October 8, 2016
Nogal Canyon Road
Bent, New Mexico
I dedicate this piece to Jacquie Hatzell because she knows how to practice.
I have a friend who is devoted to the practice of her spirituality. She is a member of a group of people who, through mutual support, maintain a focus and devotion to their spiritual beliefs. I work very hard to do the same, by myself, and though for the most part I am successful, sometimes I fail.
Having set my clock back along with nearly everyone else in our country I find myself waking earlier than I must. This practice, which I will do my best to maintain, allows me the precious time to lie still and ponder the day before it begins. If I have always made an effort to center myself in such a manner, and for many years paused to write as well, so I have neglected to do the same. It is not that I do not wish to, or even aspire to; it is that there have been too many distractions to allow for it. Having broken the pattern I am only now perusing the means to repair it. In fact, everything I am doing at this very moment is focused on the same and sometime in the very near future I will have restored much of what I require to my life. In so many ways I have already begun, but I still need to practice.
There are some things which I have understood from the start. I fled my hometown when I was seventeen because I had discovered early on that I required a measure of freedom which would never be available to me there. The threat of the city, a mere thirty miles from my home, New York City, loomed as an ominous reminder of the society which wished to consume me. I was surrounded by people, my father included, who were driven by a fierce desire for monetary gain and a perceived success I could not grasp with my youthful mind. Fifty plus years later I continue to feel the same and have less desire for wealth now, or at least the effort required to amass it by conventional means, than I ever have since. Give me my freedom and a peaceful perch, a warm dry bed and garden and I need so little else!
It goes beyond this also, though in the end the two are one and the same. If I aspire to a simple life so I need to surround myself with the spiritual aspects which I have chosen to define it. If I have never followed a formal religion, nor required one, I am still a religious person and not a day, or at times even a moment, goes by that I do not thank God for the wonders that surround me. I am as aware of that ruling force, that pure and simple grace, as I have ever been in my life and I want to walk in that same beauty for the remainder of it. I want to wake each morning with a word of thanks for the new day, watch the sun rise in all its glory and listen to the joyful song of all of nature’s creations. This, in company with only the most basic human comforts, is all I really need. Sadly it also seems to be the most difficult to attain and practice.
Just a few days ago I drove my truck off the paved highway onto a dirt road that led across an open plain. At the first turn I parked and exited it beneath a rain filled sky. I stood for a moment and breathed in the freshness of the moisture laden air and turned in a circle to view every aspect of the horizon. There were no houses, no highway, not even a mountain in sight, just the plain. If not for the wind and the distant rumble of the storm it would have been silent, but it was close enough. The urge to run overcame me and I headed north at a steady jog, soon tired and continued on at a brisk walk. I paused to take in my surroundings and stood still, reaching for the stillness within myself to match that which surrounded me, and found it quickly. I allowed all of the distractions which too often rule my life to fall away from me, swept off quickly in the wind, and I was still. I laughed for the pure joy of the release, I was free.
I have taken something of that moment back with me and this time I will keep it close. I have learned over the years I can so easily escape to such places when I take the time to do so, but sometimes I forget that. Worse, there are times when I seek it out from pure necessity and find that I am so burdened by my worries that I cannot release them. Then there are moments such as I am speaking of when it flows back into me with such force and such strength I have to wonder why I ever allowed for anything else. There is a measure of maturity which allows for that, and within that same measure is a warning also. I have to practice this as often and as devotedly as possible because it can and will evade me otherwise, I have already experienced this! Some people have others who can support their efforts but mine is, by choice, a solitary journey.
I fled New York when I was seventeen because I knew in my heart I had to escape. Something in my heart told me I required the deepest reaches of the wilderness to surround me that I might maintain my innocence. In spite of this knowledge my life’s adventure has taken me through places where I found the need to armor myself against the challenges I was faced with. I learned in time that as good a defense as this is it also comes between me and all which is most precious. Time after time I have escaped to the wilderness to heal those wounds, and then returned again to the demands of our society.
Now, as I grow older and hopefully wiser, I find I have amassed all that I require to survive and I wish to return to the simplicity which I have always required. I have transportation, I have shelter, and I have the skills to maintain those. There is little else I need and there is no amount of money which can suffice for the sacrifices I am making to have anything more. I want to find my spot, to stay in that place, and just live my life from there. I don’t need wealth, though I would like some security. I want to live my life as quietly and simply as possible and to allow myself the time and the space to enjoy it. I want to live where the stillness and peace I found out on the plains is a constant and always within my reach. I want to shed my armor and allow the wind and the rain to cleanse my spirit and to laugh aloud for the sheer joy of having done so.
I have learned the most valuable lesson of all in regards to all I have spoken of. It just takes practice.