August 17, 2020
Indian Divide, New Mexico
A Breath of Normalcy
A breath of normalcy
A sigh of relief
Elk song at daybreak
Clouds wreathing mountain slopes
Bright flowers in the garden
Lush foliage of the leaves
Squash, onions, carrots and chard
Lettuce, garlic, mint and rosemary
I run my hands through the leaves
Inhaling fragrant scents
The drops of water sparkle in sunlight
As I water thirsty soil
The soft breeze caresses my skin
As I turn to greet the day
Sustenance of the purest sort
Nourishing body, mind and spirit
Leaving no room or desire
For anything else
With no need for explanation
I am truly blessed.
Thank you, Ixehe, thank you.
There is a breath of normalcy today, the blessings of a cool summer morning, the elk coming into rut and singing through the hills. I woke and dozed, unwilling to break the spell, mesmerized by peacefulness and curled beneath the blankets of my bed. I am camped out in my bus, the door and windows open to the hillside, as close to nature as I could possibly be yet safely perched as well. At night I can admire the stars and at daybreak watch the changing colors of the dawn while breathing in the freshness of the cool morning breeze. My morning prayers are full of thankfulness and there is so much to be grateful for. I wander into the garden and the greenhouse before I go to the house, soaking up the beauty that surrounds me. I have created an oasis here on the hillside and the good graces of the universe herself have beckoned me to stay. For the first time in so many years I have.
I wonder now why I ever left. I left because I thought I should, to make money, to pay my debts, to buy some land. I left in 2008, and returned, I left in 2011 and came back quickly. I left again and stayed gone for years, coming home to visit, coming home to stay, and leaving again. There were adventures, yes, and love, for a while, but I always came back, and in the end so very little changed. I returned this time with an even greater determination to stay and then, as the COVID became such a stark reality, found the necessity as well. What better place to weather the storm than here where the very definition of self sustainable exists? Suddenly my lifelong desire and effort to be able to sustain myself took on a new definition and I discovered I was better prepared than I had imagined. Still yet, the urgency was greater than I imagined and for a moment I saw all the failings in my life. If I had always aspired to feather this nest so I had failed to do so. If there was plenty of wood there was no solar power. If there was a water well there was no pump, even if those items sat clearly on my list. How the years fly by when one is well employed! How the money gets spent when it is plentiful. How the simple things we so desire slip so quietly through our lives, unrealized and unfulfilled. If I ate so well and traveled so far, if I built not one but three campers, if I paid my debts and created new ones, I never bought those basic things I needed to survive. I then scrambled to do so just in case.
What a year this has been! If I had hunkered down to try to get by and stay here out of a pure desire to do so, the effort redoubled in February. It became pure necessity by March when we were advised to ‘stay home’. Maybe I took it too seriously? Time will tell, but in the two plus months that I stayed home I became as focused on my livelihood as I have ever been. If I suffered the confinement as much as anyone else so I turned the effort to a positive. With no distractions or temptations I created a regiment of wellness, one that I have maintained ever since. I didn’t get fat, I already was, so I honed in on my diet and exercise and lost twenty five pounds. In the process I also regained a level of fitness I have aspired to for years. There were no excuses to do otherwise as I couldn’t go anywhere and had little desire to do so either. When two friends of mine succumbed to the illness my fears were confirmed and my efforts at preparedness justified. If I have always aspired to be healthy as possible now is as good a time as any to be so! I have been rewarded tenfold by the effort as I feel better than I have in years and some semblance of youthfulness remains even as my age creeps up as well.
There have been other gains also. I have always tried to make a positive out of everything. Having decided that this is the safest place I can be in the face of so much uncertainty I have bettered my life in so many ways. Staying home led to a deep clean of my house and surroundings. Gone is so much of the stuff I have gathered over the years. Gone is the sagging porch that was waiting to fall, and so is much of the junk it had sheltered beneath it. I had a collection of things I no longer needed or cared to hold onto. In its place there is a greenhouse. If I planted an early garden, another just in case effort, I battled the elements continually. If COVID wasn’t enough to struggle with there was drought. The garden provided sustenance, for every rat and mouse in the yard. There wasn’t a seedling that survived that first round, nor the second. Even as the greenhouse took form, as much out of desire as necessity, the raids continued, rodents and then bugs, and my precious food source remained at risk. It took a good while before it flourished but the effort was worthwhile. The garden is now full and so is the greenhouse and my trips to town are few.
Maybe I have over prepared but I have always wanted to be self-sufficient and I am so very close to that now. I am still concerned about the winter and I will take no chances either. Even if it is clear sailing going forward why not be prepared for the worst? What greater joy for one such as me than to know I can close the gate and stay put and not do without any comforts I require? I now have my solar panels that I always wanted, simple as they are. If I had envisioned a costly array instead there is a cheap set that provides for my needs. I have all the power I need for what little I need it for. So it is with the water well. If I had considered the expense for so long I found a cheap solar pump and need not haul water either. The garden and I are both happier for that and I wish I had found one sooner! A single trip to town for groceries and laundry once a week creates no hardship and all I lack now is a propane refrigerator, though I have done well with the ice chest for years. Come winter that is even less of a concern and the summer days are shorter already. I have my dry goods also and all the greens and root crops I need if I require them. Add in some dried meat and I am good to go. If I never require any of it my life is easier than it has been in years and what effort it takes to maintain that is gone about with a joyful heart. I’ll be cutting wood before the day is done.
There is a breath of normalcy today. The late rains have greened the hillside and my garden now flourishes. The summer days are beginning to wane and there is a cool touch in the breeze. It is a good day for wood cutting. The squash plants are doing their work and having pickled the last batch of fruit they have a few more days to go, or at least one or two. I will pick some tomatoes this evening and gather some greens for my meal. I have planted the seeds for the winter garden, though today I will start more lettuce in the greenhouse. I will plant some collard greens also, to be for sure, for sure. That will be a learning curve for me but years back we had tomatoes in December in a far less resilient structure. I hope to have a harvest well into the winter and there will be a heater inside come the cooler nights. If much of the effort was begun with some urgency the rewards made it worthwhile. My immediate needs have been met, which is all I have ever really cared about. There are more, of course. There is still my debt to society that I have acquired with the years and never seemed to satisfy. I am still concerned with that and sadly it is my greatest challenge. At least I know I will survive to continue that effort. Yep, it seems that at least for the moment things are back to normal. I can’t ask for anything else!
August 2, 2020: I find it ironic that I had just shared a portion of this story with a friend of mine in response to her question if I had snakes at my house. Someone else asked the same thing just days ago. I will be mindful of the coincidence that this story also reappeared on my Facebook page from a year ago! Perhaps it is a warning that I should be watching for snakes. Or perhaps, as I am again in transition, there is a deeper meaning to the occurrence. I will certainly be listening to all of it.
July 29, 2019
Indian Divide, New Mexico
As I was walking up the driveway back to the house this morning, I heard a sharp rattle. I ducked away from it instinctively, as I am well-schooled on the practice. Rattlesnakes and I have been in residence with each other for years, and they are to be taken seriously. If they are gracious enough to warn us of their presence, so they are as likely to coil and strike as they are to flee. This one slid away a few feet, and then paused near the edge of the pile of branches I have yet to burn. I froze for a moment, started towards the porch and then recalled that the shovel, ever ready for such moments, was now in the shed. I had just recently moved it to keep the handle from getting weathered, and now I needed it quickly.
I walked briskly to the shed, giving the snake berth so she would remain still. I quietly returned and took a quick stab at her, but too far back from her head to be of any harm. She thought to flee into the pile of branches but then coiled instead, her head flattened menacingly and her rattles shaking vigorously. Though I chopped at her with the sharp blade of the shovel her body was so thick that my blows bounced back and she fled through the fence and under a nearby bush. I might have let her go and hoped she would die, but I knew better, these snakes are hard to kill. Knowing that just yesterday I was all over the yard with my nine year old grandson made the necessity of her death even stronger. If I had nearly stepped on her and been spared, young Jeremy may not have been so lucky! One of my greatest concerns is getting snake bit, my concern for that little boy is one hundred fold!
I followed the rattle of the snake to the bush and prodded her into view. Not having the option to flee the snake held her ground and came towards me instead. I took more time now, having calmed myself into focus, and soon pinned her head firmly with the sharp edge of the shovel and severed it with the pressure of my foot. Even that took several attempts, and that was at the narrowest part of her body. At the widest berth she was five inches around, large, but not the largest I have killed here. In length she was as long as the shovel, which is nearly as tall as me, all five foot of it. The relief I felt when she was dead was complete, and I was glad she had not escaped. I will skin her here in a few minutes and stretch her skin on a board. If she would also make a tasty morsel for dinner, I will pass. I have eaten snake before and if it was tolerable, it is far from being my favorite, an inherent repulsion perhaps.
The Rattlesnake. Rattlesnakes have many different symbolisms to various cultures. I find it ironic that this is the second time that I have encountered a rattlesnake in my path while in the process of moving back home to this spot, and just thirty feet from the last time. The first encounter was in 2005, when I had just arrived back home from Oklahoma after an extended absence. I was greeted in much the same way as I was yesterday. Because of that I am looking for a reason beyond the coincidence. I have killed four snakes here over a sixteen year period, so it is not an everyday occurrence, even if they are plentiful enough in the area. The generic symbolism is rebirth, transformation, immortality, and healing. I am ok with that definition, and it would be easy to accept that as I am in fact in a process of rebirth, transformation and healing. Another meaning speaks to alertness to warnings from others, respect for boundaries, and offering them courtesy as they make their passage, as well as offering them warnings before we strike. Alternatively, the rattlesnake may mean an increase of the activity of the spirits in our lives, heightening our senses and requiring we pay close attention to our senses. This guidance certainly served me well this morning.
The other meaning is this, and so applicable to my present circumstance. Not long ago a coworker, who was already a threat to me, sent me a picture of a rattlesnake he had killed just outside the door where we worked. His message said, “Be careful!” My gut feeling was that the warning went far deeper than the immediate circumstance, and I made note of the same. My instincts proved correct, and that is much of why I am moving home, again. The meaning I just read said, ‘ The rattlesnake appearing before you is a message that, you are aware of some unforeseen or hidden dangers and you have avoided them with dignity and grace, and is a message that as your reward, you will receive some good fortune, that is to enter your life immediately.’ How could I not embrace that guidance, or not feel that such energy is already in motion in my life, as I truly believe that it is.
I will take all of this guidance with great seriousness, and go forward from here with a greater measure of caution, as I have in the past. In 2005 I learned much of the same lesson, and diligently watched where my feet were placed. Ironically enough, in that instance I was led to a reward. The very same day of that encounter, having decided to walk up the mountain in spite of the newly discovered danger, I climbed the hill and walked carefully, with my eyes more clearly directed towards the ground that before. I came upon a flat rock decorated with a most beautiful petroglyph, and dubbed it a prayer stone for the placement of its pictures. I still visit it today. I also discovered, over time, how that rock tied together two other sets of petroglyphs, some ancient markers and messages I can only wonder about in these modern times. I still feel blessed to have been led to each and every one of them.
I go forward with those blessings in my heart as I begin this new phase of my life. I have been warned and affirmed, all in one step. I regret having had to kill the messenger, as she meant me no harm, and even warned me away from the danger. I should respect that, but I also had no alternative at the moment. Just yesterday I walked all over the yard, crossing that same location, in the company of my nine year old grandson. If I had been bitten, it would have been regrettable, if he had been bitten, it would have been tragic! I am most unwilling to risk either alternative.
Just recently, while I was in California, I was taught a valuable lesson on how to capture and handle a rattlesnake without doing it harm. I reflected on that lesson after I had killed the one I encountered, having acted fully out of instinct and past experience. I have always killed the snakes in my yard. I considered the fact that I may well have captured her and set her free elsewhere had I had the tools, and I think I will prepare for the possibility of doing so next time. Given the symbolism of the rattlesnake, and the fact that she warned me fully, and had no desire to wage battle, my mindset has been altered. I would not have killed the messenger, had I had another means of removing her from the yard. I will prepare to offer that respect, should I be visited again. I see no harm in choosing to do so. I have been blessed, and she deserved the same.