October 4, 2017
Vera Cruz, New Mexico
I am stepping away. My friends will laugh when they read this and say I have stepped away a long time ago. This is also true, except, I came back. I came back from the wilderness six years ago and stepped back in, and stayed. I stayed as hard as I could, in spite of the challenges which later evolved into the very struggles I had tried to avoid. And still I stayed, the money was good and the logic was strong. If I stayed another year, or two, I would be free of debt and I could return here, or somewhere like it. If I stayed a year after that I could make up for the wastefulness of the previous one. One more and I would surely reach my goal, even if I was miserable. Sometimes what seems to be the right thing to do can be so very wrong.
It can go on for a lifetime like that, if you allow it, which is why I avoided it in the first place. I waved any and all effort towards the ideological comfort and stability I had been directed towards before I ever left New York. I wanted none of that because I already knew where it would lead. I watched a lot of people follow that road and I was being herded towards the same and wanted none of it. Nobody seemed to be very happy and in so many cases it was worse than that. My own parents had proven that to me very early on, in spite of the luxuries that surrounded us. There was a lot of misery under the roof of that redwood T ranch house on the corner lot, even with the Fiat and the Country Squire Station Wagon in the garage and the thirty foot boat on the Hudson River, lots. I fled to the tent in the back yard every chance I had and at night I stared at the stars through the skylight in the spare bedroom and dreamed of distant hills. I left for the west when I was seventeen, and stayed there.
I am stepping away. When I was dismissed from my job four months ago there was some measure of concern for my future prospects, and there still are. My unemployment benefits will run out the end of November, weeks before Christmas. I know how that works, I came back from the Grand Canyon that same time of year and could not find a job. The same could happen this time, but I am far more prepared as I can watch it coming. If I am already living on shoe strings it will be tougher without the weekly checks, or not. My woodpile should get me through the winter even without adding to it, though add to it I will. I have my house in better order than I can ever recall and I can and will be writing and doing my art. This time I am prepared to step away, and have no plan to return, except when it is necessary. When I cross that line it will be with intent and purpose and I will just as quickly return to my present simplicity.
What is it I mean by all this??? If I have left you in the dark I will attempt to explain. Those who know me understand. I stepped away many years ago and lived for years with a backpack and a camper, used in equal measures. I slept as often on the ground as I did in the pickup bed with the homemade shelter above it. I lived very well, and as simply as possible. Most of my meals were cooked over an open fire and I hitchhiked thousands of miles……….I then took a hiatus to parenthood, though I walked the edge then too, never quite settling into conventionality, though I certainly worked at the same. When my youngest moved out I soon departed also, though I continued to work. Soon after that I found the job of a lifetime, just as I had begun to teeter, and for two more years I stepped away. When I returned to necessity I gave it my all, which brought me to the present. This time I won’t go back, unless I have to, but I am going to do everything I can to avoid it! I have difficulty even imagining an offer that would change my mind, though perhaps such does exist, somewhere. New Mexico Tech as a field technician, yes, but that is so unlikely. I think that to sit in an office again for forty hours a week might kill me. I have no intent of finding out.
I am stepping away into simplicity, such as I have always wished to do. If I have been a minimalist of sorts, I am working to perfect that. If I have no need or use for something, I will no longer keep or covet it. If I am going to stockpile it, it will be wood, and good to burn or build with. I will keep my trucks as they each serve a purpose, and I will need them. I will tend to my immediate needs and not borrow any money, though I will pay my debts. If they are what has led me to such struggles they are also my own, and somebody trusted me to allow that. I would not have much of what I do if I had not had that option, and I am grateful for the chance. If I spent some of it foolishly, I take ownership for that also!
What am I going to do with this time and freedom and so little else? I am going to live my life as fully and richly as is possible, given my limited means. I am going to wake early and lay still to savor the peacefulness, and the freedom to do so. I am going to get up and build a fire and write about my life. I am going to cut wood and come summer grow another garden. I am going to retreat into the simple joys of life well lived and treasure every moment of having done so. Now that I am so aware of the alternatives I am going to do everything I can to preserve the opportunity to choose. And I will succeed because I know how to do that! If I was such a good worker in the conventional sense so I can apply the same energy and ability to my own preservation, and perhaps even excel in the effort. There is nothing that says I cannot!
As I was from the start I am more afraid of the known than the unknown. I know that if I go back to work as I have in the past that I will be very unhappy. I will miss the quiet calm of the dawn, the hour to write, sipping my tea and gazing out my window. I will miss the quiet clank of the woodstove as the coals burn into flame. I will miss the sound of the wind as it brings the storms and I will yearn for all of the same. I will have to leave here each morning at daybreak, or perhaps even leave all together, as there is so little work here. I would spend my weekends trying to keep up with the woodpile, and very little else. I would gradually decline as I was trying to do before.
Or I can flourish! I can wake with the sun and watch her walk the hills, or as I am today watch the clouds roil over the mountaintops. I can boil my tea and sit beside the stove and share the hopes and dreams that are becoming a reality. I can put my life in order and keep it that way knowing that the will of heaven has blessed me with the opportunity to do so. I can take all the gifts and talents I have amassed in my lifetime and put them to their highest use, and share them as I do. Millions of people got up this morning, drank a cup of coffee and joined all the rest on their way to work. Even now the traffic is still snarled in the cities across the country as they all rush off to work. My trucks sit cold in the yard and I am at my chair, looking at the mountains. If you offered me a million dollars to rejoin them for another ten years I would tell you no. I made a third of that in the last six and have so very little to show for it, except for having returned here to stay.
I have barely passed the gate for the last three days. Sunday I just went for a drive, revisiting the dirt roads and the mountains of my past. I have covered all the leaky windows and the woodpile is progressing. I am writing every day, as I have always wished to do, and my leatherwork sits in arms reach, already in the process. I will venture out today, after I cut some wood, and take care of things I must, nothing more, nothing less. I can accomplish more from home than anywhere else. I am planning my future, one day at a time, and for now it is all I am concerned with. I know that I am lucky, and more fortunate than most. I have the talent, ability, materials and willingness to provide for my own means. I also recognize my means are few, and limited to necessities. I do not own my home, but I can live here, and in a manner most people would not choose. I am ok with that, I stepped away a long time ago and made that conscious choice. It has served me well. As I step away again I say a word of thanks for having the chance, and the willingness to do so. Wish me well.