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!
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?