February 26, 2017
Vera Cruz, New Mexico
Day Fifty Seven 2017 Survival Skills
Zora Neale Hurston’s opening line for the book, “Their Eyes Were Watching God” says, “Women forget all the things they don’t want to remember, and remember the things they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly”.
There are things I choose not to remember, though my sister will offer to remind me of the same. Her memories are much different from mine, but I have no doubt we are both correct. There are also things which I hope to never forget and those fall under what I call my survival skills. These are the things I identified in my youth which I deemed critical to my ability to navigate the waters of this life, and again, I am quite certain I was right. These promises I made to myself have been my means of direction and have guided my life’s choices from the time I sat on the banks of Lake Welch as a young and innocent child.
It is these same promises that set my feet to the highway before I ever left home, practicing a skill which would ultimately carry me thousands of miles into the world of my life. I hitchhiked as much out of necessity as for the desire for adventure. I flew from one end of the county to another, and then the 120 miles from college and finally across the country itself for nearly eight years of travel. I sought and found the adventures and the people I had searched for. I grew to be strong, and wise to the ways of the road, and to life itself. And I learned the survival skills which have aided me for my lifetime.
There was something I discovered on the road which I might have otherwise overlooked. If I have always been a solitary person I have learned many lessons from others also. Traveling the highways offers a unique perspective as the meetings are all in passing. Whereas most people are cautious with what they reveal to others their tongues come loose to the traveler, especially if she shares her story first. Suddenly they are free to tell things they might never otherwise divulge to even their friends, knowing they will never meet you again. So I learned something.
If we never listen to other people’s deepest thoughts we too often go through this life believing we are the only ones faced with crisis or challenge, even if the evidence of the same surrounds us. Somehow we believe we are the only ones who suffer deeply or wish for other things. How I learned different and the stories I heard from the many people I met influenced everything I have done since. Who didn’t have a dream and how many of them envied my freedom, even if they would never admit it to anyone else? It was as much their desires as my own that led me to the years of adventure I embarked on. If I had not conceived my eldest son I might have never settled down……..
Survival skills. I sit beside the wood stove and listen to the wind. There is no draft for the moment though if it shifts I will know. The generator hums in the shed and there is ample wood piled in the yard. I will need to leave today but I will stay as long as I can, I have no desire to depart. If there are those who quip about my living in a bus they should see this house! As my friend Colin would say, this is ‘Shackdom’ at its best! I have even patched the leak in the east wall though the ceiling still shows the repairs from the past. If it were my own I would repair it better but the future is uncertain as ever. If I am fortunate I should not have to worry about it either, but I’ve yet to be assured. For now this is my only retreat and it is as essential as anything else to my survival.
How so? I had a friend ask me not long ago why I don’t have running water in my bus, or at least a booster pump and a shower. It would be quite simple really, and I have considered it, but never followed through. Instead I still carry water inside, as I do here, and heat it on the woodstove in the winter, though I have gas for the warmer months also. The woodstoves in both my dwellings keep me warm through the winter and I love to cut wood. What better way to spend an afternoon but to be out in the field somewhere filling my truck with those stores? The reward is immediate and lasting as well, I am never cold for long and the cost is minimal also. Twenty pounds of propane lasts me for months!
My survival depends on being grounded, and the means to maintain that. I need the reward of the fruits of my labor before I require wealth! I would that every aspect of my life would depend on my own efforts towards my needs than to serve for someone else’s. For this reason I keep it simple and when I kneel before the fire, woodstove or hearth, as I am apt to do come summer, I say thanks with every breath. The clack of the sticks of wood as they strike each other is as joyful as the splash of water in a bucket, and I need so little else. The feel of the dirt beneath my knees and in my hands makes it complete and the garden offers more sustenance than any grocery ever provided. I am reminded of this each time I return here, and it fills my every need.
Survival skills. I made my retreat five days ago and I have spent as much time here reflecting on the same as I have at anything else. I have reflected deeply on my greatest needs, fed the fire and put my hands to my art as I haven’t done in weeks, and written more as well. I could stay here forever and never run out of things to do, if I had the chance to do so! I wish that I could, but now is not the time. Still yet, I have reaffirmed the goals and the ethics I have lived by all my life and find them good! It is the utter simplicity I have chosen which has served me so well and I have never forgotten that. If I have drifted from them on too many occasions, I always return. This place always offers the affirmation of the same.
I learned a valuable lesson all those years ago when I perused the life before me and the way I wished to live. I read stories of the past and I considered my future. I stepped out on the highway, fearless in some ways and most frightened in others, more so by what I knew than of the unknown, and I proved myself right. There are things I do not want to remember; the looming threat of the city, the confines of the life it reflected towards me. The hurried crowds and the rules and regulations they required. I wanted a simple, solitary life where my choices were my own, and I found it along the way. It was an essential factor to my survival and I have never, ever, forgotten that! I am so lucky I have not! Those survival skills have served me well, I am still so very much alive!
February 23, 2017
Vera Cruz, New Mexico
Day Fifty Four 2017 Waking In Beauty
I woke in beauty this morning, my waking moments torn between opening the damper on the wood stove and pulling the string on the bamboo blinds. The blinds won, revealing the first light already shining across the higher slopes while my yard was still cloaked in shadow, the sun barely cresting the mountains to the east. By the time I had the fire going the light had summited and all but the lower slopes were brightened and the shadows of the pinion and juniper were cast long towards the west.
Morning in Nogal, with the wind out of the southwest and the higher peaks still cloaked in snow. It was fifty degrees on my porch this morning, still cold enough for a fire though I dampered it immediately. Already the door is open to let out the heat! The large pinion log I tossed in will smolder all day and it is comfortably warm. I sip my tea and listen to the wind, glad that it has allowed me to have a fire and not sweeping the smoke back in to the house as it is like to do on occasion. There is a turk’s cap on the pipe for that reason and it spins happily this morning, serving its purpose as it should. The fire crackles happily beside me, reminding me again of my good fortune.
There is nothing else I can ask for at this moment except that this could be a constant and that there be no other demand on my time or attention! How many times have I sat in this very spot and had the same sentiment? How many others have I reflected on the desire for something more also? My father chided me years ago and suggested that I am a mal-content, never to be satisfied. In some ways that may be true, and I am always striding to better on my circumstance because of that, but in others he was wrong. I have always known what I wanted and my faithful followers have heard me repeat it so many times, it is the getting there which is so hard. Ahh, but, as I noted so many years ago from this very place, I am there, already.
All shadows face west at this moment, across the shoulders of the Carrizo and the Vera Cruz, the wood pile, the barn and the trees. The wind hums loudly and gusts as it will but thankfully carries the dust away from me today. I have had enough dust and only now am I breathing comfortably. I am here until Sunday and today is only Thursday! I have been selfish and taken all the extra hours I have worked and saved them up just for this. I don’t even have a plan, but I brought my artwork with me, though I wish I had my paints! I feel as creative as I have felt in a long time and I am inclined to create something beautiful. Instead I will busy myself with the completion of simple pieces which are more than marketable and simply waiting for my attention.
Funny thing, I have spent a great deal of time here making a living with my art also, and supplementing it with whatever else I could do. My life was so simple then, yet the struggle was a constant and given my skills I was inclined to search for better things. Having spent so much of the past five years trying to better that process I find myself back where I started and no less clear on my future prospects! There is a pattern here which needs to be altered! The sad part is that I would choose to simply stay and figure that out. I have for the moment succeeded too well with the alternatives, being gainfully employed in a reasonably comfortable setting. Perhaps in the end I have struck the balance! If I cannot stay it is an attainable goal to be here some of the time, and I intend to practice that also. The key is, as always, to make the very best use of my time, all of it, and today is the time to start. I have won it back for the moment and the simple pleasure of the moment is as precious as any.
I intend to walk today, in spite of the wind, as I did yesterday evening before I came here. Just moments after I stepped out of my truck I was in utter isolation and the canyons began to speak, as they so often will. Even on the stillest days they have their own song but the moment they send forth the wind their voices rise in harmony, ancient and mysterious, sacred as any libation! My heart lifts with their music and the worries of the world peal (no, really) away, their din lost in the depth of the canyons and as quickly forgotten. If I have always had the innate ability to find harmony in my solitude the skill has strengthened with the years and the relief is immediate. I find the desire for the same growing in equal proportions and my aversion to all else is stronger also. It is why I have returned here, as grateful as ever to wake in the beauty which surrounds me here. If I can only find the means to replicate that elsewhere I should be content, it is truly all I need! Some things never change……………
February 17, 2017
Vera Cruz, New Mexico
Day Forty Four Nine 2017 A White Woman Fire
A friend chided me the other day for posting a picture alongside my piece named ‘Small Fires; which depicted a ‘White Man Fire’. He was right, I had written of my need to retreat and build a small fire but having not done so I ‘borrowed’ a picture from the internet. I chose the wrong one, a poor fire made of boards rather than sticks, the details overlooked at the moment. It was a white man’s fire.
I arrived here in Nogal last night and built a real fire, and then, this morning, bettered it. There is the first fire that one builds when the house has been cold and empty. I am quick and careful at this practice as it is evening and I want to settle in and relax. The wood is already there, carefully stacked for just such a moment, and there is a bucket of kindling also, along with the paper. I carefully twist the paper as I am wont to do, add my kindling to the pile. I then carefully arrange a few smaller pieces to begin, and a couple of larger ones, as I am confident in my success. Then I cheat a bit, but the addition of a squirt of ‘boy scout juice’ (as Ronnie so joyfully called it), is just to be for sure. It is 7:00 in the evening and modern conveniences are just what they are, convenient! The fire quickly takes hold and moments later I stoke it again and adjust the dampers.
Still yet, it is the morning fire which is most precious. I wake early as always and luxuriate in the peacefulness, lying still before I rise to absorb it. The house is cool but not cold as the fire still smolders, the coals a dull glow in the ashes. I stir them and gather them together and toss a handful of kindling and a few branches on top before I make my tea. By the time my bed is made the fire crackles again, a true white woman fire and a comfort for my soul. Even now it burns happily and I have placed a fresh sprig of rosemary on the stove for incense and the essence fills the air.
I might not have come here last night, and I am so glad I did. Having spent the day putting my life back in order, paperwork and sorting things through, I left from Fort Sumner late in the day. If the journey was a pleasure I was still glad to arrive and the lights of Carrizozo were a welcome sight. The sky had filled with clouds as the sun went down and they threatened of storm. There was a moments’ hesitation as I rolled into town. There is a cozy hotel there where I stay on occasion and I thought to get a room, but reneged, I had already planned to go home and I was close enough. The desire to wake on this hillside overroad any perceived convenience and I am glad I made the choice. I need to be here right now and the reward is immediate.
How many times have I questioned my goals, or at least the means to attain them? I need only sit here at this desk beside the crackling fire to restore my resolve, and my clarity. If work is the means to an end this is the end! If I have become frustrated by the struggles I have met with living here they are, in the end, not so very different either. It is the way I apply myself and what I do with my time which counts the most and I feel, at this moment, that I am squandering it! I am also trying to change that and it is as much the reason I am here as any, this is the place to do so.
The garden lies fallow and the windmill won’t pump, and they shall remain so. The peach tree begs to be pruned but can go another year, I won’t be here to water it and it won’t hold its fruit if I don’t. The wood piles are ample, and I will work on those as time allows as my sense of order demands that, though I may not add to the supply. There is enough here to last a year, or longer in my absence. Instead I will retreat here when I can and savor what I will or if I am so lucky take it all to Oscuro. Time will tell on the last but most important of all is my presence, and my intent and the focus I maintain, no matter where I am. When I am here I am grounded and I can take that with me no matter where I go, and return when I must to restore it.
I have come to this house for the last fourteen years of my life. There have been absences yes, but I have always returned. The existence of this place and my presence here is as much of an affirmation of my success as the old backpack which I still carry around with my belongings. I have lived my dream and I continue to do so, I just need to stay closer to it! I have spent more time in this house over the last few months than I have in the last few years, and I have been reminded of so many things by doing so. If I fled from here years ago in search of greener pastures, I have found the same for the moment, at least in the literal sense. Fort Sumner is green and lush and the river runs through it, a welcome respite from the droughts that reigned here. It was green in Mescalero also but the struggles took their toll, and I am still in recovery from that. Coming here reminds me of that also.
The walls here are adorned with my artwork and I wrote my book at this desk. The very fact that I am at this window is a harbinger of success, I have maintained a presence here in spite of the challenges. Too, I am the very same person I was when I arrived here, just a bit older and wiser for the wear. The Vera Cruz still towers above me to remind me of the beauty of its summit and I am thinking I need to climb it again. I will have to get back in shape to do so but that is a necessity also, and I will be glad that I did. The dream hasn’t faltered either, it is just still more elusive than it should be, but I am getting closer also. I get discouraged at times, and get to counting the years, but they are my success story also. I would not be here if I wasn’t still trying and I may be closer to my goals than I am allowing myself to realize! There is so little else I want, except to be able to simply live my life as I wish rather than as I must. I am here for the moment so I should be pleased. I think I will put another log on my ‘white woman fire’ and remind myself of that! May all of my dear friends find the same pleasures!!!!
February 6, 2017
Fort Sumner, New Mexico
Capture The Wind
How does one capture the wind? Such is not possible, we can but stand in its torrent and if we are so willing, allow it to carry us with it. Such was my experience this morning. The wind is torrential and I am tired. I might well have complained when I stepped outside, the balmy dawn with a hint of rain transformed to dust and sand. Instead I took pause and closed my eyes as the wind swirled around me and in an instant I was transformed. The roar in my ears was the sound of my passage and instead of being grounded in reality I was carried forth to a higher plain, no longer earthbound for the time I stood there. I had to break the spell, there is so much work to do, but for a moment I was free. There is no capturing the wind, but if we are so inclined, we can always join it.