November 15, 2015
Nogal House
Indian Divide, New Mexico


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.


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
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

One response to “Shackdom”

  1. Jody says :

    You do have everything Cathie. A truer sense of self than most. A life that can be lived unfettered, and free. A love for the divine. Blessed travels. 💨

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