May 9, 2020
Indian Divide, New Mexico
Good To Myself
I am learning to be good to myself. If I have always aspired to that effort it has now become an essential. Having been here at home and much alone for the past two months I have run the gamut of emotions, along with everyone else in the country and much of the world. We were ‘all’ sent to our rooms and told to stay there and no amount of whining could get us out. Who wanted to get out? Not I said the cat. Those first few weeks I was more than happy to stay home, even if I yearned for some greater measure of human interaction. Now, knowing what I know, I venture out a little more but with all the precautions. Going forward I will cautiously expand my boundaries. I have also made a fair number of phone calls and hope to stay in better touch with friends going forward.
In the interim I have learned some valuable lessons, and I hope to never forget them. I am still learning and if I am looking forward to expanding my circle again I would do well with more time also. The good lessons are never easy and more than ever I am recognizing the substitutes for true spiritual practice. I have never practiced mindfulness but I am beginning to learn the essentials of that. If my way of life has connected me to much of that I have also allowed so much to escape me. I have craved serenity and reveled in it when I found it, but fail to maintain it as a constant. I have elevated my sprit to great heights only to crash back to the ground when the mundane necessities pulled me back down, the wax dripping from my hand fashioned wings. How I mourn those failures! Over time I have learned level flight but the ups and downs still exist and these weeks of confinement have taught me that I still have much to learn.
Is it necessary that we, I, learn how to fill all the voids in our spirits independent of other people or means to do so? Deep question that! Maybe, maybe not. Given that I am a solitary person who for the moment has a near excess of solitude I would say that in my case the answer is yes. Yes, but because that is what I want it to be. I want to fill my own spirit with joyfulness, to allow the essence of joy to enter into me and remain there. I need that as well, and it is one of the few actual needs I have beyond the immediate necessities of survival. I have provided for all of those and at this moment, with a belly full of oatmeal, the morning sun warming my house and the time and clarity to record my thoughts I require little else. A raven circles and lands in my yard and the glimmer of the sun on his wings is joy enough for me. When he lifts and lands for a moment on a fence post before departing he makes me feel as if he dropped in just for my benefit. There is joy in that also. Did I mention the utter peacefulness of a springtime morning with no wind as of yet. I am satisfied to say the least. That the day is my own to do as I wish is just one more layer of happiness. Life is good.
My point is that this might be more of a constant if I was to remain focused on that. Why bemoan my solitude when I have chosen it? Why try to remedy the fact that the isolation of these weeks of confinement sent me into a momentary tailspin when I have risen again into the light? Why bother when in just a few days, or weeks at the most, I may be able to open my gallery and get on with my life. Why? Because I have discovered that I can open that channel to true happiness that has come and gone over the years by being mindful of the desire to do so. Easier said than done but when I focus my energy and effort towards that goal I can open myself to it more consistently than I have ever consciously done. I can allow it to come to me rather than having to venture out in search of it. If I had not been confined to my house for the past two months I never would have taken the time to consider that. I do not want to forget that lesson or fail to maintain the same level of consciousness going forward. In the end that will take an ever greater effort than the one which brought me to where I am now because all of the distractions and alternatives are waiting for me right outside my gate. It is really no different than being sober and walking past the liquor store and I understand addiction quite well. I have been there and done that in other ways. I do not want to be distracted from this heightened sense of awareness but to instead embrace it fully.
Two months. If my initial preparedness was focused on my physical sustenance it evolved over time. I stocked up on dry goods and improved my refrigeration methods by adding an icebox. I will very soon have a 12 volt/propane refrigerator and be as self-sufficient as I have ever been. With that out of the way my next effort was directed at my physical wellbeing. With no distractions from my focus I returned to my exercise routine and as strict a diet as I have been on in years. Without the temptation of a quick taste of junk food while I was in town that was so much easier than usual. After a couple of weeks it became habit and since then I have shed nearly 15 pounds and tightened my belt by two notches! I have added muscle where flab was residing and restored much of my youthful vigor. As always, for which I am blessed, once I focus my efforts I can see them to fruition, at least in the physical sense. Emotionally, spiritually, not so much!!
Having brought myself to an even keel I can now reflect and try to find the means to maintain the much needed balance in the rest of my life. Prayer is great and I have learned over the years that my morning prayer, spoken with arms upraised to the morning sun is powerful. These last two months have redoubled that return as there is so much to be thankful for. Even the solitude is a blessing when I consider the challenges my sister is facing in Nyack, New York, which is within the epicenter of the pandemic. If I regret looking at the map of the cases and the glowing red of the hot zones it was humbling as well. In stark contrast, I live in a place with no shading. When I walked outside last night and looked at the soft glow of the light in my window, powered by solar as I am completely off grid, it drove home the blessing of where and how I live. I want for nothing and I am so wonderfully safe here! Who needs running water and electricity when going to the grocery could be life threatening? Add to that the inability to grow or forage for any food at all? Do I miss the access to a broad community of diverse personalities and ideas, OH YES, but not at the cost I would pay to have that. Especially not now, but I do miss that and it is the root of any real discontent I now have.
My answer is this. I have for the time being leaned deeply towards my inner serenity and the means to maintain this. I recognize how deeply personal that is (after all this is my journal) but that is what works for me. Honestly, we all have that place within us but we need to approach it from our own angles because our needs are so diverse. I am satisfied by the simple things so in some ways it is easier for me. From the other perspective, because I am such a solitary person, some of it is different. With no other person to provide for any immediate emotional exchange I must then do that for myself. I am grateful for having the means to do that, but then again, that is why I chose to live alone! Today it is the stillness, and the birdsong that feeds my spirit. It is the blossoms on the apache plume and the green sprouts in the garden. I find a great comfort in the recording of my thoughts and it is my conversation for the day. My artwork waits on the other table and here directly I will put on some native flute music and perhaps even take a small toke before I slip into the zone of creativity. I will find that sweet spot with ease today and be grateful for the luxury of doing so. If only it was so easy every day, but I am as close to that as I have ever been and I want to maintain it. I am going to do my best to put that effort into practice.
What about the bad days? There have been fewer of late but they have taught me a lesson as well. There is nothing worse than a bad day when there is no place to go to escape it. I’ve had more of those in the last two months than I can recall though they are cyclic as well. We all have bad days, even in the best of times! The difference being that there are more alternatives when one can escape the house, at least for me. Where I might have fled to the saloon in White Oaks for some company and distraction (as I do not drink) instead I stayed here. In lieu of escaping the house I busied myself with the things that I never seem to get to otherwise. I didn’t just pass the day in misery but improved on my space instead. Again I am blessed as there is much more to do here than there would be in a smaller space. If the yard and the woodpile aren’t quite enough there is still a collection of books and treasures to finish sorting through. If I had to escape the house I went and cut wood at the ranch and was so thankful for that escape. I have made much progress! Hell, my porch isn’t just clean, it is gone! If you have ever seen it you would greatly appreciate what that equates to. In the end I felt better for just having done ‘something’. I seem to have gotten through the worst of it now and if I am looking forward to more freedoms going forward I can tough it out with grace if they are not forthcoming.
Lesson learned? I value my friends and family as much as I ever have but my survival mechanisms are in place. I want to get out more and am looking forward to opening my gallery sometime soon, though I am not thrilled at the potential risk of doing so. Could I, would I choose to stay distant if it was an option? Maybe so, but I will welcome getting out and mingling with people again, just at a relative distance. There will be fewer hugs I am afraid but some valuable conversation for certain. At the same time I will value my solitude as much as ever and fill it as richly and completely as possible. I will make even better use of it going forward and will be more mindful of the same. Sure, there will be bad days but the good days are even better than before and I can appreciate them for what they are. I am going to keep on with my diet and exercise also as they really paid off. Being good to myself is not an option, it is a necessity! Every day is just a little more precious than it was before this pandemic wreaked havoc on all of our lives, and I won’t ever forget that. And, if you have read this in its entirety I want to thank you for being a friend and a follower! Stay well and many, many blessings to you!
May 8, 2020
Indian Divide, New Mexico
I went to town yesterday. Whoohoo, but really, all the way to Ruidoso, twenty four miles away. So what? No big deal except that I haven’t been much further than ten miles from home since mid-March and before a few days ago that was just to Capitan and back for necessities. No wait, I did go to Three Rivers once, but that was weeks ago. A few days ago I ran to Carrizozo for ice just because I was closer to there than Capitan, but I have avoided that place too. Carrizozo is at the crossroads to the world with Highway 54 being a main artery from Mexico to Canada. When I went into the Dollar Store there (safer than Allsups?) the kid at the register had no mask or gloves and I wondered if he was brave or stupid. Maybe both? I wore my mask and sanitized my hands after I was done. I won’t likely go back for a while. The folks at the Capitan store go back and forth on the masks and sanitizer but they are also a little more isolated. Still, I see license plates at the grocery store from all over the country and I am always cautious and try to get in and out quickly. I’m not nervous, just mindful of myself and others! I socialize outside as much as possible and don’t even go in my son’s house. Just saying.
My caution was affirmed yesterday, or at least I feel like it was. The gals at Walgreens were all masked and gloved and the pharmacist even sanitized her gloves before she handed me my prescription. I’m good with that. At the same time it heightened my wariness a bit. I have been very cautious and quite aware of the seriousness of this pandemic and their attention to protecting me affirmed that. I waved any other stops in town and it was with some relief that I pointed my truck back towards home. I have finally found that I can negate the tendency to dwell on the concerns when I am safe at home and I need no more reminders. There are enough reminders when I talk to my sister in New York or hear the news of the passage of people I know to keep me attuned. I made the mistake of looking at a map of the cases in the country today and that just made it worse. The highlights on the east coast are terrifying, and they should be. The sparsity here is a blessing, but it could radiate over time as well. I am happy to stay here.
So I came away with a new perspective on my life, at least for the present time. If I have always been grateful to have this place to retreat to I have dug my heels in deeper yet. If I have gardened before I am now gardening in earnest. If I have always been something of a survivalist I am now devotedly so. When my garden takes a hold as it is now trying to do in spite of an ongoing battle with the pack rats it will flourish. If I can get my water from the well to storage I could nearly lock the gate. I’m not ready for that, and have no desire to do so, but it is good to know that I can. I may even get a few chickens now that meat seems to be taking a hit. I bought my last steak for a while and that was a splurge, or more of a knee jerk reaction. There were two to the pack and I am sated from half of the first. Perhaps I will make jerky out of the other and nibble on that for a few weeks. I am already providing for my protein with other things anyway and I refuse to pay $9.00 or more for a pound of any sort of meat. I’ll go kill some if I have too!
There is more to this than that though. I don’t venture out very often but I do on occasion. I enjoy my solitude but like to socialize. I have spent more time alone in the last few weeks than any time in memory. I suffered a bit even, and had to really sort through my life, but I learned a lot. It’s funny but my routine now is very much the same as it was before this all happened but my appreciation of things is greater. I am approaching my art with a new vigor and creating things more mindfully than in the past. I’m not selling anything and I am going to have to get more creative in that effort, but my joy in the effort of creating it has redoubled. That means a better product in the end and I know it will sell going forward. The approach I am taking also fulfills my spiritual needs in a wonderful way. If I have always enjoyed doing art it is now a necessary part of my life. I look forward to the time I spend creating and brings me a brand of happiness I have been missing for too long. My garden and my other efforts are also more enjoyable and rewarding. Something has shifted yet again in my life and I won’t change that going forward. My appreciation for all things has heightened in equal measures to my reverence. I know that I am blessed and want to be as worthy of that as I possibly can. It will also take more effort to make me venture out even when the constraints on my travels are lifted. I am content to stay here.
I wonder what our lives are going to look like six months from now. Who would have thought we would ever even have to entertain that question. Two months ago that would have been a much different perspective. It is almost mid-May so that will put us in November. Scary. We will be going into another winter wondering how bad the ‘flu’ season will be. If our distrust of the flu vaccine has always been there we may or may not have yet another to choose from. We will be afraid to take it and afraid not to. We will ‘want’ to stay home. We may all have an array of color coded masks to match each mood and outfit. We will all probably have one that says ‘STAY AWAY’ by then for the people who still want to get too close and are by nature the least cautious. It will be a new measure of respect that there will be those who acknowledge our desire for caution and that others will want to push the envelope, literally. If you love me you won’t insist on a hug or a handshake. Go figure! Sadly, some of the people I most want to hug do not understand why I refuse to do so. What a difficult thing that is. I find that I have to hug my son but even that is risky!
I am wondering about the future but the reality is my life has already been altered, as has everyone else’s. I did not enjoy going to town yesterday, except for the drive and the one new person I chanced to meet. She was cool! An energetic young lady with a big aura of joyfulness. I had stopped to inquire about a water container and we ended up talking for 20 minutes. What a joy that was after such limited interaction I have had of late. In parting she told me, “I want to be like you when I get older”. That my friends, is one of the greatest compliments I can ask for, and it is one I offer to others on occasion also. I word it differently, given that it is so often directed towards people of advanced age. I say, “I want to be like you when I grow up”. Hopefully I get to live that long! My point is this, I do want to live that long and I want to do so joyfully. I see now where my approach to that will have to be woven into this new perspective I have.
I want and need to be social and will put more effort into that. But, I am also going to fill my time alone as richly as I can and that requires a degree of mindfulness that I am learning to create in greater volumes than in the past. I am not stuck at home. I am home, and I am most grateful to be here. Sure, it is remote and isolated and at times I have wished to be closer to society as a whole, but not right now. I am in the safest of places for the moment and no matter what happens it will remain that way. Even if another wave of this pandemic, or some other, should roll across the country, I’m pretty safe. If I have to close my gate at least I know that I can, and that I will be secure and comfortable behind it. I also know that in and of myself I can fill my time with rewarding pursuits. I can do my art and I can pen my words, even from a distance from everyone else. I also hope that I can find the willingness and ability to market those so I can sustain myself without having to venture too far from my doorstep. In all of the years I have lived here that has never been more appealing than it is right now. It just took a little perspective to remind me of that
A repost for one of my dearest childhood friends who just died from the Coronavirus while advocating for the people who most needed to be represented! Rest In Peace old friend!
August 6, 2015
Mescalero, New Mexico
For Josh Kovner RIP
If this was the last summer of my life I would be living it differently. If I knew that for whatever reason I would never again visit the warm silence of an August evening when the day had been a little too warm but the evening breeze felt cool to my skin, I would have to take pause in this instant. I would peruse my life and dispose of all of my baggage immediately and without the slightest regrets.
If I knew that by some twist of fate my life had been foreshortened, regardless of how unfair that might seem, I would make a change. I would quit my job, no matter the possibility that by some miracle I might survive and have to maintain a steady income. I have always managed to get by. I would move back to my Nogal House on Indian Divide this very evening and set myself to making sure the wood pile was ample, as I might live through the winter. I would patch the seam in the attic which has gaped for too long for the same reason, there is a draft there, and I would fix the ceiling also.
If I knew that I would never again have the leisure of the cool summer mornings to make my way to the mountaintop I would seek that out tomorrow, as I did so often in the past. I would wake myself before dawn and watch the sunlight flow across the Carrizo, and I would write about it before I took my walk. I would allow myself the pleasure of reflection on my life before I did anything else, as I have so rarely found the time for of late, and I would savor the words as I always have, but more so!
If this was the last year of my life I would write another book and fill it with the wonders of every moment which was allowed to me, and live those moments to their fullest. I would free myself of all of the complexities and worries which seem to cloud my days and return to the place I left just three short years ago, and remain there. I would cease to worry about what the future had to hold and stop stressing over my bills, though I would still try to honor my commitments. I would go back to doing my artwork and plant a late garden. I would go to work on my friend Candy’s ranch for the rest of the summer and admire the glimmer of the sunlight on the water as it flooded the fields and to watch the pastures green and prosper.
If I thought for a minute I would never again watch the clouds as they build on the horizon, or see the glimmer of first light, or the brilliance of the sunset, I would make my life as simple and carefree as it has ever been and keep it that way. I would busy myself with the most rewarding and productive efforts possible, as I have always professed to do, and disallow anything else which might interfere with that. I would live my life as I have always wanted and needed to do and not worry about what the future had to hold, because the relevance would be absent. I would treasure every waking moment and know it for the gift that it is, and record it so that others might know the same.
If I don’t do that now, when will I?
May 3, 2020
Indian Divide, New Mexico
On Rediscovering Happiness
I have chosen a heady title for a Sunday morning but it is what has come to mind. Maybe it is because I slept late, and was able to do so. There is a joy in lying still in the first light of day to listen to the birdsong and to savor the pure stillness that accompanies that. After so many years of forced effort the opportunity to begin the day as I wish will never lose its pleasure, even if I am inclined to be up early. This morning I yielded to temptation as I had been up late last night, listing instead to the high thin howl of the coyotes in the distance. There was a thrill in that also and if I live in a remote enough place it was easy to allow my imagination to take me back to the pure wilderness. The fact is, I am beginning to rediscover the essence of that feeling right here at home. Not that the wilderness does not have its own brand of joyfulness to offer, as it does, but that serenity and joyfulness are as much a state of mind as they are of place. They are as present here in Nogal as they are in Dusty, though Dusty has its own brand of serenity also.
When I venture into the wilderness I am able to shed the worries and concerns of my day to day existence. By doing so I can then allow the pure essence of life to surround me in their stead. I can breathe deep of the freshness of the air. I can take in the pure blue sky and the sweet sound of nature and if I am so lucky hear the whisper of the wind from the deep and distant canyons as I did just days ago, all in my back yard. I am at present realigning myself with that brand of joyfulness and can then discover it in almost every instant of the day if I pause long enough to allow it. I slipped down to a nearby spring yesterday evening to gather some watercress and it was there. It greeted me at my door this morning as I stepped into the warmth of the morning sun. In the absence of distraction I find beauty all around me.
I am rediscovering my happiness, for I have been happy here before. At the beginning of this year I was so happy as to remind myself to cling to every instant as I know how fleeting that emotion can be. It was more than an emotion, it was a state of mind. I was finally settled back here at home for the long run. I had plans in motion, I was healthy and being creative. I even had a few dollars in the bank and a sparse but steady income. Life was good and for the following few weeks it basically stayed that way though the specter of the ‘Wuhan Virus’ was more than a bit worrisome. I felt the crisis building long before it arrived and even raised a few eyebrows when I mentioned it to those who were less concerned. I ignored them and went about my preparations until I drove myself into a near frenzy of concern. The gradual escalation of the worldwide media machine certainly egged me on, but I took the bait also. Paradise lost.
It is amazing how quickly ones self-imposed solitude can evolve into misery! It is one thing to gladly stay home and watch as winter turns to spring. Somehow it is something entirely different when we are told to stay at home. We are still under those restrictions but things have changed, at least for me. The highly anticipated wave of illness did not reach us here, though it still rages elsewhere and could arrive at any time. Winter has turned to spring and summer approaches rapidly. The urgent sense of crisis has evolved into a sense of preparedness. If I was thrilled to be more prepared for such an event than I thought I was, I have now put it into practice. I have a functional solar power system, a nice generator, a growing garden and hopefully soon will have a solar well pump for my water needs. If that works out I will turn my eye to a small propane refrigerator which will pay for itself in the savings for ice by the end of the summer. Not needing to buy ice every few days could reduce the need to go to town by a week at a time, or even more with my garden in place. I have also made another important discovery. Throughout this entire exercise nothing much has changed in my immediate surroundings but I have run the gamut of emotion only to arrive back where I started. By reacting so quickly to all the external impacts I was led to question the very foundation of my life’s practice and plunged myself into a sense of near apathy. Now weeks later I am still here, alive and well, as happy as I have been in years and well fitted for any future crisis. This is rather interesting to say the least.
Would I want to start this effort all over again, as we may well have to? Not really, but I am much better prepared for that should the need arise. I also have a heightened appreciation for my family and friends and going forward I am going to incorporate them into more of my life. I need some social interaction, and always have, but more so now. My solitude is precious to me. I love my mornings alone and would not wish to be distracted at this very moment, but I would certainly welcome it more than I had in the past. That said, I am not ready for things to go back to business as usual, not quite yet. That is easy for me to say because I am also prepared to endure at least a few more weeks of limited travel and interaction. In fact, I will be even more creative at developing the mean to sustain that if I have the time to do so. I am going to work at that regardless of what is to come because I like the idea. I also want to stay healthy and not have to test the integrity of my immune system. Staying well is an absolute priority but I also want to be sure I have completely learned this new lesson so I do not forget it.
This has, over everything else, been a lesson on rediscovering my happiness. It took some effort and a fair degree of misery to arrive here. It is a class I do not want to repeat. I was able to restore my physical health with some effort but relative ease and I am determined to maintain that. Turning my focus to my spiritual health and wellbeing took a bit more effort, but I have accomplished that also. Much of that involved the taking away of things. I took away much of the distraction. If I could rattle off statistics when the outbreak first ran through China and began its circuit of the world and our country, I now know very little. I know our county here in New Mexico has been all but untouched. I know that the Navajo Nation and the state of New York have been hit hard. I also know that whether I follow the news or not things here at home remain sole and separate from that. Except for the limits on my interaction outside of my home and the fact that I cannot do business as usual at my gallery, my life is my own. At present I am happy and I will do all that I can to maintain that.
This essay is for all of us who have discovered some new degree of happiness in the midst of an ongoing crisis. It is also for all of those who are still struggling. This is a great reckoning. The old adage of asking oneself ‘is this a matter of life or death’ to measure the importance of something stands so clearly in this moment. Has this been a matter of life or death? Yes, certainly. None of us has any way to know for certain if we can or will survive a case of this virus unscathed. Even if it doesn’t kill you it can make you wish you were dead. Even those who will scoff at the thought would have second thoughts about going into a crowded room of sick people in order to test their immunity. If I would be glad to know that I was able to survive the illness and then go on about my business I will be just as happy to never have to find out. I am going to go forward with my life with a greater degree of caution just for that reason. But I am also going to go forward with the understanding of how very fortunate I am to be able to even make that statement.
I know someone who died from this. He was twenty years younger than me. I taught him in class in December and proctored his certification exam. He is dead, one of more than forty people on the Navajo Reservation who didn’t have the ability to fight this off. His death, along with all of the people who passed will serve as a reminder for me of why I owe it to myself and everyone else to live as well and as happily as is humanly possible. We are all here for each other, to support and encourage, to learn from and teach to and to respect and protect each other. We all teach and learn from example and I want to be a good one. I have made my share of mistakes and learned from them also. Now I want to take as many of the blessings and affirmations I have received and be here long enough to share them with everyone else who cares to listen. This was, and is my lesson on rediscovering happiness. Prayers for wellness to everyone!
May 1, 2020
Indian Divide, New Mexico
Allowing Joy to Find Me
Today I will allow joy to find me
And allow myself the state of grace
That the universe will always offer.
I will take pause for a moment
And breathe deeply of the day
Feast my eyes on the beauty
Of sun, sky, earth and light
And think of nothing else.
I have searched all my life
For that joyful place in spirit
The peaceful respite from work and worry
Often enough I been surrounded by that
But mourned when it was absent.
It has taken me years to realize
That the joyfulness was a constant
And that it was me who interrupted it.
Today I will allow joy to find me.
These last few weeks have been a learning curve for all of us. The forced confinement and solitude presented challenges for us which I never would have anticipated. I have lived alone for the past four years and for much of the time preceding that. I am accustomed to solitude and enjoy the lack of distractions. Still yet, I had a routine which kept me from being too alone and I ventured out at will. Having to stay at home and distance myself from those people I choose to share my time with created a void that was hard to fill. In addition, the inability to move forward and pursue my plans added a sense of inertia I am just as unaccustomed to. I am a goal driven person and I operate best under pressure, even if that is as simple as just paying my bills each month. I am always working at and towards something and the reward of the returns from that effort affirm my actions. When the entire process came to a screaming halt I had to devise other ways to maintain my momentum.
Those first few days were filled with a flurry of effort. I did all the things I felt I needed to do to prepare for the duration of this pandemic while not knowing just how long that would be. I shopped and stored food, planted an early garden, stripped and rearranged my living room and built an art table by the window. Then I stopped and couldn’t get going again. My creativity and motivation left the room and for a long moment I struggled. If I rarely get depressed I suddenly had to deal with that also and there was little opportunity to escape myself. I started cutting wood instead, which helped as it got me outside, kept me active and brought a return I could put my hands on. I gradually adjusted and have spent a good part of my time since being creative and active. I have adjusted my diet and exercise routine and devotedly bettered myself. Physically I am as healthy as I have been in the last few years and I intend to stay that way.
Having achieved some basic goals I have now turned my attention to my spiritual needs. I am usually a pretty happy person even if I whine on occasion. Having had to reassess my approach to life within the confines of my solitude I have now had to develop a new approach to things. Where before I could jump in my truck and go socialize or take a road trip I have had to bring the happiness to me instead. Where it is easy to adjust ones diet, especially without the temptation of convenience stores or restaurants to contend with, addressing my spiritual needs is more of a challenge. I can pray daily and often, which I do, and remain grateful for everything, but I need something more. I can walk the hills as I have and find much solace, and reflect on my journal entries from better times and find the direction I require, but joyfulness is evasive. It has been my morning and evening prayers which brought me back to center and offered the key to that joyfulness I seek.
Years ago I returned to a peaceful place deep in the Alamosa Canyon in the Monticello Box. The entire stretch of that creek bottom is spectacular but there is one place in particular that always thrilled me. It is a narrow stretch of the creek where the road is in the water and the rock walls of the canyon are narrow and close. I have parked there many times just to take pause and immerse myself in the beauty. It was in one such moment, surrounded by the utter stillness of the place that I realized that that spot had remained untouched and unchanged, aside from drought and flood, for all the time it had existed. It will always be that way as there is nothing anyone can do to change that and the ensuing floods would restore it to its present state in one fell sweep. Beauty and joy are much like that place. They remain a constant, always. The mountains that surround my perch will always be here. The sun and the sky, the contour of the earth, the birdsong outside my door will always exist here. If I am joyless it is because I am not allowing those things to get through to me. I have to allow that joy to find me because I cannot find it otherwise. It is my responsibility to remove all of the distractions from my mind and spirit so that the joy can fill that space. If I do not it cannot find me.
There has been the threat of sickness, death and suffering surrounding us for months now. The news is inundated with every possible scenario of these things and it is almost inescapable. I followed it closely for weeks and allowed it to dominate my life. What about New York where my sister lives? What about Japan where my oldest son and his family live? What if I get sick, and will I survive? Am I sick? I drove to California the end of February and flew back from there on March 3. Those next two weeks were worrisome and even after that it seemed that every time I went somewhere those two weeks started all over again. Now I barely read the news or check statistics. I wear a mask in public places and sanitize my hands continuously. I am still very concerned but far less fearful than I was. All of this has become a familiar routine and my garden is up as well. I feel like I have been through the worst of it and am prepared for the future, as uncertain as that may be.
I am allowing joyfulness to find me. I have stripped off the layers of worry and distraction and rediscovered my basic necessities. I have learned to fill my time from day to day and how to fill the voids in my solitude. I make phone calls to friends and make it a point to get to town a little more often so I can socialize a bit. The fearfulness has eased as we have been so blessed so far not to have a lot of sickness here. By nature there is a lot of space between us and people have been mindful also. Nobody wants to get sick and we have made the adjustments we had to avoid that. I am reminded of that blessing each and every day. I have always been glad I left New York but I am now certain that it was a good choice! I would take utter solitude over crowded streets at any time, but especially now.
Dawn came quietly this morning with a bank of clouds to the east shielding the horizon. I watched as the sun broke over the haze of moisture and then dissipated it into the air. I listened closely to the various birds songs and watched as the ravens traveled west on their morning flight. I built a small morning fire to heat my water and went out to water the garden. The fresh young sprouts promise many good meals and the sustenance I require. They also bring joy to me. Their bright green leaves, as with the glowing white blossoms of the iris and apache plume fill my heart with happiness. The water sparkles in in the morning sun as I moisten the soil on each plant. These are all simple things but they remain a constant no matter what is going on in the rest of the world. I have been confined here long enough to realize how important their presence is and that there isn’t, and never has been much more that I require. When one removes all of the distractions and interference all that remains is that joyfulness we thought that we were looking for! It has found me once again.