January 21, 2011
Dusty, New Mexico
Happiness, As a Constant
1.21.21 I wrote this ten years ago while I was still working for New Mexico Tech and being paid to wander off into the wilderness. This is the stuff that my book, “Washed In The Blood Of The Plains” is made off. What an incentive that is to finish that work and find the path to publishing it….
I won’t watch the moon set this morning, even though it hangs here to the west, as close now as I am. No, even though I stepped outside to take in its brilliance it is still too cold and it will set quickly behind the hills, its passage far from the gradual descent I can view from my Nogal House. All the same it is beautiful and I am grateful to be here.
Happiness; the elation still lingers even if it has dimmed to contentedness for the moment. I slept well but woke often last night, snuggling right back down in the comfortable bed but awake all the same. My mind is, at such times, far too active and too full of thought to let me rest, last night was one of those. Perhaps it sprang from the very happiness I wish to write about? I cannot say except that I found that rare sense of joy yesterday, twice, three times and want to record it and save it, for at times it is such a fleeting thing! For the moment I have it and care not to lose it.
Yes, I am happy. Perhaps for the first time in my entire life I have come to fully accept my solitude even if I dwell too much on Antonio. He contributes to it but is not a part of it. I am alone for all practical purposes and I can live with that; I have done good! Even as I drove away from my house yesterday morning heading west, heading here, while the cold clouds shrouding the Carrizo circled its base like a cloud of grey smoke, I felt the elation and the joy spring to my heart. How I love the adventure, how I love this very place as well! Rarely have I found a greater happiness than when I am here, except for the times perhaps on the road, many years ago.
The day then took over, the travel, stopping in Socorro, the long Dusty Road, but it found me again on the crest of the mountain as the day waned to dark, the shadows filling the canyons, painting the long vista of the hills, the San Mateo Mountains, those now growing familiar as well. It was there, looking out across the east edge of the Plains that I remembered that I will soon enough be leaving this and not returning, not for work anyway! I come here twice more, March and May and then it all ends in June unless……….perhaps I can convince them to let me return here to finish monitoring the network through October as I have now memorized it?
I found happiness all the same, one which is almost totally complete and as permeating as the cool breeze as the night drew near. Even the reminder of this ending could not remain in my thoughts and only the silence and the beauty did. I returned to the Wahoo Ranch bunkhouse as the light began to fade, even though it seemed early for it to do so. It does the same in the Monticello Box Canyon. The evening comes early as the sun, like the moon this morning, disappears quickly behind the walled hills. I thought of Antonio over there on the plain and I know the days are longer there………with dawn we will share the same light. I unloaded my firewood as I brought my saw this time and packed the rear of my truck with pinion wood to be sure to be cozy come evening and grateful to have it in reach. I am as at home here now as ever, with water, wood and shelter being the essentials.
Night found me standing by the stove and once more I felt it I am truly happy. How does one describe that? It is far different than the joy one feels as a child, but not much so! In a way it is the same for it retains that flavor of innocence, just as when one is truly in love and suddenly their soul is bared. In that instant it is as open and vulnerable as an innocent child’s, yes, it is the same. It is humbling in its sameness for we adults know we must savor it for such emotions can be so fleeting! Still yet, the feeling remains and I have the comfort of knowing that this I can take with me, long after the work is done. I have learned a new lesson and shall not forget it. The joy is mine to be had, I must simply devote myself to attaining it. It isn’t just a place or a time, it is a frame of mind that one can reach if they live well and God knows I am doing that!
What then, I must ask, is the definition of living well? It goes beyond the warm fire and the fat steak of last night, though surely that contributed to it. No, there is far more and it is so hard to reach at times but made easier by the distance and the peacefulness here. In a greater sense it is this, the calm acceptance that for the moment I have done all I can to make things right for me and I can live with the rest. Part of it is simply good fortune but I have worked for it as well! I have cast off and given up nearly all of the material things but I have not neglected my debts and neither have I created more, not yet.
Even as I write this I can still feel the weight of my interrupted sleep and see how in an instant I can contradict myself. I thought all night of the little piece of land I am thinking of buying, even as I am reaching for my dreams. Change is inevitable. I can feel it and with it comes a need and a requirement of some sense of stability. Its roots are bound in instinct. Even as I savor this very place I sit it is as my home and belongs to someone else. I need a place, even if impermanent, that I can call my own and it seems to be an essential. I think too I may have found it and it works for the moment, small, affordable and secure, sitting safely next to my old house in Carrizozo, the same piece of land that was briefly mine before and such as I can buy back. Still, with it comes the planning and the worries I wish to be free of and I wonder if I can ever win?
I wait for daybreak and for the sun to warm the air. I have plenty of work but I have time as well. I will return here tonight once again. I go stoke the fire. The stove, so hungry for wood, is finally quiet with the larger logs. I need not hurry today but instead will savor every moment. I won’t allow myself to forget this is not yet the last time, but very close to it. There are a few places I may return to after this project is done, but most of them I will not. The high mesas on the Wahoo Ranch, the climb to the Garrett’s and the O’Tooles will be left far behind. I must memorize them now. I will come back to the Box and drive the Dusty Road again and perhaps someday Datil will be my home, or close, who knows? One thing is for certain, I shall recall these travels as one of the finest adventures of my lifetime and the discovery of my true happiness as well. That shall remain as a constant.