Alive and Well
I fired the porch cook stove this morning as it was warm enough outside to do so. The weather has shifted and suddenly the coolness of the house feels nice rather than cold. Where I have been building a fire in the living room woodstove to heat my water and warm my tea, now it feels too hot. Come evening it is still welcome for my evening bath, but the days are getting warm. I envision now the outdoor kitchen I have dreamed of for years. The porch is ready for that with the greenhouse blocking the wind and the roof firmly shored. A few windows and a door and it will be a proper room but it is already inviting. My feral nature draws me outside and to sit indoors while I am here is almost sinful. I am inside enough at my gallery, why do so here? I have retreated to my camper in the evenings and now my mornings beg for the same. Having struggled for years to return here I am finally home to stay.
A friend ask me once why I went ‘camping’ when my lifestyle was the equivalent of the same. I go camp to retreat to the wilderness even if it surrounds me here as well. I sleep outside for the same reason for the walls of the house are like the constraints of society and keep me from my dearest love. I love the wilderness, the utter silence, the cool breeze, the high pitched howl of the coyote. I have yearned for the closeness of nature since my childhood and later spent years on the road, camped on the roadside or in the shelter of my camper. I chose to sleep outdoors even when offered shelter, and so often still do. I suppose I have simply never been tamed, and I am okay with that. Even as a young woman I lived in fear of the demands of convention and feared that it would consume me. I have never gotten over that and the fear still exists, though I have already run the course in so many ways. I quit my last full time job two years ago and I have no intention of seeking another one. I hope I never have to.
I am alive and well today. Free of the stress that I lived with for so many years I have grown calm and well in the process. I have shed those extra pound that my body thought were needed for some pending crisis that I created on my own. I have found stillness instead and I am fit from exercise and cutting wood, and the woodpile is growing each day. My art and creativity are sustaining me and I will soon publish another book. I have done all of this on a limited income, and still flourished. If I am grateful for the material things I amassed when I was employed I have need for little else. I am working for myself now and I don’t pay very well, but I am making ends meet also. The frugal lifestyle that has ensued befits me, and simplicity is the rule. I would rather burn wood that propane, and there is plenty to be had.
Growing up in upstate New York in the 1960s led me to grow close to the earth. We were all about getting back to the simple things of life that we saw slipping through our hands. The industrial age was in full swing and we were surrounded by the fruits of that effort. We had Avon, International Paper and Nabisco warehouse factories in shouting distance and Ford was turning out cars every day, take your pick. I lived in fear of having to choose and I fled as soon as I could. I flung myself as far west and close to nature as I could get, and never really came back. I worked but to sustain myself and my family, and suffered even that. My kids are grown now and but for some debt I am free. Free, to live and do as I wish, to live as simply and basically as I care to, and to embrace the wilderness in my heart. It may not look like much, but it is more than enough. It took me forty plus years to get here but I have finally come home to stay. I am alive and well and that is all that really matters. Life is what we make of it and surely it is good!
5/24/21 I wrote this piece 11 years ago. I still live in this same place and have come home to stay. The night sky is still dark and even last night the coyote spoke to me, waking me from my slumber in my camper with the door left open to the night. The bed in the house will be vacant until winter returns, I prefer the outside and my feral nature requires it. Some things will never change.
May 20, 2010
Indian Divide, New Mexico
I have become much as some feral creature, reliant on the silence for my safety and my peace of mind. Just as I am drawn to the complete darkness which can only be found when the moon rises late and only stars light the sky, so I find comfort in the same. Is this what pulls me to the Plains of San Agustin, making even my own familiar haunt a questionable shelter? Sure this is still my home but I am pulled away from it by some new temptation, a memory of something more which cannot be replicated here for it was stolen away many years ago. I am civilized, yes, but my deeper spirit calls for release and she languishes in the shelter of my soul. She gazes out but squints at the bright lights across the highway. She craves the dark silence that only the remote places can offer her.
What of those dark silent nights along the highway, so many years ago? I was hitchhiking through Montana and Wyoming, crossing the Great Divide where I made camp on the roadside in the trees and was as far removed from all I had known as I had ever been in my lifetime. Ah yes, she was a feral creature then as well, most especially when she was curled deep in her sleeping bag hidden from the world but equally so when she stood beside the roadway and waited for a ride. She still speaks to me, as do the canyons and the coyotes which call me off in the same way as those long narrow chasms do when I pass through remote places. I must wonder if they will release me and allow me to return!
Silence, it surrounded me late last night when I returned home, and once again in the darkness when I stepped back out my door. The chill is unnoticed at such times when the glow of the Milky Way is splashed across the sky and the breeze is but a whisper. The night birds chirp softly and the owl calls, waiting for an answer. When I am truly blessed there will come along a solitary howl of a coyote from some far canyon……….calling me home. I am done with all the rest it seems even as I try to cling to some sense of convention. I am struggling with it now. The pull of the wilderness has always been there and it draws me away but this is different, deeper and more solemn, more important than it was in the past for it is a pure element of my survival. As the material things matter less and less so I am pulled further away from them and all that is required for their attainment. What was nearly lost is once more found and abounds in the silence which surrounds me.
May 13, 2021
Indian Divide, New Mexico
Dawn rested soft clouds
On the peak of the Vera Cruz
Morning wind came
And swept them away
Dispersing precious moisture
And stealing hopes of rain
Yet still the air is cool
And moist with prayed for storms
Lifting our spirits
Above the drought
And sending tendrils of hope
From the heart of the yucca
Aching to flower
For the bring summer storms
I woke early to watch the clouds race through the morning sky while the heavier fog lay still on the mountain top. It is always heartening to see the mountain peaks cloaked in moisture and this morning it settled deep into the canyons to the east, only to disperse with the rising of the sun. Still, there was moisture enough for it to be there, and it makes me hopeful that some distant storm will bring a trace of rain to these thirsty hills. Drought has become the norm here and the threat of fire is omnipresent. It is a recent memory rather than a great concern. It all could have burned here but it didn’t. We were saved by a late winter storm that surely won’t repeat itself. Next time we may not be so lucky, and next time will be soon enough if it doesn’t rain. It isn’t raining, but there were clouds. We will pray for summer storms.
If Not Now, When?
By Cathie R. Eisen
There are times in our lives when we come to the realization that if we are to ever do something we need to get on with the doing. I have journaled all of my life and many years ago began to tailor those musings into essays with the intention of publishing them. Ten years ago I wrote a full length book and tried to publish it, only to discover that one must be known writer before they can get published. Ever since then I have been building my platform, first with a Blog, adventureasaconstant.com and then open mic venues. In 2019 I realized it was time to publish those essays which had been so well received and I compiled my book, ‘If Not Now, When?’. Now, with a poetry collection in the works, it is time to share my book with a wider audience! Copies are available for $20.00 at my gallery in Carrizozo, New Mexico, ‘Carrizo Spring Trading Post’ or you can email me at email@example.com. I will also have a book signing soon! Thank you! Cathie R. Eisen
May 8, 2021
Indian Divide, New Mexico
I slept outside last night
Closer to the elements
And closer to the sky
I pushed open the back door
And left it open to the night
Allowing the wind and the sky
To surround me
With cool breathe and bright stars
And I rediscovered a part of me
That has been sheltered and confined
Her feral grace came quickly
The coyotes howled my name
May 1, 2020
Indian Divide, New Mexico
Allowing Joy to Find Me
Today I will allow joy to find me
I will allow myself the state of grace
That the universe always has to 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 equally 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 exist.
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. My garden is up and growing and I feel like I have been through the worst of it. I 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 to not to have much 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 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 pink of the 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 required. 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.