August 24, 2017
Vera Cruz, New Mexico
On occasion there comes the perfect morning. I woke well rested and early, lying still in the cool greyness of the dawn. The rain clouds clung to the sky as they have seemed to have done all summer. The air was still and allowed for the full weight of serenity to surround me in such completeness I cared not to break the spell. How precious such instances are in a life that if simple still becomes hectic out of pure necessity. If I have been trying to be still I seem as busy as ever. Or perhaps I have become so selfish with my time that every distraction is noticeable!
This morning there are no distractions, though I turned on the generator to charge my devices. I would prefer utter silence but it is the price I pay for not investing in solar. If I have overlooked one thing that would be it, regrettable but something I must accept. If I have arrived at a place where I again live on shoe strings I still have goals. The remaining needs will be met in time. For now I am grateful to have the generator, and this warm quiet place to support me. It could have so easily been worse.
If the dawn was still and allowed for a perfect fire so the wind turned quickly also. It is one of those things I might have missed if I had not gone out and lit the hearth. Instead I am harshly aware of it and grateful for the woodstove which also warms me now. The wind, which was almost nonexistent when I lit the fire, turned and came out of the north. The stove pipe faces north and is bent at a 45 degree angle and catches the wind perfectly, smothering an otherwise lively fire. I brought in my tea pot and placed it on the woodstove instead. In the process I am reminded again of the change of the seasons, as I was when I looked at the thermometer this morning. It sits at 55 degrees instead of 60 as it has all month.
It is already colder than that at the higher elevations and summer is on her way out. If I have always lived close to the elements I am closer now. My existence is slightly more precarious than it has been in years. Not much mind you, the bus has been a fragile barrier in the worst of times when the electricity failed to be available. Though the woodstove suffices for a good heat source the fire box is small and on the coldest nights must be replenished to be effective. Here I have the luxury of a bigger log for the cold nights but no back up either. If I leave for a day it will be cold when I return. A propane heater would make a nice backup, but it is yet another investment I might have made before now! As with all else it will have to wait until I have a better income.
If I have done anything in the years I have been gone it is to grow a bit wiser and more attentive to my needs. Having never desired or needed much luxury the creature comforts are essentials. When I have traveled for work, as I am apt to do again, there were times I returned to a cold house and had to wait for it to warm. If it is a minor inconvenience for the most part it is one I could live without. Now, having had the pleasure of an electric heater to hold back the chill I am considering the need for a similar comfort here. Still yet, it will have to wait. I have only the funds for necessities for now and I have yet to have the desire to make a change. I have until November until my small stipend runs out and I intend to enjoy the freedom, even if there is no money for anything else! I can already see the merit of doing so and by the time necessity requires a change I will have rearranged my priorities. Even now, with the prospect of a job offer I may not be able to refuse, I am weighing the options.
Here in lies the challenge. Soon enough I will have to choose between a hard scrabble existence and the option of a steady income, at the cost of my freedom. I have spent the past two and a half months at my leisure as I feel I have earned and deserve it. I also recognized that the only way I could restore myself to my previous good health was to take pause. It is so easy for one such as I to occupy her mind and time with any amount of things, which I am still doing, but only as I choose. I have no clock to punch and no set schedule, beyond the items I have chosen to connect to.
I have been so efficient with that as to not even work on my art. Instead I am focused on putting my house and possessions in order, and to spend a lot of time out of doors, wandering the hills as I wish. It has proved a good practice. I fill my mornings with my fire and my words, sorting through my life as I go. The stillness, such as I occasioned on this morning, is immense. If others wonder how I could possibly fill my time my greatest lament is there is not near enough of it! Even now I ache to spend some more time on my book, or to begin another, aside from wanting to cut some wood, dig through some boxes and work on my camper. I do have art work to do also…..you get my point! I will never allow for an idle moment even when I am free to do so, but it is all of my own choice. That little of it pays is unfortunate, and the subject of my future, for at some point it will have to!
Such luxury I am surrounded by right now that I am resistant to doing anything else, which is why my artwork lies still. With that the question lies unanswered if I could support myself through those efforts, though I have tried in the past. As with my writing I am loath to risk the chance that either become a job I have to perform. I prefer the pleasure of both, even if it costs me in the end and if there is a challenge at this moment that is it. I am, in essence, my own worst enemy! The other danger is far greater than that though, for I have always found the means to meet my necessities and I am on track to do the same. Thus the quandary. I can continue as I am and surround myself with the simple joys and the effort of maintaining them, or I can step back into the quagmire and make some more money.
Sadly, money is the key, as always, to how I will decide. Soon enough I will need to displace the ‘thank you for not working check’ with the products of my own device. I know that I can do this, even from here if I wish, but the methods are diverse. I can pick up some work here close in, do my art and even perhaps market my words, or I can get another job. If I am living hand to mouth and finding much happiness I do not have to do that. If I have already chosen that alternative so I have the choice of the security of a steady job, less the complete serenity of this moment! I am, sadly, very hesitant to consider that, though I am going to apply.
Better to have the offer to consider a month from now than to leave it off the table, even if the pressure will be there until then. That is the trouble. If there is one thing I need at this moment it is the utter stillness I so seek. If I am never truly still I want, for just a moment, to have no pressing need to consider. If I so much as toss my hat into the arena I have altered that possibility, even if I choose to ignore it until they call. They will call, and they will interview me and they will offer me the job. They have done so before and I refused because I did not want to move to Arizona. This job will allow me to stay here…….or anywhere I wish to go. That is the key, it will allow me to go where I please also, even to Datil or Quemado if I am so inclined. That is something to think about. In even a year’s time I could so secure my future, but at the cost of a present I am loath to leave behind.
In so many ways I have been blessed. Here I sit on an August morning with no pressing need or commitments. Sure, there are things I need to do and I will be driving to Fort Sumner this evening to wrap up things there, but I don’t have to. If the generator is a mild distraction so there is the peacefulness beyond it. My wood stove is warm and I have ample supplies for the winter. I have enough wood and leather to meet my needs if I wish to work on that, at least for a while, and such perpetuates itself. I can ride this out until November and there is plenty of time to make a plan. I also have options, something that was far less available the last time I lived here! Given all that there are so few loose ends I need to pick up, at least for now. We all need times like that on occasion and I am going to enjoy it for as long as it can last! I can leave the choices for the future and enjoy the present for all it is worth. In the end it will decide itself…………for now I am going to stoke the fire.
August 13, 2017
Vera Cruz, New Mexico
A Steady Hand
For those I love the most:
I might have titled this the hearth and the fire but either name is fitting. I started my day as I am like to do by building a fire in the hearth. The practice is a good one for me, meditative and filled with reverence for the effort and the blessings. What better way to find ones knees and reason for a word of thanks as the new day begins? It takes some effort and the gas stove can achieve the same results, but it lacks the spiritual return. I need that return, in as great a measure as possible. Even if my life is so full of richness it is still a necessity. If I am burning walnut and mulberry I also toss in something aromatic and the waft of juniper or rosemary is medicinal, bringing a sigh of happiness I might otherwise miss.
The fire going and my water heating on the hearth I walked down to my shed to start the generator. I always top it off so I have a full run if needed and did the same this morning. I had raised and tipped the gas can to get the dredges when a spider, one of the biting kind, ran around the base. I might have dropped it, or at least spilled some gas, but set it down quickly instead. The spider cleared I raised the can again only to have a bird fly in the open doorway and flutterer frantically against my leg before she righted herself and departed! The rare encounter and the feel of her wings against my leg elicited a laugh. Hah, I didn’t spill a drop and it was that rare morning that there was no splash to wipe clean before I finished. I started the generator and returned to my fire.
I knelt again at the hearth on the soft blanket that I leave there. I exchanged my water for my oatmeal, dropped a tea bag in the pot and stirred the coals back to life. I build but a small fire as there is no need for anything more, but must tend to it as well. The draught of smoke was a pleasure though I reflected for a moment on the same. I will carry a bit of it with me if I go to town, and it will beg for a comment if I do. That mountain woman perfume is a strong one. I will add the touch of patchouli if I go, though I am like to stay here also. If I go anywhere I will walk fence and explore little more of the wilderness it encompasses. I have only the roughest part to check though, and it will be a good hike! If my efforts give me access to firewood the reward of the mountains peacefulness would nearly be enough!
Yesterday I picked and sold my peaches at the farmers market and took some artwork also. My tree, so weakened by age and so many droughts put forth its best this year. If I have been here for fourteen years I have never had a peach, this year there were hundreds! Having pruned it faithfully until recently I was able to harvest all but a few of the highest branches. If the fruit was small and hail damaged so it was sweet and before the morn was through word of mouth and a few free fruits brought people to my tailgate. It makes me wish I had a garden as the market was lively enough to support one. I sold some art as well, making the prospect of that another viable possibility, for an income is a must. If I have no desire to return to the mainstream I will have to support myself somehow.
So it is I write an ode to simplicity this morning, as I so often herald the same. My lot is not unique but my means is a little different. There are few who would wish to trade places with me but they share my sentiments also. Though we all have our necessities mine have never been fewer, nor harder to maintain. As always what I need is far simpler than the means of attaining them, though that too is simple enough. In returning here I am learning the art of staying still, even if I am busy at doing so. I have ventured hardly anywhere and limit my travails to necessity. If I need food, water, ice and gas, only then will I go to town. My limited funds require such frugality and I gladly acquiesce as I would rather stay here. It had been years since I was focused on my basic needs before those of anything else, and I find the practice fulfilling. The lack of distraction is more precious than any gain I might find elsewhere.
I go forward today with the knowledge of a steady hand, and a deep breath of wood smoke. If I prefer the utter silence even the hum of the generator is a comfort. There will come a day there will be solar panels, as I have yet to seek that goal. There will also be some greater effort to attain that, and a few other basic niceties. I somehow lost sight of some of that, even if it remained in the forefront. One becomes distracted by the effort to earn all those dollars and in the presence of such fruition, it will also fill those voids. If I have never been extravagant I have spent my money freely. It is so easy to do when it is in plentitude only to realize in its absence how much has gone to waste. I will waste no more! Though I have always been mindful of the exchange, the hours of my life equating to dollars earned, so those hours have become as precious as they have ever been.
Hours become days, days become weeks and months and as we spend them they also become years. I have considered that often but even as three of the most important people in my life near the ends of their travails, I must consider my demise also. I may live, as they have, into my eighties or even nineties if I am so lucky, or I may not. I watch as each of them cling to what remains, and the one most like myself holds on the hardest! He still speaks of more adventure though he can barely raise his feet to be rolled across the floor. He can walk but it is painful and slow, and he falls often. He is too stubborn to get in the wheelchair as he knows, in his heart, he won’t ever get back out. He would rather struggle to walk than relinquish that belief that he might yet get well and return to the life he has lived. He still speaks of it.
Of the other two, my ‘uncle’ Len, so like LB, struggles to even live and my mother seems to be relinquishing her efforts, though she still has the strength to recover. This becomes a learning curve for us all, as it is meant to be. I want to fly to California to give dear Len one more parting hug and kiss, as he means the world to me. It pains me to be unable to justify the expense and the effort to do so considering my current circumstance. Having been there so recently I will have to make it good. We had a wonderful visit and he knows how much I love him. He is in good hands and I know he’ll be ok. I want to fly to New York to see my mother also, in case she slips away. I called her just days ago and asked her if she was ok. She said, “No.” We talked a little more but she was tired and vague and it broke my heart to hear the resignation in her voice. I might could brighten her world for a moment if I went there to visit but she would also slip back away as I left. The knowledge of this is painful, but again, I would be there and leave. It has been my choice to be where I am, and so far from those I love. It is a necessity also, as I could never thrive where she is.
I will go visit LB as often as I can, we live but an hour apart. He and Noni have been my surrogate parents for the past thirty seven years, though I never see them often enough either. I have made a promise to do that now as I have the time to do so. The sparkle in that old man’s eyes is an inspiration which will forever follow me. I can recall from years back how he would slip away on some adventure when he could, returning with precious stones and stories. He still speaks of the same, and of going once again to those wilderness havens. He is done traveling, but his mind still takes him there, and I love him for that. I will be content to listen to his stories, and share a few more of mine before he leaves us. I will take away from that what I am speaking of today, a reverence for the fire and the smoke and the beauty of this life, that that can’t be bought.
I will wield my chainsaw and my pen for as long as my hands and mind remains steady, and be thankful for the chance. From this moment forward I will make every effort to maintain the mindfulness which is required to live my life to it’s very fullest, with or without the monetary returns I have strived for. Instead I will find the means to share my skills and my knowledge in hopes of such returns while living each day as fully as I can. In the end I need so little and as always, when my feet are on the right path, my requirements are fulfilled. It is so easy to forget that, and to become frantic and to think I must go above and beyond to accomplish the same. In the stillness I remember and even as the peaches slipped so softly into my hands, I am reminded of that. All I need is a steady hand…………
August 7, 2017
Vera Cruz, New Mexico
I woke early and with little desire to go back to sleep got out of bed quickly. I am glad I did, even if I had tossed and turned through the night. The near full moon and all the wonders of the sky, the pending meteor showers and the soon to be eclipse are all whirling about in the universe. If I have always been sensitive to the celestial influences this seems to be no exception, my energies are moving as fast as the stars. If I was drawn outside to stare at the moon and the clouds of the evening this morning the early rain, such a rarity here, did the same.
I stepped out the door just in time to feel the soft drops from the light shower which came with the dawn. I couldn’t move or go back inside, it was too magical for that, though I did grab a jacket. I stepped away from the shelter of the porch to cover my hearth, left open in the clear night just past, and then watched as the wonders of nature filled the sky. If the fog hung heavy over the Vera Cruz, so it was topped by the moisture laden clouds, which sent forth their gifts to the earth. Even now the sky is gray and dampens my plans for the day, though I will venture forth regardless. If I sat in front of my computer all day yesterday and made much progress I have no desire to repeat the effort today! I need to get out and walk, if nothing else.
This morning I looked back into my archives as I so often do and I found an affirmation. It was a letter to my friend Rudy, who I still touch base with on occasion. I attached to that letter two lists, one from 2013 of the things that bring me the most happiness, and another I penned much earlier, 2010 or 2011. I cannot find the date and the original hangs in my bus, which is still in Fort Sumner. Both of them offered an enriching perspective which I will carry with me through the day, and much further I hope! Funny but when I woke this morning and looked at what I am surrounded by I saw how close I was to what I have desired and the lists simply affirmed that.
Not that it is perfect, for it isn’t, as I am still battling the malaise which followed me here, but it is better! If anything I am suffering from the self-imposed limitations I have placed on myself in an effort to make some well thought out choices instead of just plunging forward. If change has always been a challenge for me, and having had so much of it forced on my unexpectedly, I am still trying to adjust. Having come to the realization that I have to find the means to cultivate my own happiness wherever I am rather than always gazing to the west, or elsewhere, I am still working on that also. Being a dreamer and living the dream are two very different things! That I have both and am still yearning for something more is purely of my own device.
I can peruse the lists and see how far I have come. I can look at where I am and find much reason for satisfaction. If I have chastised myself for spending so freely in the past five years, for initially I struggled badly, so I have more to show for it than I have acknowledged. Ironically the material gains are the equal of my remaining debt, but I have them in my possession and they offer much freedom in return. I have a dwelling(Bus) and a studio (Bus), a camper (Bus) (LOL!) and three running vehicles, two which are four wheel drive (1990 GMC and the 1986 Ranger), and one of them a classic (1974 Jeep Cherokee) . They are worth more to me than anyone else but they are all treasures also, especially for the gypsy I am. That they are all mobile, to some extent, is a plus as I may need to move again, though I hope it will be the last! If I am rooted here for the moment, as much by choice as necessity, is clear, but the dream of ownership remains, even if it seems out of reach for now.
The remainder of my earnings went to my basic requirements, rent, food, bills, a lot too much beer (Karl) and a fair share of adventure and travel, my greatest pleasure, and failing as well. There were some other necessities, and not a few medical bills, but still a lot of spending beyond what I had thought! I would not trade it though, even if I could have been out of debt. I also invested in the studio and I have a lot of materials to show for that effort. There will be a good return when I put my hands back to that effort. For now they wait for me to do so but I find myself busied with a barrage of other things, including my effort to forge a viable future. Time moves fast and there will soon come a day when the weekly check is no longer an option and I will have to go back to work, something I am still struggling with. The thought of a full time commitment to a structured work place appalls me! The freedoms I have rediscovered this summer have altered my perspective and I will find it difficult to sacrifice any part of that, though at some point I must.
If there is a game plan it is a tentative one for the same reason as I have yet to fully commit to any commitment. I am going to teach, and am trying to formulate a plan. I am also going to put out some feelers for well measurements and sampling though I would have to get a tape or sounder to do that. LOL, I am SO CLOSE. On que I called my old friend David Chace who brought me into the water level field, and the finest days of my career, looking to buy or borrow some used equipment. In the conversation I was reminded that I had an old sounder lying around. Sure enough, I did, and one worthy of repair, as well as an old steel tape with a very functional reel.
David told me something years ago when he was using military time to calculate gallons per minute of flow on water wells off of the metered water use. He did that rather than standard time which makes such calculations all the more complex, as I was doing. When I commented on the epiphany I had experienced and asked why he had never pointed that out to me, he replied, with his standard logic, “There are some things a person just has to figure out on their own.” So it was I reminded him of that comment when I sent him a picture of the tools I had found. Here we go again! I am so close………..It was a welcome reminder!
August 2, 2017
Vera Cruz, New Mexico
Oh Be Joyful!
There are so many things to be joyful about this morning! I slept well, and late, but it was worth it. It was one of those blessed nights when I never awoke and the blankets on the bed but had to be pulled forth to fix it. It was so cool last night that I built a fire in the woodstove before I bathed to be comfortable and the wind and rain lulled me to sleep. I woke to a clear blue sky, the sun well above the hills. I might have hurried as there are things to do, but I did not.
Instead I built a fire, as I am like to do these days. As an afterthought I started the grill and mixed up some marinade as I had planned to do. There is chicken in the cooler and if I am to buy more ice this morning so I have to cook it first to make room. I fired the coals and mixed some molasses, soy sauce, sugar, salt, pepper and garlic and a pinch of red chili, shaking well, thank you. I boned the chicken and let it marinate while I prepared my morning oatmeal. All the while as the smoke wafted in the door which I forgot to close and I perused my lot in life at this moment.
If not for the smoke I might not have considered it so closely but sometimes the cars slow on the road as they pass. It then came to me that people so often have a note of wonder when they ask if this is where I live. It is an age old haunt at this point in my life, to them it is as it once was to me. I used to drive by here and think how much I wanted to live here, alone on the hillside in this old run down shack. It was the ambiance of the house, coupled with the wondrous view that drew me in. Now, so many years later, with the wood and the windmill, it has become the definition of my life, wildish as I am. People so often marvel that I live as I do, but only a few are willing to visit!
There is so much to be joyful for this morning! I grilled my chicken outside and placed some fresh rosemary on top, just because I could. My tea and oatmeal boiled quickly over a small and lively fire and my wash water heated over the same. I drained the water from my cooler and carried it down to the peach tree as I went to start the generator. The peaches are getting rosy and fat and one of the low hanging ones I can reach is just starting to soften. I will have to watch them closely now as they will have to be picked before the birds find them! I will have to share them when they are ready as it is just not practical to can them. Or maybe it is? I can make the time if I choose, and I do have the tools for the job.
By the time I was done with my chores the chicken was done before the oatmeal, so I had the latter for dessert! Both were delectable. Only then did I sit, an hour later in the morning, to capture my thought. I looked back, as I so often do, on pieces I had written over the years and found an old favorite. I had first penned it in August of 2009, and later added on. It is titled, “Incorrigible” and dedicated to my dearest old friend Marcella Garcia, who dubbed me as the same. It is perhaps one of the best things I have ever written and is destined for publication, should I ever make the leap! I am closer now to doing so than I ever have been, yet another reason for joyfulness today!
If my life has been something of a struggle of late, digging through the proverbial baggage as well as my old stores, so I am beginning to heal. I need only get a good nights’ rest, build a fire, peruse my camp and have a good breakfast to restore my fragile spirit. There is so much to be joyful for and so much to fill my life with. As I sip my tea and savor the mild smoky flavor which permeates everything on my table I am reminded that I have realized a dream I have had since my youth. It is one so many others never will. I think of the friends I have made at the Mountain Man Rendezvous who occasion to live as they wish for a weekend at a time but have to return to such structured lives afterwards. Instead I get to live that each and every day, albeit at a price on such occasions!
This is, in the end, yet another life lesson for me. I may bemoan the uncertainty of my future but my present is the best. I have, for today, almost all that I can ask for. The day is my own to do as I please, even if there are a few must does on the list. I will go to the ranch and cut a little wood, and there is more in the yard which begs the same effort. There I a pile of leather waiting to be cut and sewn and an article to be written and submitted. Perhaps it will be one of the next by-lines for my portfolio and I shall title it, “A Rendezvous Each Day” for all of my Mountain Man friends. It will be, as this one was, a reflection on a simpler life that we so often chance to miss. In a way it will be some sort of ‘work’ to write it, as it will require some conscious effort, but I do it from this desk. I also need to reach out and find some place to publish, as it is part of my game plan going forward. I will have to very ‘creative’ if I want to stay here for keeps. I still have to make a living, and am on shoe strings for now!
Oh be joyful! Sometimes I forget to see the things which contribute to that statement and fall into reflections on my failings instead. I have failed, but all the same I have succeeded. I stepped away six years ago, against my better judgement, to try to do what I believed was the best. I had debts to pay and a useable skill, and I applied my best effort to the same. I returned here with an equal measure of debt and a few things to show for my effort. Was it a waste of my time to leave? Not even, I would not take it back, but neither will I repeat it. I have returned with an added measure of wisdom, reverence and appreciation for the simple things I left, and those I took along. I have perfected my methods and kept them in practice. I came back and built a fire and every waft of smoke reminds me of its blessings. Oh be joyful! Yes. I am.