Utter Bliss (Book Exerpt)
As I go back through what I hope to be my final (final) edit of my book I find the precious moments I so hope to share. This is one of my favorites and stark reminder of what I hope to restore to my life!!!!
April 20, 2010
Indian Divide, New Mexico
Utter Bliss (For Charlie Gerrald)
The sky was filled with fog this morning, masking the mountains and shadowing the trees into a mystical fairy land with the haze of moisture being a rare and blessed event. What that it is nearly the end of April, 45 degrees at daybreak and I still have a fire going in the woodstove! I dressed for work with every intention of getting in a few hours before I prepared for my son’s wedding. They had planned a modest ceremony for now so there was no need for too much preparation but I finally came to the conclusion I needed the day off. I worked Sunday so I don’t feel pressured and the fog has yet to rise, it is likely raining in Nogal so I am safe. What is more important is that my heart is full of happiness and the thoughts are meant to be recorded and shared, weighing even further in my favor.
Yesterday I hurried across the Stephenson Ranch as best I could. Given that for fifty miles it is all dirt and rock roads the top speed of 20 mph is a risky one. I watched the clouds build and billow across the mountain peaks, breathed in the awesome coolness the rains bring to the desert and knew I shouldn’t dally. That seems simple enough but the ramparts of the ancient lava flows and the complex geology make it difficult, even in familiar territory! I have traveled this road several times but the thrill shall never fade from the views and the vistas it takes me to. It is the Land of Enchantment in its fullest glory! Every twist and turn reveals some new overlook and as if the scenery isn’t enough there are other wonders as well. The water filled cholla cactus are trying to burst at the seams and are twice as big around as last year when they were shriveled with the drought. The wildflowers are already in bloom lest they miss their chance and the mama cows appear with their bright new calves. Too, there are the bulls, dangerously handsome and best left alone and the gopher and the bull snakes sunning themselves on the roads, indistinguishable from each other until approached. The bull snake is handsome and docile but the gopher snakes feign the rattlesnakes and are even more aggressive for the effort. They will strike at the least provocation and even chase after you if provoked!
Such are the wonders of my job, coupled with the self imposed solitude of the effort. I could have brought a companion but wanted to go alone and it was hard to hurry. Even as the storm loomed above me to the south east I had to pause to savor the moment as I found my knees to take a water level measurement. Such was the reverence I felt, surrounded by the utter peacefulness of the remote country I was traveling through. The cool breeze took me further yet and I had to say a word of thanks before I moved on. I find it all but impossible to describe the feeling that comes over me in such moments except for perhaps to say it is utter bliss. There are no other requirements in such instances and time could stand still, which it does, slowing ones progress for certain! In all truth I paused for just a moment and hurried on, knowing the scope of my work would fill the day.
Leaving the Nagel Well the dirt two track turned to the east and dropped sharply off the hill into one of the bigger arroyos that encompass the roadway. I perused the conditions before I drove into it as the water is running this time of year, carrying the spring flows of melting snow and making it a challenge to travel through. The tracks of the ranchers’ truck from the previous day were my only assurance and it proved passable if still risky! I bounced back up on the dry road grateful for the versatility of my truck as well as my own driving skills and continued on my way back over the hills and through the still dry washes. I arrived at the Finley Well by noon and after taking water samples had to let it rest and recover as it had been pumping all day. It gave me a chance to take a brief walk once my paperwork was done and a little more time to take in the day, even if the clouds were starting to get serious! My work finished there I took the road back down off the mountain and caught a glimpse the eagles as they were sailing on the thermals, falling through the sky from atop the cliffs and quickly disappearing as I rounded the bend.
Late afternoon took me to the Brownstein Well and over to Niccum’s Ranch with another water filled arroyo to cross. This one had turned me back previously as it had appeared too treacherous to risk as the road takes a brief turn across it and the current runs strong, coming straight off the mountains here. There is such a wealth of moisture now after a long winter full of weekly storms. The snow is still clinging to the high peaks as it hasn’t done in more years than I have counted, fifteen perhaps if my memory is correct and maybe even more! Once again I had to trust that the tire tracks from the day before were proof it was passable and I headed across. I hurried once again as the rains were only twelve miles away and could easily contribute to the current. It seemed like this was the day to live dangerously, crossing flooded stream beds, coming a little too close to big bulls and playing with snakes, but then life is too short to do otherwise, isn’t it? Not to be outdone I made the four mile dash across the last of the sandy roads. I slowed to drop through the steep banked arroyo, grateful it was dry and on across the flats to my final well for the day. This one required an e probe to obtain the water level measurement, fortunately, and only took a few minutes to measure. A brief dwell to affirm the reading and I was off again, now driving into the wind as it carried the rain in my direction.
Dust billowed just a few miles to the north as I drove back towards the highway which runs just the other side of the arroyo, though it was near as it is far with the rain so close. Raindrops splattered on my windshield as I hurried across the flat, dust flying from beneath my tires, the pavement a stones’ throw away but well beyond reach for the moment. I arrived at the arroyo and it looked to be running higher already so I stopped briefly to switch on the four wheel drive low. I caught second gear at the bank and drove through the water as quickly as I dared. I scooted up on the far bank just five feet from the gate, as the water comes up that high, and then I was through. I turned and took a picture and texted it to my son to let him see where I was and to let him know I was safe. He texted me back with an expletive and told me to be careful, not realizing I was already across and that the arroyo has a firm bottom, not nearly as dangerous as it appeared.
I thought to hurry on, I could see the rain and dust coming and after a full day I felt pressed to keep going, but I stopped myself. The pavement was right there and even if the road gets wet it is within easy reach. I stopped, backed the truck up and parked it before walking back to the railroad trestle. I found a spot against the concrete base, sitting in the gravel under the bridge, and I laughed! Laughter, yes, for making it through the day as well as for the memory of the hitchhiker I had met just a couple of days before. He was standing in Carrizozo at the crossroads and I then met him in the store as I ran in to get change to give some money to him. I slipped a five dollar bill in his hand and our eyes met, and we even visited for a moment. We were kindred spirits from years past as I had lived the same as he. I spoke briefly of my own travels and the nights beneath railroad bridges. “The train will likely scare the hell out of yah tonight but you’ll be dry” I commented as he said he was thinking of sleeping under the trestle, the rain close then as well. Yes, and there I sat beneath my own bridge for a moment, thinking about the day, gazing at the cloud filled sky and listening to the water run. It is such a sweet sound in the desert, joyful laughter indeed! As if in answer to the warning I had shared with the traveler a military jet flashes by leaving a sonic boom in his wake and scared the “hell’ out of me. Go figure! More laughter ensued…………..
The word reverence comes to mind, for there is no other way to describe what one feels at such moments when God must be so close. What more could I ask for but to have spent such a day as this, running ahead of the storm the whole day through, watching the clouds skim across the sky and climb ever higher above the Sierra Blanca (White Mountain) Peak. The mountain is still snow covered and majestic, framed by the blue sky and surrounded by huge gray clouds, barely visible through its storm filled shroud! One might laugh at a woman like me and wonder what has brought her here to this place where she can be pleased by such simple pleasures and think even that she might be quite mad, but she is not. This is all the part of her which defines who she is. She sits there beneath a railroad track laughing at her good fortune, wanting little more and thinking of her new friend. She is wondering and hoping he sees in her what she so wants to share with him, the pure joy of the beauty that surrounds her, and the absolute pleasure of it all. It is hard to describe, this feeling that comes over me in such moments except perhaps to say it is utter bliss…………