April 29, 2017
Vera Cruz, New Mexico
Day One Hundred Nineteen 2017 Last Snow
Surely this is the last snow? I drove in last night through the rain and was greeted by the thunder and the lightening when I arrived. I howled into the cresado as the thermals met the cold air across the mountains and rejoiced the power of the storm. My feral nature is fed as much by the beauty of nature’s bounty as it is by the cycles which feed it. The storms are then the best, especially for one who has lived in the deserts for so many years. Just as struggles make us appreciate those moments in life which are so meant to be savored so the drought gives us reason to celebrate the rains.
The rain held back long enough for me to get the generator started and to build a fire but my frugal nature sent me outside yet again. Even as it began to rain in earnest and the drops grew thick with the cooling air, I stepped back into the storm. If there was truly ample wood for the night, and even for the day to follow, there wasn’t enough to please me. I left here just days ago to the warming of the spring and thinking, foolishly, that winter had passed for the year. If there is always wood in the house I let it dwindle each year so as to be able to clean and prepare for the next years’ needs. So it was there was only one night log, not three, and the smaller pieces I use to start the fire outnumbered the ones I might otherwise burn. And too, the night log was oak, that precious wood one saves for only the coldest of nights.
If I still donned my hood I also rejoiced the rain and turned my face to the sky. The sliver of the new moon was shining through the clouds and a few of the brighter stars still twinkled in the darkness. The air was fresh with the rain and the wet coolness, so different from the dusty wind I’ve been living with, and it replenished my soul. I even stood still for a moment to savor it, though not long as I did not want to get soaked. I gathered an armload of the choice logs and then returned for yet another as the wood beneath those was still dry. If none of the effort was genuine necessity it came close enough with the chance there would come a heavy snow in the night. I even took a moment to peruse my food supply as I arrived with no plan to stay beyond this morning. Even now, as the snow tries to fall again, the caution is affirmed. Quite honestly, if I had no plans to go to Datil, I would be happy to stay here beside the fire and let the weather do as it will. I have had too little of that of late and there is never enough time for such pleasures. I bring my artwork with me everywhere for that very reason, just in case…..
The Vera Cruz is at this very moment shrouded with snow and it is with a heavy heart that I prepare to leave. If this meeting in Datil wasn’t so important, centered on their precious water which I have taken some small part in protecting, I would opt to stay here. I also have plans to travel further west to Quemado just to see what I can see. Even if the weather remains as it is I am still eager to go there also. Certainly I would prefer if it were warm and clear that I might explore further but my time is limited anyway. I will take all that I can and if it pleases me I will return.
There is a touch of wanderlust involved but there is a deeper need as well. If I am content with my present lot and grateful for the job and the returns it has to offer, there is still more that I want from my life. If I have always been a dreamer so I need reason for to dream, pastures to explore and the wilderness nearby. If the bounty of the river and field surrounds me in Fort Sumner, and the people are blessedly kind and caring, I still desire a broader platform. So it is, with the security I have been provided, I can explore as freely as I ever have, and return sated from the journey. This, for now, is a good way to live and I am blessed that I can return here for the blooming of the iris, and to watch the last snow. That I can venture further also is in keeping with my dreams and those deeper desires which beg to be fulfilled. What more, then, is there I could ask for?
April 24, 2017
Vera Cruz, New Mexico
Day One Hundred Fourteen 2017 Luck or Good Fortune
If I recognize the workings of luck in my life it is my good fortune which has defined it. Luck, to me, is some random thing, a flip of a coin, a winning lottery ticket, things which, though there may well be some semblance of outside influence, are in the end simple, luck. Good fortune is something else, something tangible and with substance. It does not come of its own volition but rather as a product of living and doing well. If I am far from perfect I am still honest and devoted and my fortune reflects that. If I lack material wealth by most standards it is because I have other priorities. If I live instead close to the earth and by simple means it is because it brings me the most comfort to do so. It is not because I am lazy or unable, or even indifferent, it is because I have no willingness to put forth any greater effort towards those things I have no use for.
The raven arrives and cause long and harshly, as if to assure that I am aware of his presence. He is unabashed by my occasional presence here, but neither does he come looking for handouts. His is a simple life also and if we interact at some level by sharing this perch, it is more his than mine. Perhaps he was even trying to draw my attention to the brightening sky and the brilliance of the golden grass on the slope outside my window. If I am on a mission today to return to work by noon, neither did I want to miss that moment. The fact is, I would have waited for it regardless of my commitments but with the days getting longer its arrival was timely also. I am still on time and the brief delay it took to capture the moment visually and on the page is more precious than anything else, at least to me. I will reflect on it again and be glad I took the time to enjoy it.
There is a lesson here also, one which I am only now beginning to truly understand. It is in keeping with one of my favorite reflections, “To let go and let God.” The truth of the matter is that we spend so much time trying to make things happen that we miss the accomplishment. I have been struggling for years to maintain the simplicity in my life and to eliminate all but the most crucial necessities. In the process I have made it a priority to make enough money to do so, all the while spending the same trying to meet my needs. I sit here at this moment with the fire crackling warmly beside me and the air still and quiet in the dawn. I didn’t even start the generator as I am leaving, I can charge my ‘devices’ when I get back to my other home.
I took pause to write and drink my tea and sat long enough to be greeted by both the raven and the sun. I will step out to my garden and admire the iris once more and to pick a sprig of asparagus if I am so lucky. I will chew it slowly and savor its taste and texture. I will also break a branch or two off of the rosemary bush and breath in its fragrance. I will carry all of this with me as I leave and even if I don’t hurry I will be to work by noon. I can even now hear the doves call. I watch them fly in as I admire the shadows dancing across the wood pile as the suns light filters through the peach tree. If I am so lucky to have all these wonders surrounding me it is my good fortune to have brought this into my life and sustained it. There is, in the end, no greater wealth than that. Ixehe, Thank You! The day is good!
April 23, 2017
Vera Cruz, New Mexico
Day One Hundred Thirteen 2017 Therefor I Am Truly Blessed
If I have always felt that I was blessed it is the subtle reminders of the same which I choose to define my life. If I was blessed with good health and an innate happiness from birth it is the ongoing presence of the same which I am most grateful for. Certainly there have been struggles, many of which have been of my own making, but still yet my life has been good. In fact it has been the challenges which have defined the blessings and in so many ways have made them possible. If I have wandered wildly and at times kept company with the most difficult of men (several) so I have shared the wonders and the freedoms a more conventional path might have disallowed. Not that I don’t recognize the more predictable aspects of adventure and happiness but I have always been drawn to the unbeaten path.
It is that same path I rejoice today and which has offered me the reminders of these blessing. I now revel in my solitude and can so quickly focus my attention on the simple wonders of my existance. It was waking at daybreak to the coolness of the night, in spite of the good log I put in the stove before I went to sleep. It was opening the stove door to a pile of glowing coals and the one soft breath that caused the fire burst to forth after stoking it. It was walking outside, as I am wont to do to start the generator and greeting the beauty of the day. It was finding that, in spite of the drought, my iris are blooming, white and fragile in the morning breeze. I am blessed to have arrived here in time to see them as I am back and forth so rarely these days and won’t return again for two or three weeks. The flowers will have run their course by then and there is no promise of rain to encourage them.
Shall I count yet another blessing? I left Fort Sumner two days ago and took the road towards Vaughn as I was headed to Albuquerque. The country on that route is some of the most forbidding I have traveled in New Mexico and yet I found myself wanting to take pictures. I regret now that I didn’t but it wasn’t before I realized the contrast from the usually barren landscape. It has been raining out to the east, a rare early spring rain from my experience and this place is still drought stricken instead. There to the east the land glows emerald green and if its beauty is short lived it is all the more precious because of that. In a week it will have all gone to seed and yellowed again unless it rains.
So it is I sit here at my favorite perch on a lovely Sunday morning and count all of my blessings. Even as I do so, and with such a lack of crisis or worry at the moment also, I am again reminded of some level of necessity in my life. Even as I perused the beauty of the iris and paused to admire the lovely small flowers of the rosemary bush I had to consider this. I looked at the fallow garden which begs for planting and to the green branches of the peach trees which still hold some fruit but are already pruning back for the scarcity of water. There are dead branches where there shouldn’t be and if I can carry water for myself they are begging me to repair the windmill! I should have to make a decision on that someday and it leads me again to consider my plans. I have maintained a presence here for fourteen years and but paid the taxes on the land and the trash bill to the county, all told but $50.00 a month. I have kept the house from falling apart, though it is trying to do so anyway and is barely habitable by conventional standards. Fortunately I am anything but, and it meets my needs so well, but it is always in need of repair. I shall likely maintain a presence here indefinitely if I am allowed to do so but there is also the need for some sort of alternative.
What that the very existence of this place has left me free to wander! For the moment, even if I am still looking for a piece of land, I have a clear picture of a camper and the adventures it could allow me. Truly, once my debts are further reduced I can venture forth again and even market my artwork along the way. I am also just as ready to simplify further and the desire to make my time my own is strong. With so many blessings at my fingertips, the mountains and the sky, the flowers and the trees, as quaint as that may sound, I have little desire for anything more. If I can fault this place at all it is the presence of the drought, as I have grown spoiled where I am, living so close to the river as I do. All of this has renewed my appreciation for all the wonders of my life, and how simple that can be. For the moment I have both and therefor I am blessed!
April 15, 2017
Fort Sumner, New Mexico
Day One Hundred Five 2017 Transition
The transition is complete. If I have always been wildish I have now acknowledged it again and painted it on my skin. When I was a teenager I tattooed a marijuana leaf on my ankle and a heart on my wrist. I have long since wanted to have a horse done on my shoulder blade but never found the right time to have it done. Now, having hired a talented young artist with a light and steady hand, and having had the chance to witness his work beforehand, I have fulfilled my wish.
First, being not so brave as I would choose, I had my favorite eagle feathers (my own creations, all) penned on my shoulder. If it burned it was not truly painful and I sipped a beer through the process. Beings that I rarely indulge it served the purpose well and with some good company for distraction the time passed quickly. It took little thought to decide to finish the effort either and I arranged to return the next day for the other. Yesterday found me sitting for the horse on my back and then, as it was now a familiar effort, I had the Zia symbol emblazoned on my other shoulder, all for balance of course. We all joked that it was only the beginning and although I have suggested it is enough there is the temptation to continue.
If I have wondered why a person might blanket themselves with tattoos I now understand more of what is behind it. If it is in part a social statement the personal message is far more important. The symbols we choose to write on our skin are a statement of who and what we are and the experience of doing so elevates it to yet another level. It was in fact one of the more spiritual things I have ever done and as one sits and feels the pain of the ink entering their skin it takes you to that higher plane of thought and experience. It was almost as if I was having a vision as I sat for the process and I moved into another realm of thought and emotion, it is with me still.
I also felt the work at another level as I have so often drawn the same lines with my own hand. The horse I penned is also the focal point of my artwork and my business, “Running Horse Designs” and I have drawn it, burned it on leather and routered it on wood hundreds of times. It was the router I thought of as I felt those lines burn across my back and there was a thrill in following them. Each sweep of the mane and tail but also the long arch of her back, the curve of her shoulder and the bend of her legs was yet another piece of who I am. I followed every line with my mind.
This then is the transition I speak of because the experience will remain with me in body, mind and spirit. I have made the statement all along but now it is visible as well. The feathers are for my Native friends and express my loyalty to their values and beliefs. The Zia is for the four directions and the state of New Mexico where I have grown my life and call my home. The horse is the expression of my freedom and grace as my spirit runs wild, always. I think now there may need to be two more before I am done. I need a hawk or an eagle on my other shoulder, for freedom and strength. In the center of my back I want to write those words I sang so many years ago as I walked across the parking lot at that truck stop in Ohio with nine dollars in my pocket and very little else. “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to loose…….” Janis.
Yeah, that would summarize it all. There is certainly more but that would say it pretty well. I have already come away from the experience feeling more complete and centered and I am proud of who I am. Funny but I was a little worried that my son David might not approve but instead he texted me and said, “Your bad ass Mom”. I’m so good with that! My oldest was a little concerned but accepting also and even joked for the first one. Today I walk forth just a little more empowered than I was before and knowing that I have lived and am still living my life just as I have chosen to. I might have easily taken a different path but I chose not to and I have never had reason to regret that. I could have stayed in New York and more than likely prospered in the conventional sense but I never would have found the joy and the freedom I discovered on the road. I might have never made it to New Mexico, never lived and loved as I have, nor spent the time amongst the people who I always wanted to know better and to be a part of. If I made that transition so many years again I have reaffirmed it. The transition is complete. Except perhaps for another tattoo. “It’s A Great Day To Be Alive!” Ahhwooh! LOL
April 2, 2017
Fort Sumner, New Mexico
Day Ninety Two 2017 This Day
This day I will make the best use of my time I possibly can, but not push myself towards the effort. Today is a day for spontaneity, even though I already know what I wish to do. If yesterday was cold and stormy today is clear and warm and the contrast is amazing. It is as if winter blew in for the pure joy of doing so to exit just as quickly. I spent all day sitting beside the fire and stoking it routinely and did as I have so often wished to do. I brought out the leather work and busied my hands and did so well into the evening to complete the task. I will do much the same today, without the fire.
I also made up for the poor rest of the night before and slept well in the ensuing stillness. It seems that not a sound interrupted the silence, except for once when I woke to hear the train. No bother there, I like the sound and enjoy the very thought of it. The fact is, after the turmoil of the storm everything else seems a luxury! I am as content with the warmth of my house and the clarity of the sky as I could be with any other blessing I might afford, and have no other wants at this moment. The only wish I might make would be that such could remain a constant and that I need not answer to anyone else’s requirements and only heed my own. A lofty wish at best, but I am working on it.
It all comes down to this day, and how precious it is even if it rests in line with so many others. Though I am not old I am getting older and the passage of my oldest son’s thirtieth birthday on the first of this month is a reminder of the same. He was, amongst many others, one of the most important life decisions I have ever made, and a conscious one as well. His conception was discussed before it occurred though even if we knew the potential we had no assurance or hope it would succeed. I will admit that I all but forgot that until it was affirmed and was as startled as I was overjoyed. As my friend Paula told me later, “If you wait until you are ready to have children, you never will.” I wasn’t ready but I had considered that if I waited much longer he would be twenty when I was fifty. As it is I will be fifty nine in just a few months.
That is what I was considering this morning also. I am not yet old but I am beginning to appreciate the aging process. I have begun to see how fortunate I am as I meet other people, some my junior, who look old to me. After such encounters, especially with friends, I tend to look at myself a little closer in the mirror, with just rewards I might add. I am aging for certain but I seem to be doing it well. I am most grateful for that and honor it with the added effort to stay that way. Not that I don’t have to work harder at that but the effort is present for certain. My point is this, my appreciation for each and every day heightens as I grow older and I am so grateful to have this life before me. I have no way of knowing it will stretch for years to come but I do believe it will, and I wish to enjoy it.
The sky is crystal clear today and there is no wind for the moment. I have already turned off the heater, and I have been invited to church. If I rarely attend services, preferring instead my own brand of worship, I am excited to go also. A dear friend invited me and her sister is bringing the message today. I am eager to meet and listen to her. If her brand of wisdom has any bearing on that of my friend it will be a message worth receiving! From there I will go on my merry way in whatever direction the day requires, and be happy just to follow. I will be happy if I do more of my art as I can sell some this coming week, but there is plenty ready if I don’t. The spontaneity is most welcome and it is a good beginning for this day.
April 1, 2017
Fort Sumner, New Mexico
Day Ninety One 2017 One Small Log
I slept terribly last night. Somewhere between the wind and the rain, the noise of each interspersed by those of humanity, I could not find the peace I required to rest. Something else also, though I will never know if it was something I ate or the moon and the stars that would not allow me to still myself. Finally, in the quiet of the latest night or early morning, I rested well enough. The errant thoughts of the restless night gave way to quiet contemplation and I awoke well enough. Still yet the wind blows and the sky is dark and grey again. Building a fire here means the peaches will freeze in Nogal, sadly, but I am absolved from my guilt also. The trees will live without water, but never bear fruit, and at least I’m not to blame.
If I cannot seek inspiration elsewhere today so I can still strive to create it. Today is just such a day for that, the wind strong and the air cold and uninviting. I will only go outside for necessity but I am well prepared to fill the day otherwise. I am still working on replenishing my spirit and even if nature brings her own form of disruption, rocking my bus in the wind and chilling the air outside, so I can find the peace I require deep within myself. I have grown to be quite good at this even if I do not always practice it and my desire to purvey the same to others gives me the incentive to continue! If I have found the avenue to the serenity we all so desire it is also my duty to point it out to others if they wish to follow. Though the path is sacred it is meant to be shared by those who may honor it also.
This is a day to do as there is little else it has to offer. With no desire to go out of doors it is a day to build a fire and to be still. I am not in need of distraction as I am satisfied with the projects at hand, to first gather my thoughts and then to create more inventory of my artwork. Though much of what I am doing these days is handwork, cutting, hole punching and stitching leather, there is the creative aspect of ornamentation also, and of creating new designs, all which appeal to me today. When I feel creative I can branch out and make new designs and appurtenances, when I grow tired I can stitch…….All of this fulfills my need to be productive while leaving my mind to wander or focus as it will, both of which I need more time to do. I may put on some music later but for now the silence, even with the howl of the wind, is a comfort, though I wish it would be still.
There is room but for one small log in the fire box, but it will serve its purpose well. I revel for a moment in the simplicity of my life and I am grateful for the reminders of that. What that this should be all that I need or desire and that is so much of the allure of the Nogal House and the way of life it has to offer me. I could well do without any other form of distraction even if there are aspects of my professional life I enjoy also. I just don’t want to have to do it every day! Even today I will need to do some of that, though I will allow for as little as possible. Today is meant for me and I will replenish my stores all that I can. The simple tasks of wood, water and word will fill my time well enough! Where someone else might sit before their TV and allow their thoughts to be directed elsewhere I will allow for none of that, the very moment is too precious to be lost.
I read yesterday of the lives of the men and women who came to this place before me. The pictures and captions were posted on the walls of the courthouse in Santa Rosa, New Mexico, which sits along the infamous Highway 66 of old. It told the story of the men who built the highway and the women and children who followed along with their efforts, for the work was long and tedious without any of the modern equipment we employ now. They too often lived in tents and wagons as they were ever on the move and had to carry water and wood to survive. Theirs was a precarious existence at best, what with their children in tow and all the same needs that our own still need to this day.
If I still yet might have chosen to trade places with them for the challenges of my modern life, even if I chose to live a more primitive existence than most, so I am most fortunate to be here. I can consider their struggles on days such as this when their tents would be ripped from the pegs and their belongings scattered in the desert. I might yet complain of the cold draft and the rocking of my shelter but I am warm and dry and basking in that luxury as I contemplate their plight. I even have room for inspiration, and to dream of distant places as I watch the trains rolling along the tracks, yet another backbreaking contribution of those who came before. Their lives might have been simpler and more purposeful in so many ways but mine leaves room for a level of inspiration which they had so little time for. I need but one small log to warm my space while they would have been wishing for a fire.