Deciding Factors

October 18, 2022

Nogal House

Indian Divide, New Mexico

Deciding Factors

My first thoughts upon waking this morning were of the wilderness. There was a cool moist breeze wafting through the slightly open window facing the south and the simple breath of the outside was enough to transport me. I have that connection with the wilderness, one such as I have cultivated since my childhood and have found a safe haven there as I have no place else. It is my haven, my escape, my place to retreat to for the pure and simple peace of mind which I require above and beyond everything else. I am alone for much the same reason for even as I retreated to the distant hills for solace, so I discovered the same. I have been, and felt, alone for much of my life, sensed my otherness and rather than let it take something away from me I reveled in it instead. I embraced the freedom that was allowed to me as there was no point, in my youthful mind, to do otherwise. It seemed to me from early on in my life that the effort to conform, to fit in, to model my life after what everyone else said I was supposed to do was an empty pursuit. I found my happiness elsewhere and it filled me in a manner that nothing else ever did, before or since. Certainly I have had, and maintained my ties with society and forged relationships but even now, as I study on the thought, I have found little else that surpassed the joy and peacefulness I have discovered in the wilderness and my own solitary company.

These choices that I have made are the deciding factors in my life and they guide me still. What is it that draws me to the wilderness and caused my mind to seek such solace upon waking and to pull me away from any other thought or consideration? That is such an easy question to answer though the conundrum it creates is nothing nearly as simple. The cool breeze I tasted with my first waking breath wafted to my window from the distant mountains where the clouds had come to ground of the night and which still hung there this morning. The suns warmth had yet to break the spell and even now it is shrouded too heavily to draw the moisture skyward, leaving the feel of the mystical, the memory of the oceans fog and the silent wonder of riding through the haze on the coast of California. Even here on the norther hillside the air is laden with moisture so dense that it muffled the caw of the raven and the soft whoosh of his wings as he flew westward. My heart stood still as he flew past and as he drew me skyward for a moment. I chanced to join him in flight until he slipped away over the horizon. I came to ground gently and remained there, unwilling to break the spell. A small flock of bluebirds took wing from the nearby hillside and they drew my attention elsewhere, thrilling again at the brilliant blue of their flashing wings, laughing quietly at their chatter. What else does one need for their happiness?

We humans are destined to seek elation and comfort for such is our ilk. We are conscious of such things to such a degree that we work towards any means we can find to fill that need, and satisfy that desire. It is simple when we are small for we are fascinated with the newness of  things and each discovery gives us that rush of joyfulness. This is the joy we find in children’s laughter and in innocence that radiates from their happiness. I so often feel a touch of envy towards them for such spontaneity wears thin with the passage of the years. As we grow older, if we are so fortunate, we receive those warm hugs and kisses, those expressions of love from those close to us, exchange laughter with our friends, and discover new adventures and thrills as our world opens up before us. What of the joy of running through a field, jumping off of the creek bank into the water, the gallop on horseback through the trees and across the pastures? Then later, the newfound freedoms as we mature, become more independent, and find our first love. All of these things can and should define our lives and for those of us who require even greater stimulus lead us to other things, the unseen distances, the roads less traveled, the mountaintops and the highways. I sought all of that, had my friends, my family, my horses but also a deeper need for something unseen, undiscovered in that place of my youth. I tried other things, drinking and drugs, and found some thrill of course, but I knew there was something greater, something distant, something west. This was the deciding factor and I wonder still if I would have survived if I hadn’t have followed that urge and traveled far instead.

What is it that draws me to the wilderness at the cost of leaving all else behind me and so often, almost always, going alone? In all the years of my life I have so rarely shared such adventures as those times when I wandered off onto the highway or deep into the hills. In rare company I once lived in a log cabin some five miles off the highway but the drinking and the drugs conquered all in the end. Years later I found a similar haven out on the plains of Oklahoma, the Tall Grass Prairie but that too was lost for the same reasons as the first. It seems that as we age, or even in our youth, too often the route to that treasured elation is a shortcut of the lesser sort. I was so fortunate to have discovered the wilderness, the wildness and the freedom of sweet solitude. I have yet to find its equal and even if I stay rooted in convention in so many ways my heart remains elsewhere. I found God’s grace and creation so early in my life and surrounded myself with the very essence of nature and the earthly blessings that surround me every day. I found that big love off on those dirt roads across the plains and even in the gusty taste of the wind in the spring, and in the clatter of rain through the summer. Just this morning I breathed in the cool essence of the moisture laden dawn and found it to be good. It has been the deciding factor of my life. I am blessed.

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