“One must always see the humor!!!!!”
December 9, 2015
185 Nogal Canyon Road
Bent, New Mexico
And So I Shall Build A Shrine
“I so I too shall build a shrine to peacefulness.”
My sister and I are sharing a trying time in our lives from two thousand miles apart. Our father, the stubborn man he has always been, is no less as he ages and the challenges are many. We want only for his comfort but he cannot see this nor assist our efforts and he will have his way, as it should be. After all, who are we to meddle with a man’s wishes, or anyone’s for that matter, when we would be the first to resist the same? If I have come to respect this edict so I shall practice it also. If he is making mistakes I will learn from them and make every effort not to repeat them. My children will be better off for that, and so will I.
And so I too shall build a shrine……..just as my sister has, to the peace and serenity which we all require in our lives. Hers sits in her living room, mine in my already infamous Outhouse. If I have shared the insight and comfort the small structure has provided so I will build on them also. Though the walls are yet to be covered and the doorway stands open to the hillside the window is adorned with an elk horn and a crystal, thanks to her! With just a slight effort a small square and a shiny plate of glass have become a window to the world and a doorway to Zen, to remain so for eternity. There shall be wind chimes and other adulations as time goes forward and even the most hardened souls will have to see the humor.
There is another lesson in this also, as deep and as lasting as the first. I too shall build a shrine within myself that I may carry with me everywhere I go. If I have gathered treasures of the simplest things that I might carry them in my pocket or put them on my shelf so I should be a product of the practice. If I am to honor my father’s wishes what of recognizing my own and embracing them fully rather than just a passing glance. Shouldn’t the peace and serenity that reflects in the prisms light also reflect from my person? Of equal or greater value is the gift I will provide for my children as they will learn from my experience and perhaps repeat the same. If I can surround myself with peacefulness I should carry it with me as I go.
If I have yearned for the peacefulness of the wilderness so I have sought it faithfully. I innocently captured it when I recreated the comfort of my Nogal House in a simple effort towards convenience. It is the perfect example of how we can find peace in the simplest things and of how we can, in our efforts to adjust to the things we cannot change, find the serenity required to do so. There will be no magazine rack in the Outhouse, just a crystal in the window and some wind chimes by the door. In my ongoing quest to find the stillness I require in my life I have now provided for it and my daily visits will be a constant reminder of the things I wish not to forget. Sometimes we find the answers in the strangest places! I will thank my father and my sister for the avenue to discovery, even if it only leads to the Outhouse……..
December 10, 2015
185 Nogal Canyon Road
Bent, New Mexico
The Portal Potty
I’m having a rough time, plain and simple. My personal needs seem to have returned to the back burner. Somewhere between my fathers’ stubbornness and my dearest friends’ addiction to alcohol I have again taken on the role of caretaker. Where do I play into this picture? If I am aware of my failings I am still not taking the initiative to assure I am addressing them. Or perhaps in my own subtle way I am. Writing about it is a good start, it is as therapeutic as it is functional. I have also created, albeit unintentionally, a means of surmounting the challenges. I have discovered an altered perspective and it is readily available at a moment’s notice.
I shall dub it the “Portal Potty.” What began as a simple structure for a practical purpose has evolved into a shrine to serenity. The door still gapes open to the hillside but when it is done there will remain a window on the western wall. When I first stepped inside to use the facilities I realized I had recreated a peaceful retreat such as I have found in other places. Outhouses, by the simple merit of their presence, are almost always situated in pretty places and this one is no exception. The moment I sat down and gazed at the hillside I knew there had to be a window to keep the view in sight. The window then became a shrine and the sparkling crystal and the aged elk horn have all but completed the process. The structure has been transformed, even if it still serves a practical purpose.
I stepped through that doorway this morning for the pure pleasure of doing so. There was no necessity at the moment other than taking a moment to return myself to center. Perhaps one might question my judgement but falling short of constructing another shrine for that specific use, something not practical at the moment but to be given future consideration, the Outhouse serves the purpose. There is also the element of humor which, if one is to read the Sufi Masters, is as enlightening as serenity. After all, they go hand in hand. Perhaps if I am to leave any reading material out there it will be that, Hafiz is my favorite. He will open that portal to the less enlightened souls who may wander in from time to time.
That’s it, I could even rephrase some of his poetry. “God and I are like two big fat people in a little bitty Outhouse. We keep bumping into each other and laughing!” Hah, hah, I am laughing my ass off! I am feeling better already!
December 7, 2015
185 Nogal Canyon Road
Bent, New Mexico
The Last Of The Bohemians
Last night I walked into the hardware store in Ruidoso, New Mexico and asked the clerk, “Do you have a six inch stove damper?” She looked at me and said, “Huh?” I might as well have been the young convenience store clerk I met in Texas on my virgin journey west who asked me, “Wouldyoulikeasack?” My response had been the same and it took me a minute to realize she had meant, in my Yankee lingo, “Do you need a bag?”
In my case yesterday I was asking for something which, with my simple style of living, is all but taken for granted but has seemingly become a foreign language to the rest of the world. I told the clerk that it was for my woodstove pipe and she went to her catalog, still uncertain as to what I was looking for. I pointed it out to her as she was quite clueless and I finally had to call another hardware store, eliciting the same response and ensuing questions. “For what?” Luckily they had one though I had to notice the youngest clerk observing me with wonder as I discussed various means of knife sharpening with a fellow customer. That he was young and I am older had less to do with the fact we came from two different worlds, mine simple and basic, his modern and domestic……
I feel like the last of the Bohemians, (Non-conformist, Free thinker, Hippies) living a life such as others are too class conscious to consider. My children’s father, who was born in old Mexico, once asked me, “You are a hippie, aren’t you?” with an equal measure of fascination and distaste. In his country during the sixties the Hippies were the equivalent of the Hells Angels, a media tact meant to prevent mass revolt from the constraints of their governance. In the end it compromised our marriage as much as anything else. I met with a similar mis-judgement when I arrived here in Bent, New Mexico, when my neighbors informed me they had told our other canyon residents, “We have a new neighbor. She lives in a bus but she is really smart.” Really? If it had been an RV they would have admired me!
Perhaps it is a function of age. My values and principles originated fifty years ago which by any measure is still one half of a century ago. That may be, with any luck, half of my lifetime also. If I live to be one hundred and still live in my bus I will truly be an object of wonder and discussion, though I already am. My neighbors’ daughter (Love you Meg!) idolizes me and when she stopped by she told me, “I love your bus!” So do I and I live very comfortably. A small armload of wood is all I need to stay warm and my rent is cheap in spite of the beauty of my surroundings. I also have the luxury of having a ‘mobile home’ with far more substance than anything I could buy from a conventional manufacturer, mine’s better!
When I was a girl in upstate New York I remember wandering back behind my friend Shari’s middle class housing development to a place called Hippie Haven. There was a cluster of small cabins which had originally been a Jewish Kibbutz where ultra-religious Hassidic Jews had resided. The buildings had deteriorated over time and after they were vacated the Jews then rented them to the local Hippies who we had befriended out of youthful wonder and curiosity. They too had wood stoves, as I do now, and lived a wonderfully simple life. I decided to replicate the same and have never wavered from that choice. I have never returned there but I imagine those houses were condemned and bulldozed many years ago as the land values increased and building codes stiffened. I often wonder where those people went but as with the local Native population I grew up with they were displaced many years ago. I have been fortunate to find my own haven of sorts here in rural New Mexico but I am already becoming a pariah here also. There are many places that prohibit my lifestyle and in time I too may be pushed out by ordinance or regulation. For the moment I am safe, even if I have been reminded once again that the world is changing around me. Someday I too may be remembered as the last of a primitive race. That’s ok, I can live with that.
“The saga continues………”
December 7, 2015
185 Nogal Canyon Road
Bent, New Mexico
A Work In Progress
It is a work in progress, just as I am. What started as an effort towards creature comfort has already evolved into yet another life lesson in effort and inspiration, both of which were much needed at this moment. What that my entire family seems to be in one sort of crisis or another, so my life of late has also been a struggle. As positive as I am in so many aspects so I fail miserably in others. Having allowed my displeasure with work to pervade my life as it has I needed both a diversion and an affirmation. So I have discovered it in the simple quest to construct an outhouse.
An outhouse? Yep, four walls and a toilet seat. Having committed myself to used materials I have managed to find beauty in the same. If the corners are far from straight, though not too far off I might add, so the basic construction is sound. Having used the facilities before the walls were covered I also came to the conclusion that I needed a window. A skylight might have been fun but likely to leak and besides, I had already built the roof. So it was that I committed my time to the construction of the framework, as I already had the glass, a reward for yet another foray to the dump. Today I took advantage of the balmy weather to complete that effort, though I still need a little trim to finish it.
One wall of four. If the outhouse is ugly it has its own beauty also and as it evolves so does its character. I will admit the interior will be a far greater challenge as the flaws are obvious. Perhaps I will give it some attention later, for now I just want it enclosed! With some tin tacked to the back for privacy, the east side protected by the old adobe wall and the west side all but complete, the prevailing winds are blocked. In fact, I will probably build the door next though it will be the greatest challenge and almost worth saving for last. We shall see, I am inclined to put a little extra effort to appearances given my success thus far!
What is of the greatest importance is this. If I have already found some true comfort and pleasure from my project I have also rediscovered my happiness. Saturday was such a short day that I only put a couple of hours into my construction before darkness overtook me. In spite of the brief effort I came away from my work both pleased and successful. Carpenter I am not but creative I am and I will admit the glass fit perfectly in the frame. That was almost enough but it was the work itself which was fulfilling, as I discovered again today. In yet an hours’ time I had the wall covered and the glass secure and only my commitment to work could pull me away. Watching the clouds build makes that regrettable but there is always a tarp for now…..
The outhouse may not be a permanent structure, but there is so little permanence in my life. I have deliberately left it unsecured to anything but the dirt beneath it, gravity will take care of the rest. If I move it to some land of my own I will then pour concrete, but not now, not yet. It fits well with the fact that everything else I own has wheels under it, or the potential to be loaded on a trailer. That is part of the reason I have taken so long to even build it. I thought I would be gone by now, but I have stayed. I will be here for while longer it seems, but that is ok also. The lesson is that we must make ourselves as comfortable as we can, wherever we are and whatever we are doing. In the end our true happiness will always return as long as we remember to put our hands to the things we enjoy. I like to create things, even if they are simple shelters, and in the end there is beauty in all things! It may be a work in progress but it has already become a success.
December 3, 2015
185 Nogal Canyon Road
Bent, New Mexico
It is a work in progress. I started off to build a woodshed as I had decided a dry stack of wood was of the greatest importance with the winter coming close. Not that my wood isn’t protected, because it is, with a tin covered stack by the door and the remainder tarp-ready but uncovered for the moment. It has been a dry winter thus far and I have been a bit complacent because of that, but I have a good store also. If I do one thing well in my life it is to address my creature comforts and I like to be well prepared. I have enough mixed wood, cedar, juniper and oak, to take me through the winter even if I still need to cut some to length and split it. Having a proper shed is almost a luxury at this point, and because of that it decided to wait.
The outhouse somehow became the first priority, after I cut the corner posts for the shed mind you. My dearest friend was watching me work and it was he who swayed my judgement, “We can build a porch for the doorway and put the wood there also.” I know better but I liked the thought and after some consideration agreed to alter my course, knowing full well I would never see the offer come to fruition. Still, it is the thought that counts and there is no opportunity to see it through if I negate it, even if three weeks later I am still working alone….on the outhouse. I set aside the tin for the woodshed today also and will make that my weekend project if the weather holds, but first things first today.
So it is I have a framed structure that has already created a creature comfort I had chosen to live without, at least when I am here in my bus. The Nogal House has a nice outhouse but I have lived with less luxury here, though there are others available instead. Quite honestly I have missed the quiet moments, at daybreak in particular, but I have sacrificed more in other ways and they too have taken their toll. That is as much the reason for the added effort as any. I need those few minutes, gazing out the door at the hillside, to gather my thoughts. Even on the coldest of mornings I would rather step outside and I find an equal pleasure in the dark of the night as the sparkle of the stars is yet another joy of my life.
So it is that I have now placed a roof on what I will dub one of the ugliest outhouses to be constructed, at least in these ‘modern’ times. First off I was using some scavenged 4 x 4 posts for the corners, as this was, initially, going to be a wood shed. The remainder of the materials have equal merit and aside from a few odd pieces all of the materials originated at the reservation dump, the new acronym for FORD (Found On Reservation Dump) LOL! Second of all, the height of the posts was for a low shed roof, not a doorway, but they were tall enough in the end, at least for me. Being that I am the primary resident, it will do. My other excuse is this. Even though my carpentry skills have evolved out of necessity and experience I am still not profess and my hurried efforts, in spite of the speed square and the skill saw, resulted in some less than straight, or even equal cuts. Consequentially , no corner is perfectly aligned, even if the building is still reasonably solid.
Given the character of the structure, as well as its purpose, I have accepted its failings and instead embraced the obvious. If the end result will be a far more dignified opportunity for anyone making use of the ‘facilities’ it will also be an object of humor, such as it was intended to be from the start. It will also afford each and every person who chooses to sit on the shiny oak seat with its polished brass hinges the opportunity to enjoy a pleasure I discovered many years ago and have never since forgotten. In our hurried and distracted lives we too often forget to ‘take pause’ to enjoy the simple beauty and wonder of the world which surrounds us. Even I, who lives in such a beautiful place and so very close to nature, does not always take the time to ponder on the same. The necessity of stepping outside for one of our most basic needs changes that and nobody can help but admire the view when they leave the outhouse door open for those few minutes of stillness. In the end it is one luxury we should not neglect, given the chance to do so.
My friend called me the other morning and offered his usual greeting, “What are you doing?” I told him I was sitting in the outhouse watching the sunrise, as I had yet to add either the walls or the roof. His reply, laced with some wonder and surprise, was, “Really?” It was a particularly lovely sunrise, full of gold and orange clouds and we agreed, without speaking, that I was the lucky one. Even now, with the roof and the beginnings of the walls in place, the view is still wonderful, but it just occurred to me that I should have added a skylight!