And unrestrained

By any and all

Of the conventional

Wisdom

But rather spent

Instead

In the joyful

Pursuit

Of wonder

And happiness

And all of the dreams

Such as a young woman

Might chance to dream

And to have determined

Were more critical

Than any other value

Or social moray

That might have been

Imposed upon her

But to instead

Seek out

The beauty

And the wilderness

That only freedom

And adventure

Had to offer

And to discover

After fifty seven years

And many of true struggle

That the joy

And spontaneity

She promised

She’d never lose

Still exists

In its fullest form

And that she

Just 

Had to go find it

Again

 

 

Shackdom

Shackdom

Doorway

November 15, 2015
Nogal House
Indian Divide, New Mexico

Shackdom

This is shackdom at its best. I woke to a warm house even though the fire had burned low and with a minimal effort had a new flame crackling in the stove. In fact it is almost too warm and I opened the door to let it cool. The aged thermometer still works and it said forty three degrees, but you wouldn’t know it, the air is balmy and moist. The winter clouds haze the sky and even the dawn was gray and the moisture hangs heavy over the distant Carrizo Mountain. Sierra Blanca is shrouded also, hiding the dusting of snow on its higher slopes. It is winter now, just beginning, but it has yet to fully take its hold here. I am ready regardless and I wish that it was the only concern to be had, I would be prepared.

Shackdom, a crumbling old gas shack on the hillside of the Vera Cruz. If I have treasured this spot since my first glimpse of it over twenty years ago so it has become my most valued asset. Though I can make no claim of ownership so I have the right to it also and it is mine to live here and stay. If good fortune brought me here so it is I am blessed to have remained and if I did not have this shelter to return to I would suffer. I have returned here as often as I have left and the solace of these four walls and the surrounding mountains restores me each and every time. If what I take for granted as my greatest comfort might pose a hardship to anyone else doesn’t matter, it provides me with all of my basic human needs and I have no desire for anything else.

What have I here that I so treasure? Someone asked me once what it was that I ‘did’ here. All he saw was the old house sitting alone on the mountainside with no services; no running water, no electricity and none of the aspects of a modern life aside from the four walls and the door. He missed everything else. I have the sun and the sky, the clouds and the storms. I have the twinkle of the stars in the darkness and the utter silence of solitude. I have the warm shelter of the house and the wood pile, the woodstove and windmill. Best of all I have my solitude and my shelter and yes, there is a generator in the shed for light and charging the precious battery which allows me to muse and record the things that others might miss, or not.

There are others who appreciate everything I have here but they, as I, are few and far between. There are still those of us who know the value of ‘less is more’ and do their level best to maintain that. It is what I find every time I return here and it is what makes me want to stay. Give me the mountains and the sky and I will be well. Let the masses surge and rush as they will, I will take the stillness. Let the bright lights and the noise do their magic, just don’t bring them here, not ever! If the bulldozers have already ripped the hillside behind here and torn loose the portal to that wilderness, so they have ventured no further. I know where the scars are and I will do my best to avoid them, there are rougher canyons I can still venture through where those men will never go. I will do my best to forget their presence and draw comfort from the lack of water and access which will keep people from building behind me, at least for now. My one neighbor settled across the road from me and I sit with my back turned to the same.

This shack represents everything and anything that someone would need to know about me. I am a simple and solitary being and I am content to remain so, even if I too would share this given the chance, but only with select company. I could not bear to have the silence broken at this moment even if a visitor would be welcome. I open the door to let out the heat and the diffused sunlight streams through the opening. There is a storm coming but it has yet to arrive and there is no wind to carry it as of yet. It is Sunday morning so there is no traffic on the highway, though it is never heavy here. Oddly enough it is quieter here than where I live the rest of the time. Even though my other perch is more sheltered the sounds of the canyon reverberate constantly and there is almost always the bark of a dog, the bray of a donkey or the whinny of a horse. I need the silence I find here and I wish that I could stay. I marvel that anyone would desire anything else but I am not just anyone, I am myself and grateful for the opportunity to be so. Let everyone else do as they will, I will enjoy this shackdom while I have the chance.

Storm

The winter storm
Hangs on the horizon
Waiting patiently
For its queue
And the opportunity
To break the stillness
It is the stillness
Which is uncanny
And makes the house
Too warm
For the woodstove
Even if the air
Outside
Is only forty five degrees
There is no movement
Only the heavy clouds
Resting on the mountains
And the moisture
Hanging in the air
And no branch
Or leaf
Is moving in the stillness
As if everything
Is static
For the moment
It makes me wonder
Where the storm
Will start
It always comes
From the east
But there isn’t
Any wind

Heyokah, Coyote

PastureNovember 9, 2014
Bohemian Grace
185 Nogal Canyon Road
Bent, New Mexico

Heyokah, Coyote

Late this afternoon, but well before darkness fell, Coyote howled, and the packs’ ensuing laughter echoed across the canyon. I had to laugh along; Coyote is one of my favorite neighbors regardless of his poor reputation. In spite of their furtive nature this pack has been emboldened by their perceived safety and they go unharassed except for the occasional gunshot. The herd of horses which graze the pasture they inhabit offers them a sound buffer also and they make for difficult targets because of them. I think they take pleasure in harassing the dogs also as they have proven themselves to be the superior canine and even if their howls are answered by fierce barks there is little other response.

Coyote, the Heyokah of Native American lore is the ancient trickster. He has long been reveled by mankind as the symbolic rascal, the sneaky and unethical presence who takes and gives as he pleases and reeks havoc at every opportunity. It is he who will come as a pack and kill an entire herd of sheep and leave the spoils behind for the sheer joy of killing. It is he who will follow the cow herd and murder the young calf who was so carefully instructed to be still and quiet. It is he who will run the fresh young colts through the fence for the same pleasure of simply being able to do so. He is despised for all the same reasons. I sympathize fully, and will join in the hunt as quickly as anyone, but I still love him also.

It is his call, his announcement of his presence, which assures me that nature is still well and strong. Coyote is the substitute for the wolf, who sadly and in my humble opinion, no longer belongs anywhere near either man or beast. Not that I would not get a thrill from hearing the long deep song that only the lobo can let loose but it would chill me also. I too wander these hills as do the cattle and horses, and the lobo is fiercer than Coyote. So is the lion who has yet to be hunted to extinction but is in short supply, he too is a threat to all of us.

Coyote on the other hand, while also being a danger to livestock and domestic pets, is a lesser threat, and a more devoted survivor. For this very reason it seems less adverse for him to be hunted and still remain a constant presence in our lives. He thrives even on the edge of the major cities and he lives in New York as well as New Mexico. In his absence, in places where he has been hunted out of existence, the rabbits are as bad as grasshoppers. If you don’t believe me drive through Wamsutter, Wyoming where the roads are covered as deeply in rabbit carcasses as there are grasshoppers in Roswell, New Mexico. I think even the sheep herders in Wyoming might welcome Coyote back, unless they like to eat jack rabbits.

Coyote also offers avid sportsman a lively adversary and I have heard that the fox has become so scarce that Coyote is the new target of these hunters. The trouble with Coyote is that he holds no set pattern and he often outruns the horses so there is no bounty or final reward as there was with the fox. Shame on the hunters for living within fences and boundaries, Coyote recognizes none of these. In Oklahoma they use helicopters to hunt the rascals but the power lines get in the way. In New Mexico they use traps and poison but he still thrives, even if they thin the ranks also. In the end Coyote still wins as it is the smarter individuals who survive. Books have been written about these superior individuals who will trip traps and leave their mark behind to make sure the trapper knows he has been outsmarted by his prey, leading him to try all the harder to succeed. I have had pack rats do the same and leave me thorny sections of cactus in lieu of flowers when I set out to reduce their numbers. And we think animals are stupid!

Coyote made me laugh today, as he always does. The Native People know him for who he is and we Anglos should be mindful of that. We have this false perception that nature should bend to our every whim but the Natives know better. Even as we thin the packs of the coyotes and leave the superior individuals to pass on their blood lines so Coyote thins the herds of other animals and does the same. He controls the lesser varmints also and keeps them from overrunning us, all as nature intended. He also brings laughter to us who hold ourselves closer to the earth than others, a much need respite in a world which has come to take itself too seriously. If Coyote should ever disappear we should all take heed, we will be in deep trouble then. He may well be the canary in the goldmine, a symbol of the presence of things we all need to survive, and the last to go if we cannot. Ahhh wooh! Hah, hah, hah!

Perfect Balance

Morning Clouds

November 5, 2015
Mescalero, New Mexico

Perfect Balance

Morning turns
On the wind
And the clouds
In perfect balance
In the same way
A hawks wings
Reflect
Off the thermals
With a silent grace
Full of complete
Spontaneity
Held tight
By total
Concentration

How else
Could he stay aloft
Unless his wings
Turned in harmony
With the wind
And how else
Could he stay balanced
On the thinness
Of the air
Unless he was in absolute
Control

I have never seen
A bird
Fall from the sky
From making a mistake
And yet it seems
We humans
Stumble
All the time
Even though our feet
Are planted so firmly
On the ground!

If

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

November 3, 2015
Bohemian Grace
185 Nogal Canyon Road
Bent, New Mexico

If

If I am to share my sorrows
So I must share my joys
If I am to venture into darkness
So I should bring the light
My life has revolved
Around adventure
Yet I huddle in the shelter
Of necessity
Providing for the needs
And the wants
That I must have
While my spirit languishes
Before them
I have lived better
And the memories
Are but a page away
As I have recorded
All of them
And stashed them
Like some treasure
To be admired and coveted
At my leisure
Except that they
Are not material
But tangible instead
Giving them a far greater value
And potential
Than any gem or stone
That could be sold
For some other possession
No
They are the greatest
Treasure of all
And instead unlock
The beauty of all things
And the freedom
And admiration
Of the wonders
Of the earth
And the most remote reaches
Of her wilderness
Where time stands still
And some things
Never change
But remain almost static
Except for the touches
Of the wind and the rain
Flood and fire
But even then
Return
Over time
To their present state
Because they are
That sacred
And that sheltered
From the touch
Of mankind
And his society
For they are comprised
Of sand
And stone
River and tree
Bird and elk
Nature’s creations
Sheltered by roads
Washed by the water
And towering ramparts
That hide them away
From only the few
Who might venture
That far
I would go there now
For the freedom
And the solitude
They will always
Offer
If only
I could

Envision

If I cannot escape to the Plains or the remote reaches of the Alamosa Canyon so I can still summon their memory with but a slight effort of doing so. I have recalled them now and they surround me but for the bark of the neighbor’s dogs and the hum of my phone. Oddly, everything was silent when I sat down to write but I have been reminded of the close proximity of my neighbors and friends, and my need to escape them also. I would kill those dogs right now if I could, or at least silence them, but then the spell would be totally broken. Instead I will do my best to block them out, if such is possible either!

So it is that some realities are impossible to escape! I need to escape right now, I need the solace of silence and solitude and I am writing before I even brush my teeth because my thoughts are that urgent. And yet my phone vibrates with a message and already the tendrils of the life from which I was partly removed for three days reach to grasp me! How easily we become prisoners of our own device and how challenging it is to escape that when it come looking for us.

Then there are the Plains, and all of the memories I have of their magic and grace. What great fortune I had to have spent a year and a half of my life venturing frequently to a place where the silence was complete but for the wind and the rain. I can still recall waking in that silence and having to take pause to recall where I was. Or the same feeling of wonder when I heard the tap of rainfall on the metal roof of the Bunkhouse at the Wahoo Ranch after nearly a year of drought. Fog was an illusion then and when the clouds settled into the canyon and crept up to the corrals and the barn the dawn was incredible, surreal even. How I wish for the same now and wonder when I can escape again. I have a trip to California planned soon and my time off is so precious. I am using some today and there are no regrets as work is the furthest thing from my mind.

During those years when I traveled for work there were so many things restored to me. Not that I didn’t live well before, because I did, but I was struggling to do the same. Having ventured forth in search of fortune and freedom I stumbled home with neither one. State jobs don’t always pay the most and the economy crumbled in 2008, leaving me landless and with fewer options. The employment which took me to the Plains put me back on track and opened the doors to an adventure I had only dreamed of before then. It also restored my poetry which had languished for years except for an occasional outburst. As with this morning such is only a breath away, given the time to record it, and I need to do more of that.

My point is this; whatever we chose to envision can promptly become a reality if we give it the opportunity to do so. I woke with a determination to do the same this morning and I have already succeeded, even as my tea cools on the stove. Some things are more important than others and our mindset can determine, and capture that. I am not going to lose the wonder of the dawn today but instead hold it close to my breast as a reminder of the same. I am not going to record my sorrows but rather hone in on the joys I have experienced and convince myself that I need to stay focused on just that. I want to write about the wonder of my life and to live the same so I can do so and it is, as was years ago, but a pen stroke away!

When I worked out on the Plains I came to carry a notebook aside from my field journal so I could record my thoughts. Given the constraints of time and my commitment to my work I often just scribbled brief entries, insights and poetry to capture the moment. What came of those were wonderful mental photographs of the most precious moments of that adventure. There were even days when I made ten or fifteen such notes, such were the experiences I had and the joy of the travels, driving across the waving grasses or climbing some narrow two track to another high mesa overlooking the world. I was in a constant state of wonder and there was nothing to keep me from it, my work was a pleasure in itself and there was no radio or telephone to distract or concern me. I realize now how rarely any of us ever experience that and if I took it for granted at that time so I savored every moment because I knew it was temporary. I always had to go home and the job wasn’t going to last forever. When it did end I sought another just the same but never found it…..

I ask myself now how to replicate that. The dogs have silenced themselves and I have captured the thought I did not want to escape me. My book lies in the background of my computer and I am assured that I haven’t lost my grasp on those memories. In a moments time I can summon the wonder of the silence and the whisper of the ravens’ wing as he breaks the emptiness of the clear blue sky. I could walk into the wilderness today if I pleased, I can see it out my window, though I would also have to return. I will still consider doing that, the trees are truly changing and the aspens will be a wonder in the cool of higher climbs. I need to feel my legs ache and the pain in my chest as I struggle to breath and know that when I summit the mountaintop I will be restored. Even if I don’t get there I can still envision it, and work towards the same. For now that will have to be enough.

In Sickness Or In Health

In Sickness or In Health

November 1, 2015
Lincoln County Medical Center
Ruidoso, New Mexico

Perhaps we all have the inclination to spare our readers the honesty of the trials in our lives but so we wish to share them also. I have been honest for the most part as I am a memoirist but so I have tried to avoid the more dire reflections. All the same, those too are meant to be shared and even as I ‘witnessed’ the same with a lovely young nursing tech to whom I will dedicate this entry, so I will share it with my followers. A favorite quote comes to mind, “We are all teachers and we best teach what we most need to learn.”

For Jessica:

In Sickness Or In Health

The funny thing is that two years ago I wrote a piece called “My Kind Of Whiskey” (See June 6, 2014 post) about my affinity for the drunks in Mescalero, New Mexico. I still love those guys, and one in particular is an active part of my life, but so I have learned the lessons also. I have always loved the drunks and if I am to defend that stance it is that they are so wholly themselves. These men are at their best when they are at their worst, spontaneous, joyful, exuberant, free to express their jubilant voyage through their lives, and tragically, so willing to do so at any expense. Add the fact that they glory in women like me who, as the song by ‘The Band’ called ‘Up On Cripple Creek’ states, “A drunkards dream if I ever did see one,” it is basically a recipe for disaster. That be me! I share their exuberance without the strong whiskey and my sense of self-worth is strengthened by their dependence on me.

Perhaps this is all well and good in its own way but so it is destructive also. If I am hard wired to be a caretaker, given my own mothers failings, so I am inclined to choose partners who challenge me also. I no more want to be cared for than I want to be controlled and as long as I am holding down the fort and helping someone else in the process I have the balance I require, or so I imagine that I do. Toss in some charm and keen intelligence in the form of a handsome yet troubled man and I am off on another adventure. Having found that yet again, after many years of solitude since the last one, I have again embarked on a journey which has been both rewarding and disastrous.

I have haloed the finer moments, you need but explore my previous musings to affirm that. He is my kind of whiskey and I get drunk on his company……three years later he still does that for me which for one such as I is a rare and wonderful experience. If I am not anti-social so I am not entertained well by mankind in general. I walk to the beat of a different drum and glory in my freedom and individuality. My temple to life lies deep in the wilderness and my finest moments are often shared with utter solitude. I need not the noise and distraction of our modern lives but prefer the sound of the wind and rain. It has always been hard for me to find someone to share these experiences with, someone who can appreciate the silent wonder of the deep woods and the glory of the mountaintops, let alone the effort to reach them. Having found that someone, no matter how troubled he is, or perhaps because of the depth of his struggle which of itself parallels some of my own I have in essence created my own perfect storm.

Our adventure has come down to the cycle of his drinking, a week or two on, a week off…..for years now. He drinks more than he is sober, we have counted the days and in the past year as of two weeks ago it was 150 days drunk and 120 days sober. Do note when I say ‘drunk’ I mean inebriated as he consumes a steady diet of alcohol when he is drinking, from dawn to dark, a nap in between as often as not, until he sleeps for the night. He tapers off sometimes and he tries to avoid the whiskey, but he does not always succeed. He has a huge capacity for either and even if the beer is more subtle after a day or two his color darkens as the battle ensues, and he drinks himself sick before he stops. He can’t stop until he is sick as the ‘hangovers’, the delirium tremens, are so horrible he can’t face them until then, he says that is why he won’t stop drinking once he starts. I challenge that sometimes but the truth of it is that his brain short circuits as soon as he drinks, it is a form of self-inflicted insanity but that is exactly what it is. He only has control for a moment and then he is lost, he has had too many years of the same to alter the pattern and I doubt he ever will.

It is the seeds of doubt that make it so hard to leave, even when it begins to injure me also, as it has from the start. I know the pattern, I have lived with all of my life and it is a difficult one to change. In fact, the degree of insanity is the same for me as it is for him and just as familiar. If the liquor triggers his dysfunction so it also triggers mine and I stand at ready when he starts. He calls me now when he starts, like a recalcitrant child. The conversation goes like this; “Hey.” I can hear the slur in his voice and the excitement as well. “Are you ok?” is my response. “No, I’m drinking. Come get me.” I will be on my way……

How do you leave someone alone when you know that in your absence they will destroy themselves? If this is not a certainty it is very close to one. He was doing it when I met him and his friends are doing the same; I see them every day and they die, often. If the same process occurs in our society every day it is even worse and even more visible on the Reservation where I live and work each day. You can see them everywhere, they all sit together and share the same illness, the “Alcohol Disease.”

Who am I to reach into this world and try to rescue someone? If this is yet another faction of the adventure of my life it is yet another tragedy also. I have no regrets even if I am sorry that I have done this to myself. Things would have been different if I had not but I have gone here all the same. That I have shared some joyful times with a most amazing person leaves no reason for remorse, but I have caused myself great suffering also. Such suffering as to have made myself ill more than once, which is regrettable. I have taken on his pain at the cost of creating my own, and that is not worthwhile. I cannot cure him without his help and at some point I will have to accept that. Having made myself so ill as to be in the hospital says enough!

I am better now, having braved the storm, again. If I stayed strong through this latest binge so I weakened afterwards and it seems we both get sicker when he stops drinking. I fractured a little this time and it landed me here in the hospital for two days running though I think I will leave today, I feel well enough anyway. I feel wiser also. A young woman named Jessica appeared in my room this morning, an angel in her own right and leading me towards the solutions. God works through all of us and we are teachers as well as messengers. She and I witnessed for each other without even knowing why but our questions were all answered. I shared with her my reason for being here and how in my efforts to help relieve my friend of his sickness I had taken some of it on as my own. She reflected the same experience in an uncanny parallel which led to deeper discussion. I shared with her a most recent reflection of how I had glimpsed a news flash of a young woman who was being prosecuted for encouraging her boyfriend to follow through on a suicide attempt. I told her how I could relate to the same and that in a moment of desperation I had even alluded to buying a gallon of Vodka for my friend so he could just “Get it over with.” Seems she had faced, and done, something so the same…..and she humbled me by sharing that with me. Need I say more?

If we are all teachers so we are messengers also. Jessica is a messenger and so am I. She told me what I needed to hear this morning and I can pray that I have done the same for her. I am a grown woman and she is but a child, raising a child of her own, the daughter of he who she parted with at his own hand, with her support I might add. I know how she felt and have had a close encounter also, not that close though I still believe she was right. If life is that hard for someone they have the right to choose and the choice is up to them. I had a man I loved make that choice years ago, which is a part of why I am where I am today. I don’t want to go through that again but it is not my choice to make for him. It is his alone to do and whether he does it gradually or in one fell sweep it is not my choice to make. I can only offer solutions and point out the realities, no more and no less, he must then decide. What I can do is choose for myself, no matter how difficult that is to do. The jury is still out but I already know the verdict. In sickness or in health….till death do us part.

Jessica is going to make it and so am I.