July 25, 2017
Vera Cruz, New Mexico
Once again I wake at dawn before the sun crests the mountains. I do not hesitate to rise as the joy of the dawn draws me out. I have no wish to miss it and I am never disappointed. The sun finds her way joyfully as she dances across the mountainsides and sweeps across the valley. The ravens make their morning flight and the dove coo quietly from the trees. Dawn in Nogal is always precious and I am out the door before I am even fully awake.
I have begun to say a morning prayer also, in gratefulness as well as for restoration. If my spirit is far from empty neither is she full and the healing process is a gradual one. I have never been able to walk in spirit and the modern world with full balance. When I am in spirit I am open and free but so vulnerable also. My senses are heightened and therefor sensitive to every interruption or threat. There are too many of those. If I am closer to a balance now I am still unwilling and unable to cross the boundaries with ease.
It is only here and in like places where I can disarm and bare myself to the universe. It is why I stay when I can, and why I live as I do. It is all returning to me now and I have taken to this morning prayer, again. I lift my arms to the dawn, palms turned upward, open to the new day and all she has to offer. I stand quietly and feel the richness as it surrounds me. This morning the breeze ran across my palms like a caress, steady and soft. It was amazing to feel how it flowed into my body and filled me with spirit and I had no desire to break the spell. I stood very still, quivering from the richness of it.
This then is true restoration. I am immersing myself in the process before I do anything else. If I will have to make more choices going forward for now I am still, there is much work to be done on myself. If I have learned anything it is that I must protect and preserve the depths of my soul. I must also honor them. I have no regrets for the past six years but neither do I wish to repeat them. I will go forward from here. I will be patient and take the time to listen instead of pushing forward as I have been. Now is the time for myself, everything else will simply have to wait!
July 17, 2017
Vera Cruz, New Mexico
Luxuries Versus Necessities
The conundrum of freedom! Do I delve into the list I prepared last night or do I pause to write? Having just reread a piece I wrote in 2011, some six years ago, I have already spent a good thirty minutes simply pleasing myself. At least I have affirmed that I have been gone from here almost exactly six years, excepting a brief interim of starvation when I returned from Arizona. I faced a similar challenge first thing this morning, after I lit the gas stove. I stepped outside to the early dawn and asked myself if I had better build a cook fire instead. It would take but a moment to do so. There is a plentitude of wood there by the hearth, and it is plenty dry. I need only crumple some paper, build a small stack of sticks and put a match to it. I even have lighter fuel (Boy Scout juice, ha ha), to assure a quick flame.
I should have built the fire, and will restore that practice immediately. It may take more time, and gas is cheap enough, but I need to find my knees there also. It is a practice I have heralded for all the years I have been here, even before I built the hearth but stoked the woodstove instead. The hearth is for the summer fires, and I built it years ago. Propane was a luxury I could not afford at the time and there was no bottle for the stove.
There is never enough reverence in our lives, nor the opportunity to observe it. Fire building is the best. Even in the summer at my outside hearth I chance to pause and consider the wonders of my existence. I have caught the change in the wind, when I might have missed it. What better way to measure the weather than to see how soon the wood will catch or the direction of the smoke? What of the beauty of the sky as the dawn finds the hills? Sitting in the house it is so easy to miss that. When I kneel to build a fire in the winter the return is equal and I will be warmed by the effort soon enough. What can make one more grateful than that, especially on a chill morning when the coals still glow hot and the fire comes with but a moment’s effort?
Need I delineate between luxury and necessity after such a colloquy? Most likely yes. There are those who would question even the logic of taking the time to write with such a list of things to do. They would ask why I would pause to muse when there is so much necessity instead. What that my finances have cratered and I am free to go to work! I should be penning a proposal, not my simple thoughts. I should be networking with Indian Health Services and the New Mexico Environmental Department, foolish girl! Why waste any time at anything else, get on with it! And then you want to build a fire to heat a little water and some tea? What??? It takes twenty minutes to do all that, before the water will be hot, such a waste of time. What can you be thinking?
Time. I have all of it I can ask for right now, even if there is so much to do. I need not leave my house, or my yard, and there is plenty to address. I have a room full of ‘stuff’ I haven’t touched in six years, precious as it is. I need to go through it. Even if I stay it is simply baggage if I am not using it, though the books I will keep. If I decide to stay I will return them to the shelves and reread all of my favorites. I have wood piled up that needs to be cut, split and stacked for the future. I could clean some more of the house, the yard, the sheds……….but at least my living area and the outhouse are done. Hah, what more do I need except that? I am more comfortable when things are in order, and they are not, fully. They are in order enough, and the luxury of being still and tending to my own wants and needs is a pleasure. If I am diligent in the effort I sometimes neglect the finer details. It is those same things which are such a necessity!
This morning I read a piece I wrote a full six years ago today. I had accepted a job in the Grand Canyon National Park. It was that dream job we all speak of and never seem to find, and that it was. I had promised myself before I departed for that empty handed leap of faith that I would first retreat. I ventured deep into the Alamosa Canyon, miles from ‘civilization’. I paused to edit my book and to reflect on the simplest of things, far from the demands of my day to day life. What I found there was good, in the richest sense. My musings reflected that. I then ventured forth on a final, or so I thought, effort to rejoin the formal work force. I returned three months later with less funds than I have now, and sorely disappointed. I soon waded out into the waters again for yet another challenging effort, and stayed the course until now.
Luxury or necessity. It is a luxury to contemplate finding another way to survive aside from a conventional job. Who am I to complain when there are $60,000.00 a year positions I might be qualified for? If they offered me one I would flee, no matter the consequences! Could you, anyone, even just reading these words, envision me in a cubicle in some office in Albuquerque, or even Santa Fe? Yes, no, maybe, sure…..me too. In time, if I stayed, I would have that same ring of fat around my middle and blank stare of resignation the rest of those folks do, even if there was money in the bank, waiting to be spent. I could have all the luxuries I wanted, simple as my life is, but I would be miserable. If you have read what I have written these past few years there are harbingers of the same, and I was in a far better place than that.
It comes down to necessity, and even now I may well be a martyr. I know what I need and want but I have yet to achieve it. When I am here I am so very close. There is the wood and the fire, the mountains and the sky, the absolute freedom I have always required, and so little means to sustain it! I have bemoaned this same fact for years and have yet to find the means to address it, even after sacrificing six years trying to do the same. When I reread my musings it is the common thread, and redundant. Now I am faced with the reality of my choices and I will once more have to choose. That I am older now is factor as well and if the past I have had only myself to consider, I now have my children’s lives also. If my happiness is the first priority theirs is important also. I never want to be a burden on them and my choices will determine if I succeed!
The necessities come first but the luxury of being able to choose is priceless. I share this with my readers because we all must make these choices. With tomorrow as no guarantee and the years flying by in rapid succession we all have to make the descision, each and every day. If it is challenging enough to take a day for ones’ self, what about a week, a month, or a life time, such as it may be. Who’s to say we even have another year to decide. And what if we don’t? I have a cancer on my nose, what if there is another? If there are questions everyone asks themselves these are likely the first and the foremost, if they are asking at all. I am so fortunate to have the luxury of choice, where for most the ruling force would be necessity!
What will I choose? I have chosen a life that is ruled by necessity. If I want water I must carry it. If I want wood I must cut it and if I want to cook or be warm, for the most part, I must build a fire. I can turn on the gas stove if I am in a hurry, or just lazy, but I will have to buy the gas as well. I have made a lot of money over these last six years, and I spent just as much. I have a few things to show for it, and I am grateful for those, but there is so little else that I need. I got water, ice and groceries yesterday and some gasoline, all for a little more than $100.00. I could close my gate right now and not leave for a week and I’d be fine, less the debts I need to pay. If I had the solar panels I am dreaming of I could go for two weeks, and if I had a garden, even more…..there is canned milk in the cupboard for my tea. I could be building art work and writing while I stayed.
I don’t know what I will choose. I have a skill set that would be a shame to waste, and knowledge I wish to share. I need to write a proposal for Small Water Systems Guidance, and one for some new regulations. These are things which I aspire to pursue before I end my career and involvement with the state. I want to pay my debts, but there is one I owe myself. I will have to find the means to balance them both. I have had six years to consider this and I believe I know the answer. There is a choice in the end and a balance to be achieved. I have already chosen. I will address the necessities and have the luxury of doing it, in the manner which I please.
Six years ago today……………
July 17, 2011
Monticello Box Canyon, New Mexico
It has been too warm here at night to sleep well. This was something I did not anticipate and I was afraid would threaten my creativity, the very thing I came here to make full use of! As it turns out I am ok, not perfect but still grateful for the seclusion and the peacefulness. I have so looked forward to this adventure and waking here each morning is heavenly. That I am a bit stiff from my hike yesterday reinforces the dual purpose for my journey. I brought no other materials aside from my writing and reading to busy myself so I will get some much needed exercise as well! I never gave that a thought or I should have brought some leather so as to do some handwork as well. Too late for that.
I awoke this morning to clouds so perhaps the weather will cool, though the threat of rain then looms as a concern. The canyon floods even when there is no rain nearby and even yesterday with no clouds in the sky the creek ran brown and muddy. The water must travel a long ways to get here. I will have to ask Randy about that as I had believed that the origin of the flows, excluding flooding from the rainfall, was from the springs we had sampled when I came here with NM Tech, in which case perhaps somebody was working on the road upstream.
I am savoring the brilliant green of the cottonwoods and the irrigated fields, something that is at once alien and familiar. The land surrounding my house at home is parched and dry except for my garden and fruit trees. I do have a similar escape when I go the ranch where I water the grass and have the big walnut and elm trees to admire. Even the towering hills are not unlike my own but these are sculpted lava rock carved by years of wind and rain and because of that more spectacular. The looming canyon walls up and downstream are also thrilling. That there is new country to explore adds to the pleasure. I have looked only at the surface of this place, the canyons hold many secrets.
Then comes the lessons, those that only change and seclusion can drive home. In spite of the fact that I have spent many weeks out of my last year and a half in this very area in utter seclusion I was also assigned a task. Each and every day required that I go out and measure or sample wells from dawn to dark and then I returned to camp. Nearly every morning I took a few minutes to write and then wished that I had days to do just that, now I do. What I had nearly overlooked was the fact that I am so terribly accustomed to being busy at something that I might find the idleness daunting, and so it is! Not that I haven’t plenty to do but there is so much time available to me and nothing specific already in place. When I am at home there always is.
Many years ago, 1980 to be exact, so that being thirty one years ago, I was equally alone. I spent a summer in Ribera, New Mexico caretaking Russell and Dawn Bienvenu’s house while they were away on vacation. I was twenty one years old and had never in my life been so alone for so long. It was a challenging experience. This is by far less traumatic yet I can see that by the end of the week I will have delved into places that I will be grateful to have explored. They have wished for a visit for a good while, perhaps since I left Oklahoma in 2005. Doing so will also aid my transition to the Grand Canyon. As it was when I moved to Tucumcari, change always reveals the areas of our lives that need more attention. My life is always full but diversity is a must and routine tends to offset that. Too well it seems, which is much of the reason I am looking forward to a change. In all likelihood this is one of the reasons my life has been so full of similar transitions. I want to stay awake!
I am here to write but had no plan to begin another book, not yet, even if I was already considering it. All the same, here it is. What makes me think that my thoughts will be of such great interest to anyone but me? For one, simply because I find those of others so fascinating, especially when they are coupled with adventures and lessons. When their journey goes beyond the realm of my own travels and experience I am a rapt audience and I hope it will be the same for everyone else.
When I finished writing yesterday afternoon I found myself ready to do something, anything else than that. It was fortunate that it wasn’t any hotter outside than it was for it was then I discovered the lack of any material to occupy my hands or mind. I do not like to read during the day as it is such an idle pursuit and I need to be busy. With no work, no garden, no art to fill my time I had to go walk and it was a pleasure to do so. I set out thinking to follow the creek back west down the canyon but quickly wet my feet in the process. I followed the muddy stream bed for a ways and then decided to explore the canyon above me, so off I went.
I scoped the hillside for a good trail even as I sought a good destination in the peaks above me. My eyes first found the old fence line and followed it to the highest peak. It was tempting but too steep, even if the view would be fabulous. Instead I sought a lower crest and some large rocks that protruded from the mountainside and once I found an established path proceeded to follow it.
Just West of O’Tooles, climbing to the south. Feild notes……….
“I thought for a moment how regrettable it was that I have so quickly fallen out of shape, even if I have not been idle. I have, over just the last four weeks, spent hours sitting at my desk and working on my book. I have gained more inches than pounds as my firm muscles go lax. So, I thought, this will determine the scope of my trail as I leave the muddy creek bank to scale the hillside, the rocky crags inviting me to climb. I will tire too soon and turn back even as I look for the elk trails I wish to follow. Even now as I take advantage of the rare shade, sitting on the lee side of a cedar on the rocky hillside I see this will not be the case. It will be the rocks instead, not the ones that I find beneath my feet but rather the ones I simply cannot leave behind! I have already added two to my backpack, and certainly there will be more.
The shadows of the clouds walk the hills. I am jealous, they can move much more quickly than I can and I want to go to where they are! I lack both wind and endurance though I will have regained both before this week has ended.”
Several times I had to stop as I scaled the rounded hillside I had chosen to climb. At the first I was out of breath, then leg weary and finally becoming dizzied by the effort, slightly concerned but far from worried. I had simply not exerted myself this much for a matter of weeks. Somewhat fatigued I considered the possibility of being satisfied with what I had accomplished, having climbed high up the hill and close to the rocks I had admired from below, but I also wanted to see over the crest. After a moments rest I continued and soon recovered my usual vigor, I simply had needed to clear my veins I guess. From there on I never again felt the vertigo that had stalled me for a moment and felt that I could climb for hours. I did avoid any further steep grades and considered carefully what I might or might not have to scale if I had to backtrack again.
At the end of my walk it turns out that neither leg nor lung was as limiting as my nerve. Having climbed higher than I had intended to I had to decide whether I was to return by the same way that I had come or risk the hike around the steep mountainside in hopes of negotiating another way down. There was the chance of either getting lost or of coming to some great cliff or canyon whereby I would have to turn back and find my way in the direction from which I had come. Mind you also, as usual, nobody knows where I am and it is already late afternoon. Darkness comes early in the canyons.
I chose to take the chance. I had my bearings if no compass (duh!) and a line of sight on a landmark that towered just below my cabin, so off I went. Still, I carefully placed myself and noted some landmarks and paths so that in the event I had to come back this way I would not get lost. The country always looks so different when you turn your back on it. After measuring the risk and the slope of my back trail I carefully judged the difficulty of the return in case I needed it and hoped I would not. The slope would be steep to climb if I was tired. With that in mind I chose the higher trails rather than the easy escape to the washed out arroyo, and in the end chose well.
I rounded a curve to find myself on the west side of the same towering rock and deep bowl shaped canyon I had discovered when I had hiked up the Christmas Canyon on my last visit. Now again I had to choose. I could either hike around the rock and return down a familiar path, back through the deep arroyo and down the ladder that scaled the cliff within it or follow the elk trail. Knowing that the trail must lead to the green meadows below my cabin, where the elk grazed at night, and having already thought to climb the hill facing the same, I was somewhat assured of a passable exit
My confidence somewhat restored I took the later even though it led to parts unknown. I still had to circle the mountain before I knew what I would find on the other side. Finding the elk trail once more I was then led around the slope and back to the east, the only way to go in these rocky hills. The path led around the steep side of the hillside, narrow and precarious, overlooking a sharp straight fall to the bottom but headed south and east as I knew I must go .As I ventured further I felt a rare sense of panic start to rise in my chest, my heart striking a note bordering on fear. I need not slip or fall! I was still concerned that I would round the hill to find myself teetering on some great precipice and though not afraid of heights cared not to scale a cliff face either. I would have to take a long walk back instead. The cliffs here are sheer and forbidding and even though I was in familiar territory I had no clue where I was in relation to that.
Finally, steep though it was, I rounded the slope to find a full view of the irrigated fields. Then, as I got closer, the roof of the cabin and the nearby house came into view. I found some relief then for I had chastised myself already for my foolishness. This is forbidding country and I had taken an undue risk by striking off as I had, even if I had some good bearing on my location. That I was there alone and my friends an hour away in town had only briefly crossed my mind, let alone the lack of cell service. The trail wandered back a little to the west and I was tempted to walk straight down but was cautious instead. The elk know these hills better than I ever will and always find the best path. I soon arrived back at my cabin, my spirits refreshed and having learned another trail!
July 16, 2017
Vera Cruz, New Mexico
If I learned and relearned so many lessons yesterday I have already begun to put them to practice. A new friend mentioned he always wakes early to watch the break of dawn. The same has been my practice for years, as much to capture the beauty as out of necessity. Since I have returned here I have done the same but just as often opted to sleep late, simply because I can. I will wake with that first glimmer of light but beg off for the comfort of my bed, often sleeping too long and waking groggy. Today I woke early, as usual, but got up immediately, and was rewarded for the effort.
How often I have heralded the dawn, here and elsewhere. It is a lovely moment no matter where I am but this place, with the sweep of the Sacramento Mountains to the south and the Carrizo to the north, is a treasure. As with the sunsets it is ever changing and even this morning it sought to outdo itself. Yesterday’s rain left the thirsty earth still dry but the moisture lingered on high. It appeared in soft foggy clouds on the peaks, such as has already burned off with the sunrise. I would have missed it had I slept another thirty minutes. Instead I stepped out the door to greet the day and was rewarded fully for doing so. I grabbed my camera and circled the house to capture what I could and then stood still to breathe in the beauty.
Such lessons! I ventured over to White Oaks for the Farmers Market yesterday as I had promised myself the pleasure. If I am to stay here I need to reunite with old friends and make all the new ones I can. While I have bemoaned my solitude it is I who have contributed to it. If I do not want to repeat that then I need to seek out the company I have so desired. Though it seems the likeminded others I have wanted to find have evaded me perhaps I have avoided them also? I seem to have found them in plentitude these last two visits and perhaps it is I who have dodged their company in the past. It may be I am now more receptive also, having ventured forth and returned yet again. I find my old friends to be as dear as they have ever been and the new ones are treasures as well. Six years is a long time to be gone and I seem to have matured in the process. I certainly hope I am wiser for the wear for I am certainly older than I was!
Lessons. Even as I listen to the long sweet trill of some bird I cannot see my spirit is lightened. A fine sweet gentleman invited me to his home while I was at the market and he led me over to a woman I visited with the week before. She had been so kind as to leave a note on my gate and I was thrilled to find her there. We left her husband to his own devices when we reunited at the door. Such a gift they both presented me. If I have aspired towards simplicity and to be self-sustained, they have accomplished it. If I will never have the means to build such a lovely house as they have, or to purchase a solar array of the same capacity, so I am working towards a similar style.
I have to rebuff myself for not being more diligent, but then I have had the same in times since past. If Ronnie and I started a greenhouse, the one she showed me is thriving. If I too have gardened well, theirs is in full swing. If I had the windmill running I would be on my way to the same and it is an even greater priority now than it was, even if it is almost too late to plant. There is still time if I was to start now, but alas there is not the money to do so. I could enclose my porch if I was so inclined but as of now I have no clue if I can stay. Still yet, the lesson rings clear and if there is anything I want to have which would bring me joy and happiness, let alone those layers of nourishment, it would be a garden the equal of their own. That and the serenity, though I can carry the latter wherever I go and it is still in plentitude also.
Those two people worked hard to attain what they have and such a rare breed they are. If so many people aspire to have what they have created even she pointed out how rarely they seem to realize it. Somehow they have preserved the simplicity I have clung to in my lifetime and succeeded in securing it through the efforts they put forth. I have so much more to learn from these two and will seek their company again whenever I have time. I will also make the time for that, yet another lesson, and from here on I will set aside my Saturdays for that practice. If I have felt that I was too alone I have now found the means to avoid that.
As if that wasn’t enough, there is more. I wandered further on from there, missing a stop at the Brown Store and other friends but instead stopping at the Saloon. I stepped in more out of curiosity than desire as I have no wish to be intoxicated either. I might have left quickly too but paused to be friendly and was rewarded yet again. Even the owner, who has always been nice but somewhat aloof was kind enough to visit with me. I then perused the crowd, an older one than usual and was rewarded yet again, and again. I met not one but two older couples whose history runs deep beside mine and we found many common ties in the process. In fact the day was full of such encounters as I has met two others at the Market whose history was connected to mine. If those at the saloon knew many of my friends and the one had packed mules at the Grand Canyon and shared the sentiments I had regarding the Park Service, the others were even closer to my heart.
If I know some of the history of my house I met someone who seems to know its origin. Though I had assumed it was an old army barracks I may now stand corrected. If the color of the door trim is any indication the house may have been built by this gentleman’s family and moved from Bonito so many years ago. I am almost certain it is one and the same. To add to the wonder of it, as these two were certainly well advanced in age, his wife once lived with man I knew well from some thirty seven years ago. I first met him in Santa Fe but remained in contact with him for the remainder of his life, if only in passing. I even rode his horses in Sunland Park, as far from here as Santa Fe is, though he was born and raised in Nogal.
The world gets smaller when one stops to talk. Perhaps I am a little more patient now than I used to be, and little more curious and open to meetings. Maybe, even if I have always been gregarious when possible, I have learned to listen just a little better. It may even be possible that I am just a little more settled and more receptive to others than I was before, and just a little more blessed. If the crowds in Ruidoso made me wish to flee I found myself in White Oaks yesterday, wanting to stay. I left from the saloon and went to the old brick house on the hill before I left town. I sat and visited with the dearest of my old friends, grateful to find him sober and clear of eye. We talked until the sun faded from the sky, as we are always wont to do. He is the sort of man I have loved for all of my life, (less the alcohol, though that pattern runs true also), and the best of my friends, I might add. There is never a gap in our conversation and I would as soon listen to him as I would to talk. I am sure he feels the same. When it was time to go we stepped outside and talked for another thirty minutes. We stood and watched the sun fade from the sky and as I turned to go the bats began to pour from the attic of the old house he calls home. Awe struck, I stayed until the last few fluttered into the sky, laughing softly as they did. It was nearly dark before I departed!
There was yet another lesson there, one I carried with me to this morning. It is one I learned so many years ago and the same I hope to capture with my words. There are so many distractions, so many aspirations and desires we are led to think we need. Even those of us who have sought to keep the simplest of things as the center of our universe get caught up in the flow. Even I who has no television, or a functional radio in either of my vehicles, gets distracted from my goals. If I spent the last six years of my life trying to make enough money to stop, I gained so little ground in the process! I have a few things to show for that effort, in the material sense, but it is the wisdom and the knowledge which I treasure the most, much of which stayed here and waited for my return. Perhaps I had to leave to really understand that, or so it seems for the moment. I am a little wiser for the wear, and far more open to suggestions. It is another lesson I hope to not forget. I am so grateful that life is such a patient teacher.
July 10, 2017
Vera Cruz, New Mexico
A Mean Shack
Mine is but a mean shack, here on the hillside. The roof leaks when it rains and the windows are starting to fall out of their frames. As old as it is, being an army barracks from one of the missile ranges here, circa????, it has asbestos shingles on roof and walls and the old wood frame windows held in with caulk. I even recaulked the windows when I first moved here in 2005 but have neglected to maintain the practice. Now they are coming loose and if I am to stay I need to salvage them and secure the glass once again. But it is too late for the kitchen window, which catches the north wind. I am short on cash for the moment but there is plenty of tin, and for the moment it will have to suffice. The outcome of that is I will be slightly less critical of other people’s repairs on their mean shacks, I can now sympathize just a little more!
Ahh, but look at this mean shack! Can you see the shadow of the windmill on the roof by the stove pipe? Do you see, aside from the glass I need to clean, the ornaments in the windows, the character of the frames and the mountains in the distance? Can you envision the sunrise each morning and the way the light walks across the mountainsides until it kisses the rocky face of the Carrizo? Or what of the cool fresh breeze that enveloped me when I stepped out of the door this morning at daybreak, uninterrupted by the silence of the dawn. Oh yes, there was a dove, and then a raven, but they are not counted as noise, but are instead music to the ears.
Dawn on the Vera Cruz. As I watched the daybreak from my desk a dove flew in and landed on the top of the can that still holds bird seed for the worst of winter days. I don’t feed the birds unless I am here full time or the weather is bad. They still come in, and when I have the garden and can run water they are here enforce. This dove came for another reason as she had spotted a small puddle on the lid of the can from last night’s rain. As water is so precious here she drank deeply and then set to take a bath. Hers was as luxurious as mine, for I too make use of the sparse supply I have afforded myself. When I am here heat the water on the stove (wood or gas as I choose) and savor every drop of the process. She is the same, spreading each wing, sweeping it through the water and then shaking herself off. She stayed for a few minutes, cautiously watchful but quite thorough in her effort also, and obviously drawing pleasure. Her mate waited patiently nearby, respectful enough to allow her some time.
I have suddenly regained my happiness~! If I sat here for two weeks feeling rather displaced and uncertain as to my future, I have been restored. Somewhere between making a list of prospects, going back to the fields and the rains which have returned, I am settled. Now, today, when I must drive to Santa Fe for a meeting tomorrow and then Fort Sumner to peruse my final move, I have no desire to leave! Where first I saw my failings, my own and the condition of the house, my perspective has changed. Yes, the roof still leaks and is an immediate concern, but as it has for all these years past. It only does so when it rains. Funny joke, but true, and it rarely rains much………but still, it is raining! It is once again to the point where I need to repair it and as soon as funds and or materials allow I shall address it. I do have some tin, screws and an able bodied son so it is not so out of reach.
There is more though. I have been reminded again of the simple joys my life here has to offer. If I was unhappy when I first arrived I was grateful to have a place to return to, and such a place as this. If it is a mean shack it is still a home, and it has been for years! The furnishings are the same, and well treasured, and my art and that of others adorns each wall. No, it wasn’t the failings of this place, though it is need of repair. It was the housekeeping more than anything, some of what was years of neglect on the house itself, but worse, so much of my own as well. If the Nordic Runes council, “Put your house in order and wait on the will of heaven.” they mean more than the house itself. It is the proverbial house which they speak to as well. It makes no difference how wonderful your ‘house’ might be if you have no completion within! In my case, both had been neglected to some measure, as much because of the distance between the two as any other. Now, I am home, at least for now.
Not that my other ‘house’ is not complete, for it is. I missed it as much as anything else when I first arrived, as I have become accustomed to its comforts. I always surround myself with things that bring me pleasure and that place is full of them, as this one is. I also missed the people I have been working with, who have become the best of friends, and the routine as well, for the most part. But, there is something I have missed here for all the years I have been gone, though I might have come back here more often. In leaving here I left a part of my life behind that, if I have replicated in so many ways, could not be fully realized any place else.
It is as much a part of the meanness of this place as is the chatter of the blackbirds that just returned to the hillside. It is the necessity of stepping outside to pee and to start the generator, or to walk to the outhouse. It is the way the sunlight plays across the hillside when the sun comes up and the glow of the sunset to the west as it sets. I find it in the moonlight and the sweep of the milkyway across the midnight sky as the true darkness still reigns of the night, as does the silence. There is little else but the hoot of the owls or the song of the coyote in the evening, except an occasional car. Humanity is close yet it is as distant as the hills and the irony is not lost on me when they pass as I am walking through my yard. Strangers look up here and marvel that anyone lives here and my friends ask me by text of Facebook if I have returned ‘cause they saw a truck in my driveway. Others honk or stop and come back to say hello, and I am happy to know they care!
I have to step outside for a moment as the blackbirds are everywhere, calling harshly to each other as they fly about. The morning is fresh and cool from last night’s rain. The shadows of the clouds dance across the mountainside and dapple their flanks and darken the canyons. It would be a great time to go for a walk if I wasn’t leaving……..I think of my friend who I stopped to see the other day. He too lives in a mean shack, though his is a towering old brick mansion in a ghost town. His home too has fallen into disrepair, as much from its great age as from the inertia that allowed it. My friend has nearly ruined himself with drink, but he still has his wit and character, which I love with all my heart. In fact it is his very innocence which he has preserved that makes it so easy to overlook his failings, albeit with caution. He lives so much as I do, but without all the complications, though he is quick to point out the drawbacks. Still yet, it was he who reminded me of the treasures of our lives as he led me back over the familiar paths we walked in years before. He held forth the treasures he has gathered, rocks and old implements, pieces of history, and even a lovely purple glass finial, broken from its base, which he gave me as a gift.
If I savored every minute we spent together so my tears fell freely as I did. I saw the corner post of the porch where it had fallen and was yet to be replaced, and chastised him for the same. I stood with him on the back porch as we watched the rain come across the mountain, and we talked of pretty things. There is a family of turkeys up the hill, and he is still cutting wood, and isn’t the thunder such a wondrous sound! He should fix the other house, but what for, it isn’t his. And the darn deer and the pack rats are eating his beans and his squash, but look at how he had channeled the rain water over to the garden, and he was building a new gate. There is even a twisted piece of a cedar that looks like an alien, can I see it from here? His dreams and mine are as tangled together as that tree, but as incomplete as his gate building.
Here is the contrast. My friend never hardly leaves his perch. He lost his driver’s license, and so much of his ambition years ago, though he stays busy every day, at least by his own measure. In exchange he has preserved something which I will never lose but which languishes in the process. If I still savor the beauty and peacefulness wherever I find it I am only surrounded by it here. He lives in the midst of it each and every day and doesn’t miss a bit of it, unless he gets too drunk. I don’t know why he has to drink, he has found that big love in so many things just as I did so many years ago. He lives with it all the time, but the liquor loves him best. I even tried to intervene years ago, as I love him also, but she won the battle. The trouble is, I too cling to my innocence but my elixir, if you will, is the necessity to work. He should and he does, but only so much as he has to provide his simple needs. I envy the opportunities he has squandered by doing so. But then, that is part of his failing, though mine is quite the same, just opposite! He doesn’t do enough, I do too much.
I have my needs also, and they are simple, but I have no house to stay without a job to support it. I am driven to pay my bills and my luxuries, few that they are. I have my phone, my truck, insurance and debts, rent for the moment, groceries and whatever else I think I must buy. He needs beer and food and a little gas for his truck, though he barely drives. What he has that I don’t is that he has turned his back on everything but the simple routine of his existence. If he is too alone and too drunk so much of the time, he has the freedom I am so wont to find. I am a little afraid to step as far away as he has, and yet it seems the better tack, less the liquor I might add. I have rediscovered that very treasure when I returned here, and he reminded me of the same. It is just too bad he isn’t sober, for we are both just a little too alone. Perhaps I should buy myself a six pack!
Somewhere between the two of us there is a happy medium. If I have bemoaned the necessity of trying to provide for myself I have clung to the simplicity. If I haven’t squandered my earnings over the years so I have overspent also. I see now that I might have returned here more often for solace and peace of mind, and saved more money in the process. Still yet, I would have also been too alone, and it is why I have left and ventured forth, as much as it was for the money. I see now the gains and the losses, and I am wiser for the wear. I may leave again also, but then again, I may stay! I have acquired so much of what I need and I have a good truck, or three, to fall back on. I have regained some great portion of my peace of mind, and it returned as fast as it could. My friend, in spite of all his failings, has reminded me of just how precious that is. I think he has the right idea, he just took it a little bit too far…………