March 21, 2019
Fort Sumner, New Mexico
Then there is the need for time out! Sometimes we have to break the routine to even recognize the need for a moment for ourselves. These last few days have driven home the requirement for me to take some pure time for myself, which I have already done. All it took was a walk to the river, which is but five minutes away from where I go to work each day. I used to go there frequently, almost very afternoon, in 2017. Here I am, almost two years down the road and having been here since the end of August 2018, six- and one-half months, and I have just now renewed the practice. Yes, it is time for a time out.
It only took a few steps around the corner of the fence to renew my spirit. Certainly, I have been practicing this in other ways; my ritual of a morning prayer, presented in the Native fashion with arms up reached and open to the grace of the dawn, my prayers offered when I go to the wells, out on the plain, and anytime else I feel the desire to do so, but I need more. Yes, I walk off into the peacefulness at times, or take pause to breathe it in, but not often as I should. Instead I have been working, working at work, working at home, on my bus, on my book, on something, always. I need some time out.
It seems that even writing is an effort right now, what with a keyboard well beyond its useful life!
Time out, with a storm lingering on the horizon, a load of laundry in my truck, a bus in need of additional work to make it livable, a ranch in Nogal in dire need of my presence, and a full time job to attend to. It is time to regroup and reevaluate my priorities, even as I move rapidly towards addressing the ones I have been working towards for years. Now I am in the danger zone, focused, engaged, making such good money, again, that I am unwilling to break the routine, even though I must. The beauty of this is that I can, and I will, as I must. Spring arrived yesterday, on a super full moon, on the spring time solstice. I fished until dark on the peaceful banks of the Pecos River, and slept with the light of the full moon shining in my window of my camper. How little there is to complain about, except that I need some time out!
It is time to take some time. I will finish a tedious task today, but with great care also. I took a moment to capture my thoughts, and now I will return to it. If this keyboard were better I might write more, but the effort is too much, and more than I can bear for now. Instead I will proceed with my work, as I should, but being mindful of the need for other things. I will do little else today, except for the simpler tasks. The others will need to wait, and the storms are hanging on the horizon. I will stay the course, but cautiously, and plan an escape for the weekend after this one. That, is an essential. For now I will complete the things I have started and seek out the solace of the river, every chance I get. Time out is essential.
February 19, 2016
Vera Cruz, New Mexico
The Highway That I Knew
The highway that I knew
Was a long winding road
That led to freedom
And the western wilderness
It wasn’t the harried interstate
Or the fearful journey
That someone might imagine
When they envision
A young woman
Hitchhiking across the country
But rather a shelter
From the storm
Of the threat of humanity
And of the demands it placed on me
From my childhood forward
I was never so afraid
Of the unknown
And the danger
Of people and places
I had never experienced
As I was of the reality
Of my existence
From New York City
And the swirling mass
The highway that I knew
Was a sanctuary
It was bursting
As rich and savory
As the smell
Of the sagebrush
And the dreams
Of western life
That Zane Gray spoke of
In ‘The Land of the Purple Sage’
It was the wind in my hair
When I stood on the Great Divide
Just outside of Big Sky Montana
And watched the same young hawk
As he circled in the sky
As the one who visited Bob Seeger
When he ‘rolled away’
To his dreams
It was the highway that I knew
Which led me here
To the state
Of New Mexico
And the treasures
It has shared
And that same highway
Which taught me a
All the lessons
That a young girl
Needs to know
That the world is not
Such a terrible place
And that there are
Such as I dreamed
There must be
Are still connected
To the earth and the sky
And to whom friendship
Are far more important
Than material things
It was that highway
Which brought me here
And the same one
Which still passes
By my gate
Not a city street
Or an interstate
Though the same
Be not so distant
Leads through the villages
Which have since
Become my own
And still peopled
By those persons
Are the same
As the ones
I had dreamed of
Is soon enough
Because there is no hurry
For us to get there.
December 26, 2018
Indian Divide, New Mexico
Ain’t Going Nowhere
I was just sitting in the outhouse, watching the snow. I was thinking about how many people would be in a panic if their sixty year old mother was in my same spot, in the midst of this winter storm. If the generator is humming in the shed, there is no direct power to this property. That I have five gallons of gas to spare would be of no consequence. There is no central heat either, aside from the woodstove. The pile of firewood beside the stove, and the stack by the shed, would be of little comfort to most folks. The 15 pound bottle of propane that fires the old gas stove wouldn’t be very encouraging either, and they would fear for her life, if she wasn’t like me. Forget that the outhouse is clear across the yard; that would be the least of their worries.
As it is, my son is comfortable knowing there is no place else I would rather be. We have been texting each other as the storm moves in, and sharing our pleasure in watching it. Both of us have a good fire going, and our yards are turning white. “It’s beautiful outside!” he says, and I have to agree. The temperature has fallen two degrees in thirty minutes, and the thirty degree mark on the thermometer says the storm is here to stay. We are both happy for that! I have already emailed my employer, one hundred and fifty miles to the north and east of here, that I am staying put. There is a great comfort in that also. I needed the time off, and if I wavered on returning to hold down the fort, I am now set to stay here. They won’t be worried either, at least regarding my comforts. They know I am well prepared, even for the worst. I could be snowed in for a week without any deprivations, though I might get a little cabin fever.
All things considered, I am better off than most. There is a fire blazing in the woodstove, and I have power, even if the grid goes down. I have kerosene lamps for back up, though the gas will last the generator for days, even if I ran it continuously, which I never do. I only need the electricity to charge my computer and phone, or if I want the lights. I can live and read by the lanterns. I have the gas stove for convenience, but can cook anything I want on the woodstove. There has been bread and brisket both that came out of the coals on other holidays, and even now my bath water is hot, should I desire it. There is no running water either, but about fifty gallons of water is stashed back in the kitchen. More than half of it is potable, should I need it. That is enough to last me for a week, all told, baths and all, should it be required. I have braved the worst of storms here with the same, when most everyone else suffered. I had water, heat and lights, when they did not.
I ain’t going nowhere today, unless the weather breaks, and maybe not even then. The solitude is most welcome, and I miss this place terribly. The fact is, I have not been home for a winter storm in a year at least, and I am hoping for a good one. I need the respite, and it is a good time to gather my thoughts. If I have been away trying to pay all my debts, I have one to myself, which negates all the rest of them for the moment. My definition of success is being here, and the time draws close when I may get to choose. The deprivation of spirit is far greater than any challenge nature can present me, at least from my present roost. Bring on the storm, I ain’t going nowhere! And don’t worry about me, I’ll be plenty cozy.
November 18, 2018
Wild Horse Casino Hotel
Dulce, New Mexico
Watching The Weather
I am watching the weather this morning, as the clouds find their way over the mountaintops. I am much farther north than I have been in years, except for the occasional journey at least. Karl and I drove to Montana a few years ago, but aside from that I have stayed farther south. Much of the reason for that has been the avoidance of the colder winters, though now that I have walked again in the snow I feel differently. Certainly I would choose to avoid the bitter cold, and yet I have sacrificed the glory of the higher elevations in the process. Having left Mescalero two years ago I have rarely ventured into the mountains or walked amongst the pine and spruce trees. Yesterday I ventured forth into the same. Today I am watching the weather and wondering where I will go.
If I yield to my heart I will go to Santa Fe and see if I can catch up with Yancy, a new found friend who slipped away as quickly as he came close. How could I have known that the warm embrace would be a parting glimpse rather than the chance to follow my heart? If I am wise I will leave well enough alone, I can read between the lines and his constraint is as much a warning as it is an allure. If he were to be chasing after me I would likely flee, and if I have not pursued him, neither has he reconnected. Still yet, it has been a long time since someone other than Damacio has stirred my heart, and I have been alone for two and a half years. This solitude begs to be broken, even if I am quite content to be alone.
On the other hand I could go to Questa and stay out yet one more night. There are jobs there, two of them perhaps, one for the Village and the other at the mines. The one at the mines would be challenging, interesting, and educational. It would also quite likely pay very well. The Village, not so much, and it would come with the usual challenges I keep trying to avoid, with so little success. Having interviewed for a job here, I have already chosen to decline it as there are similar challenges associated with it. Even if the odor of chlorine at the water plant could be addressed, there is the close quarters of the building to contend with. Add to that a project manager who likes to assert his dominance over the women he works with and it is a no go. He and I would lock horns at a very base level, which leaves little room for professionalism, and I am too old for all that!
Where to go on this fine day when the freshness of the Rocky Mountain high still lingers in my memory. I drove the dirt roads to the north yesterday, passing old homesteads as I climbed towards the state line. They stirred my memories of years and lives past. Surely I was one of the first settlers here, in heart if not in spirit. Those crumbling ruins and the still standing cabins bring a depth of emotion I associate only with the things which are most precious to me. Perhaps the desire to live that way, which I discovered with my first exploration of that history, is so ingrained as to become personal. It is not so much the desire to explore such a way of life as to go home to it instead. I have been there, and it is all I have ever wished for or desired, and always will be. Driving through those valleys stirred all those dreams I have ever had, and lightened my spirit in the process.
Traveling on I drove up into the higher elevations where the pine and the spruce trees tower high above the roadway. Their roots clung to the steep hillsides and I had to stop to explore them. I pulled down off the highway and found a place to park, carefully locking my truck before I left. I know myself well enough by now to recognize that a short hike could be longer than planned, and chose to place no limits on it either. If my intent was to go to Pagosa Springs and see what it had to offer, I also wanted to savor the adventure. A climb to the mountains, as it turned out, was the highlight of the day. Even as I dove into the willows on the roadside, following the trails of the elk as I have learned to do, my attention was turned to the mountain. The soft muscles of my legs, which are only now becoming restored through forced exercise, begged for some exertion. It wasn’t long before I walked out of the snow covered shade of the bottoms and began to scale the mountainside. If I began cautiously at first, I soon warmed to the effort and ventured up the steeper climbs. Karl Peso’s memory urged me forward and I could hear his voice taunting me when I paused to rest.
If I have hiked for all of my life, since I was old enough to climb my first hill, Karl was the one who taught me to climb. Where I once would take pause the moment my breath quickened, now I go beyond that. I will walk until either my legs ache or my heartbeat pounds hard in my chest, and even then only rest momentarily. It was Karl who made my second wind truly what it is, and once I catch it, it seems I can climb for hours. I did so yesterday, if only briefly in comparison to the past. It was as much caution as anything else which really limited my travels, as I had left my boots in the hotel, and the slopes were slippery with the both snow and dry dirt. The risk was real, the hillsides steep, and the remoteness, in spite of the nearby highway, dangerous enough for a solo traveler. Nobody knew where I was, how long I had been there, or how far I would travel.
In spite of the hazards I walked to the first ridge and then followed the elk trails along the side. I was in search of beauty and utter peacefulness, in company with the elk antler shed I never ran across, though sought hopefully along the way. I climbed through the fence on the mountainside, and then ventured deeper into the dense forest of towering trees, unthinned, and unburned for a millennium, and much in need of the same. I climbed as high as my weakened muscles would allow me to and then turned and walked the side of the mountain as we would do in Mescalero, searching the uphill and downhill slopes for the telltale glint of an antler tip, or the branched bone of the same. I recalled Karl’s presence with every step, and missed him more than usual because of it. Too, having spent two days amongst the Tribal community on the Jicarilla Apache Reservation, I have been reminded of him at every turn. What that every slim Native who walked by in the distance might have been him in years past.
Eventually caution, and the shortness of the day, turned me back towards my truck and my original intention of going to town. I had decided from the start of the hike that I was happier to explore the wilderness rather than the community, but I also wanted to at least see the town. Having returned to the serenity of the forest, and some of the sweetest memories it generated, I found it difficult to turn back, and as I soon discovered, the terrain offered the same challenge. Turning gradually downhill, the steepness of the slope quickly revealed itself. When one ‘walks the side’ as I have learned to do, it is easy to follow the elk trails and find good purchase in the dirt, even when it is dry and loose. When one turns downhill, even on the elk trails, the surface suddenly becomes smooth and slick, especially with a little added snow, too dry to even moisten the dirt. Add to this the smoother soles of my walking shoes rather than the vibram grip of my ‘hiking boots’ and one has a recipe for danger. The term ‘sledding’ comes to mind immediately, which defines the action one encounters when your feet slip out from under you and as quickly you are sliding downhill on your ass at a rapid rate. This is dangerous to say the least and potentially fatal if you land on the wrong slope with no handholds.
Having been there and done that I was extremely careful, and chided myself for my foolishness. If there was no harm in venturing up the mountain as I had, given my skills for the practice, the shoes I was wearing were inexcusable. Worse yet, I had considered taking my boots and had declined, as I would have had to carry them past the scrutiny of the ever watchful eyes in the lobby of the hotel where I am staying. What that I might have gained a little respect from the onlookers for having done so? They studied me a little each time I passed, I being the white woman on the Rez, with some obvious mission as I have stayed for three days. Their curiosity might have peaked to think I was also going to hike, as if any of that really matters in the end.
So it was that I made my way carefully down the slope through the trees while still looking for antlers. I had the luxury of knowing the road where my truck was parked was directly to my right, but as I quickly learned it was not near as accessible as it seemed. A slight drop down the slope revealed a steeper incline than I could negotiate, as the hill was nearly vertical. I quickly recalled that this was part of the reason I had chosen the path of my ascent in the first place, but it was too late to go back along that same trail unless I had to. Instead I sought out the ever present trails the elk had followed and then very carefully sought handholds amongst the sparse growth on the steeper slope. I only fell and slid twice, and both times was prepared to do so, but still struggled the entire way down. How I missed the grip of my boots and the protection of the leather gloves we always wore when walking in the past, well prepared for all of the challenges. I was also grateful for not tearing my nice shirt, as the oak brush always reaches and grabs as you pass it. I also would have welcomed some company, just in case I fell, but none was to be had. Karl has been dead for six months and we had parted ways well before that.
I found my way off the hillside, sighting my truck before I landed firmly on level ground. Weaving carefully through the willows on the narrow paths I eventually crossed my own trail, my footprints showing clearly in the snow, and took a different route. It as with some regret that I neared the road and my truck and I wished I could have wandered further before I returned. In years past such a venture would have taken all day and we would have walked the snow line instead. I still miss those long walks, the sound of our voices echoing across the canyons to stay in reach of each other, and the utter silence when we were quietly traveling the depths of the wilderness. What a thrill it was to be so alone, even when in company, and to kick up the occasional elk as we wandered through their territory. I wonder in this moment if I shall ever find another partner such as he who I walked with, all those years past, or if I shall ever push myself hard enough to regain the fitness he pushed me to. I was strong and slim when we were hiking partners, just three years ago, going on four, as we walked together less in the end. If he was patient for the most part he pushed hard also, eager to cover all the ground he could in search of the valuable antlers the elk had left behind. I went along as much for the adventure and the company as the bounty we gathered, but preferred to savor the landscape. When he pushed me too hard I began to turn back, and over time my heart followed that same path. We eventually parted ways, his alcoholism challenging our friendship, and foreshortening his life in the end. His absence now that he has died still echoes in my memories. He was with me every step yesterday, even chiding me when I slipped and fell, still a most welcome presence in my memories. He added one more reason to my wanting to walk the rest of the day.
Finally I arrived at my truck. After brushing the dirt and the spruce needles off of my clothes, little though there was, I continued on my journey to town. The views of the snowcapped mountains thrilled me just a little more for having stepped off into their grasp, and I ached for more adventure. Reaching town was anticlimactic as I so prefer the wilderness. The echoes of tourism, and the remote rudeness of the visitors, nearly appalled me, as my armor against the same was still laying in the forest. I had stripped myself free of the need for those defenses against the coldness of humanity for the long moment I was walking in the silence of the hills. I have so little need or desire for the company of most people, and am always reminded of that when I escape them. The same makes the thought of this most recent employment opportunity, and the close quarters it has to offer, unappealing at best. I would so rather work alone, even if my closest coworker was of my same spirit and would have been a welcome presence. I know he will hope I take the job, but he will understand why I won’t also, only to affirm his own sentiments I am sure. I wish I could invite him to work in Fort Sumner and we should both be happier!
Here I sit in my hotel room, having lost myself in the memory of yesterday, and those fonder ones of the years past. It is good to recall the finer times, and to remind myself of my need for so much more of that going forward. This is the lesson of this journey, and the blessing I received for having taken it. There are actually several lessons. The first and foremost is that I am no longer tolerant of any pressure from anyone else who trespasses on my person. I decided years ago that none of us, including myself (remember this Cat!) has the right to impose themselves on anyone else’s space. It is one thing to supervise and direct others to accomplish a task but the personal manipulations are unwelcome at best. Direction yes, dominance, no, and I refuse to even have to defend myself against the same. It is better to simply avoid it.
There are other lessons also, and they are equally personal in the end. I have a clear need for peacefulness and respite, such as I have not afforded myself nearly enough of. If my heart aches for the same I have confined myself to a small space in my camper and the location I have chosen for it. If I am to remain in Fort Sumner for any amount of time I need to find a more comfortable space to do so. I also must take the time to renew my body and spirit on a daily basis, as I have always practiced in the past. The prioritization of my time means less hours at work, on the computer (Duh!), and in pondering the things which only bring me misery. Foolish me, to allow the stress and strain of other people’s problems to overcome my own serenity, and to let myself be so focused on them for no reason. My life is and always has been my greatest priority and I give up my time to improve on it, not to take away from the things which I value the most. I wonder how many times I have to relearn that?
I can hear the raven’s harsh caw in the distance. He speaks to me, as does the silent wonder of the forest and the surrounding wilderness. My feral spirt has again been awakened and she has no desire for further sleep. I had to drive far to the north to restore this awareness, even if I find the same solace on the plains when I allow for it. All of this will influence my future choices and even now I am weighing the possibilities. Questa is not so far way, and the other set of mountains which surrounds it. I love this North Country, as much as I do the plains. I also know from experience that either place will do, and that it is warmer to the south. The sun is streaming in through the windows now and my heart is aching for some other adventure. I should, and will, seek some other hillside and go for another climb. I will also peruse the map and consider what direction I want to travel today.
Having ventured this far north it seems foolish to not venture farther and see the sights along the way. Taos is not so far the east and Questa but a short drive from there. The politics of the small town may be prohibitive, if I was to seek employment there, and it is certainly colder than my present post, but it would be fun to see the sights. There is also something of this North Country that still tugs on my soul, even though I have avoided it for years. I have become spoiled by the warmer winters for certain, though the crunch of the snow underfoot yesterday thrilled me also. I recalled Karl again in that instance and how we had thrown each other to the ground and rolled like children in the snow drifts. I had not shared such a moment with anyone since my childhood and our laughter was as youthful as that also. It was, in the end, one of the most purely innocent moments that we shared, for an instant free of all constraints. I want to seek out more of the same emotion, even if I must do so alone. At least in such solitude I can still reach the pure essence of that joyfulness which is far too often absent in my present existence. I want all of that I can find to fill the remaining time I have in this life, and there is no reason I should not seek it out.
The clouds have cleared from the sky and the sun feels warm even here, sitting inside. I have ventured far already and recalled, recorded, the wonders of yesterday. I have no promises to keep and have already warned that I might be tardy tomorrow. I do not owe anybody my time for the moment and it is a lovely day. I will likely wander east, driving rather than walking the sides of the mountains for the moment. I will stop at some roadside diner along the way and feed myself, and then wander on in search of another adventure. I will also wear my boots today, so that I may safely traverse whatever hillside may offer me the chance for another hike into the wilderness. I will take pause at every vista, as I am in no hurry today, and will find myself a room for the evening if the hour grows too late. I have had too little peace and too little respite to do anything different, though of course, I will take care to watch the weather. They say it is supposed to snow sometime soon. Then again, I am in no hurry to get anywhere else.
August 22, 2018
Vera Cruz, New Mexico
Played the fool
And let this
Have I left here
With all intent
Only to be
Have I ignored
The very basis
Of my existence
And how often
Have I returned
I am leaving
Out of desire
Not because I
I have created
That I have to
As I continue
At the desired
That so often
Before it is done
Why is it
When the solutions
Are at my fingertips
And how often
Will I pause
To consider that.
I have realigned
For the umpteenth
But my focus
Than it was
In years past
And though I
The first one
And my word
Is as good
As it has ever been
And it is clearer
Than it was
In the past
And it has never
That I hold
To that promise
For how often
Have I not.
August 22, 2018
Vera Cruz, New Mexico
Healing, Day Three
Healing is a funny thing. One would imagine that the repair of any part of their person would feel good instead of painful. If I am in the healing process again it also hurts. My neck is stiff from unaddressed tension, my muscles are sore from forced exercise and in spite of a good night’s sleep I am tired. Still yet I hate to complain and am most grateful that at least now I am the source of my angst, not something outside of my control. I am in recovery, again, and hope with all sincerity that I have learned a final lesson. I have repeated this one too often, and having freed myself again care not to repeat it. I will return to work, but only on my terms. My wellness is too precious to do otherwise.
Why such angst on a beautiful rainy morning? I slept well and woke early. If yesterday’s dawn was as brilliant as any I chose further rest instead. I smiled at the golden light which spread across the hillside and turned back to my pillow. I might have done the same today, it would have been so easy. Instead of clear light the colors were muffled and the clouds all shades of grey. The moisture laden air was cool and still and my blankets warm and soft. If the temptation pulled at my eyelids it was the subtle tone of pink cast by the nearing sunrise which roused me. I have lived for such moments in all the years I have been here, and for as many more before that. The simple fact that I did not have to get up and go to work bade me to rest, but I resisted it.
Such rewards for my choices!!! I dressed quickly and met the day full on before the sun ever rose. I walked the perimeter of my perch so as the view every angle, camera in hand. The soft light of dawn colored the clouds and the ever present snapshot of the windmill blessed the coming day. But then I rounded the corner, facing to the south, the Sacramento Mountains cloaked in clouds, and touched deep by a glowing rainbow. This was what I had risen for and even as the soft drops of rain began to fall I was welcomed home in full fashion. What I might have missed for another hour of sleep, what I will take with me through this day instead. Why then the angst? I am still healing and joyfulness, as with good fitness and full health, takes time to replenish.
Then again I should be tired. In just this past two weeks I have been from Truth or Consequences to Silver City, back to T or C, to Nogal and back, to Albuquerque to fly to San Diego, drove back to Nogal from California, from there back to Albuquerque and then to T or C, back to Nogal and then back to San Antonio, NM to retrieve my camper. Nearly 1500 road miles alone and only now I rest a moment, all my possessions again in one place and for a brief moment free from work as well. I drive again today, teach class in Roswell and then back to Fort Sumner to work again…..though as I said, on my own terms. I am in need of respite and it will be woven into my plans.
Such plans I have! Even my eldest son, ever the stoic so it seems, commented on my freedom. He would have been more concerned except that I have taken a turn for the better. I have a better job, more respect and appreciation, more freedom of choice and more money, a good move. But, as he noted, I also have the mobility most people, and especially him, do not. He is committed to the Marine Corps but so many others have a near equal commitment and changing jobs and places does not come so easily for them. For me it is a simple matter of choice, though I know I am blessed to have such opportunities. I am also ready to be still! My priorities, in particular in this instance, run well beyond employment and income. It is the healing of my spirit I am concerned with and I must be mindful of everything which has returned me to this place. I should know better by now……..
My plans, even as the wind finds that place on the corner of the roof that makes it howl. Plans, even as I peruse the wood pile, ponder the grey clouds and comfort of my jacket when just yesterday I was too warm. Winter looms on the horizon and soon it will be fall; time to cut wood and ready for the cold. Plans, that I will try to spend as much time here as anywhere else unless I find a suitable roost in Fort Sumner instead. I have set a new priority, one which requires my immediate needs and desires come before all else, and that I dedicate an equal amount of energy to see them to fruition even as I continue to support myself. I shall focus on my wellness, my fitness and good spirit. I will write every day as I have always done and take that a step further by sharing it, on line, on the page and with the spoken word. I will seek, find and bring together those who I have sought for so long, that we may celebrate our visions and experiences with the spoken word. I will make that my life’s work going forward.
Plans, so many I have made and so many I have completed. My previous lists are marked off, now there is a new one to follow. Still the wind howls. If the summer rains came late so they have cooled the air and lead into winter. Will it be cold this year? Will it snow as it did in years past. How I hope to hunker here and study on the simple joys of survival and solitude. Even as I commit myself to sharing and communing with those who wish to share their words so I look towards those moments of pure existence. I miss being undistracted and uninterrupted but for tending the fire and watching the storms. It will be hard to leave today, though leave I must. I will hurry back here also! If there has always been solace and comfort here now it begs for me to stay! For this reason I go forth again, to assure I have the means to do so, though I may winter elsewhere, I want to be here!
Healing. Once again the essentials stare me in the face with the same insistence as the coming seasons. This is yet another season of my life and I have turned another corner. I am sixty now and the passage of the years cannot be ignored. I am again faced with the restoration of the things I have promised myself to maintain, and having slipped once again it takes effort to return to them. Not that I have slipped far, I know better than that, but ten extra pounds is still ten pounds and soft muscles are no different. So it is with my spirit and I know the dangers, the decline is a gradual slope, the way back grows steeper and further with time. I wish to keep the summit in reach that I can be on high at will, I remain mindful of the same! Today as yesterday I will work my way back up. Just as I will add to the woodpile so I stack my blessings in the same manner, a mindful effort which will warm me twice, and assure of my survival. What better plan is there? I am healing, day three.
May 2, 2018
I am reposting this today in memory of one of the best friends I have ever had. Our time together was one ongoing adventure and I walked more miles with him than anyone I have ever known. It wasn’t always easy but there are no regrets, except that he is gone………. Karl passed away a few days ago, much too soon, much too young. I will love him and miss him always……….Blessings my dear friend, may you have a safe journey. I love you, friend. Cathie
October 7, 2015
Bent, New Mexico
You Made Me Laugh
You made me laugh today. Sadly you only do this when you are drinking, which makes me cry. All the same, I cannot resist your company when you are intoxicated, and it is the same for you. The sad part is that I spend the whole time you are drunk trying to get you sober. It always works in the end, though sometimes it takes a week or two. Then I don’t hardly see you again, until you start to drink. We have been doing this for almost four years, we both know the pattern.
You would think we would grow tired of this, me of your foolishness and you of the sickness, but we don’t. It seems it is always too much fun in the interim, even if it is painful for both of us. It breaks my heart to see you wasting your life and ruining your health. It breaks your spirit to shatter your routine and bring such illness to your body. You don’t get sick when you are drinking; it is the hangover that will kill you.
You made me laugh today, your candid humor and spontaneity is a joy and a pleasure. It betrays your serious side and the sober guy would cringe if he could witness it, but he cannot. Sadly it is the best of times which you will never recall, the laughter and the tears, the meals I cook and the warm hugs I receive in return. You are my best friend when you are drunk, and your own worst enemy, and it gets worse as time goes on. I am watching a gradual decline which frightens me because it is the very source of my own weakness.
You made me cry just yesterday. You rarely call me when you are sober and I have learned to gage your intoxication by the tone of your voice and the frequency of your calls. You will only call once when you are starting, as if to warn me and to comfort yourself, you are safe if I am here. You will call two or three times if you are already drunk and if you need a ride you won’t stop, I think you hit redial sometimes, at least in your head. I am the voice of sanity when there is no other sound to guide you. You called a lot yesterday, and you kept calling until I found you. You were so drunk you made me cry and when I came back later I cried again when you played that song for me, you started it over three times because you wanted me to hear it. You told me, this song is for you, and we both got teared up, such fools as we are. The song was, “You Can’t Say I Didn’t Cry.” You are always on target, when you are drinking.
My greatest fear is that I will someday weaken and lose the sharpness of my judgement. I am afraid I may sink into the oblivion which is my mothers’ mind, she who drifts along unguided but still occasionally comes back to shore. I asked myself the other day, ‘When did she start to fail?’ and realized she was always failing; it just took a while for her to complete the process. I am strong because of that and I don’t want to grow up to be like her. I want to instead preserve the tender innocence she graced me with, the same treasure reflected in my voice, which I also got from her, and the sense of humor, that I get from you. I think I have my fathers’ strength, though I am not always sure of that either and I don’t always like him very well. It is your failing which keeps me on task; you are the constant reminder of the alternative which I never want to take.
You ask me why I put up with your bullshit, because you call a spade a spade, and you know just who you are. I try to explain that to you, but as you always say when we ask why you don’t stop drinking, “It is hard.” I put up with you because for some foolish reason you are the only person I can put up with and I love you as I have few others in my life. It is as foolish an addiction as your drinking and the outcome is equally assured, it will be painful, as it always has been. I buried all of the other guys a long time ago and I do not want to do the same with you. That is also why I stay; I can prolong the agony for us both, though I doubt that I will win. There is another reason also, I am so afraid of failing myself that I force myself to be strong. You have made me better at that than I have ever been and as long as you are here I will never forget. It makes it hard to leave.
Here is the sad part. I am better off alone and we both know that. I have been trying very hard to pull away for that very reason and it is why I am writing again, I write a lot when you aren’t here. But I write because of you also and you inspire me with your own lack of the same. You point it out to me also, your desire for the richness I weave into my own life and it is what you love me for. I am the light in your darkness when you are drunk. If only you could learn to do the same when you were sober! If such were possible we could laugh all the time, and never cry again…..
April 21, 2018
Caballo, New Mexico
The Beauty Way
I woke to savor the stillness of the dawn. Laying still I witnessed that perfect moment of beauty as the sun crested the Caballo Mountains and lit the windows of my room. The transition was Zen-like, gradual yet instantaneous, subtle but brilliant, radiant in every sense. The temptation was to jump and get my camera and yet there was no way to capture it even then, and the light changed before I could even process the thought. I judged well, it was better to simply be in the moment than to try to hold the feeling for eternity. It was, in essence, too pure for such a desire. Blessings of that sort are to be but received and recalled, to be carried with us in their purest forms.
So I begin my day, walking in beauty in every sense. If I have come to raise such prayers each and every day, so they came to me this morning as I slept late beyond the dawn. So often I wake well before that and raise my arms to the sky before the dawn even gathers his gifts to be shared. I drive to work in the dusk and only if I am late will the sun break the horizon, blinding me with her brilliance. I rarely witness that since the time change…I will track the seasons accordingly. Today and tomorrow I instead chance to savor the luxury of rest, and then will repeat the pattern.
If there is such a strong desire for freedom I have no complaints either. I have, for the moment, preserved my position with the city, for which I am most grateful. I quit, then unquit, and had the affirmation of being allowed to stay, albeit with strong resistance from he who would have chosen differently. I hold no malice, he harbors the same. I might have left but it is this very place I am, the utter beauty and peacefulness it provides me, that begged me to stay. The richness of the community ran close second, and with equal appeal. There is a sense of happiness I have found here that has evaded me elsewhere and if it was overcome momentarily it has returned in full force. I may make some compromises in order to maintain that but even those are loaded with lessons. It is time for me to learn the things I have chosen to avoid until now. The knowledge will be the reward.
So it is I gaze on the twinkle of the lake, just beyond the trees, sparkling at the feet of the mountains. The Caballos, brown and red on their rocky ramparts, the foothills green with mesquite and greasewood, the lake bright silver and blue in the morning sun. The waters give way to the willows and salt cedar, bright green in their freshness, rising from the lakeshore with their feet in shallow waters. Rising further, returning to the desert sands, the greasewood and mesquite front the road to my doorway. The sky is clear blue and cloudless, tinged brown with dust and smoke from distant fires, lest we forget there is drought and wind to contend with. If the morning is still cool the heat is at her back and will settle in for the duration of the summer. It may threaten my serenity but as with all else it will be a small sacrifice in comparison to other challenges. It will be hot everywhere this year, but the winters here are warm………..
I am no longer weighing my options but rather shaking off the worry of the week just past, and all of the uncertainty! If for a moment I saw no recourse I quickly regrouped also. What I felt to be intolerable gave way to a recognition of opportunity, to lesser demands on my mind and a fitness of body I have struggled with. Take away my pen and paper and give me a shovel! If that had been my choice for so many years I traded the same for more opportunity, and frustration. What that I can work as I once did, albeit with more effort and a little pain, but my arms are still strong and my mind so wonderfully precious. Better to write poetry than reports, and remove myself from the line of fire. They may not ever win that back! I will labor as I once did, offer expertise where needed and appreciated, and take my turn with the rest instead of running to the front. A lesson indeed, and a reward of serenity, coupled with fitness. I have already shed fourteen pounds in the process, with ten more to go. That tells the story in itself.
The beauty way. What that I so often walked in beauty when I first came to this territory. It is the same which has drawn me back. With a barrage of things I can do today the allure of the hills comes first! The weather is still cool and begs for me to explore those places I have returned to, or find new territory otherwise. If I am drawn back to the same canyons today I may seek open ground, and save the sheltered coolness for the hotter days. I can walk by the water come summer, it is still spring here on the flats. I will admire the tender leaves of the mesquite and the brilliant cactus flowers and seek the cottonwoods later, they can wait. Even as I peruse the windows of my room and envision the blue trim they are begging for I am drawn to walk instead. I will be here for longer than I thought, and they will wait also………The summer will keep me inside and then I can busy my hands. Now is the time to replenish my spirit. I will walk in beauty today, in all things and all ways. There is beauty all around me, I must step forward to meet her.
March 18, 2018
Caballo, New Mexico
By Nature Serene
By my own nature I am serene. There are those who know me who would argue that, and I can see why. In my day to day existence there are many moments I am far from serene. I am reactive to my environment, driven in my pursuits and in almost constant motion. I have trouble standing still, I need to occupy my mind if I am idle for any amount of time, I stay busy, always. Still yet, I am serene. I wake of the morning in perfect stillness, my mind tuned to the coo of the dove, the call of the goose, or to utter silence, if I am so lucky. I can lay still for an hour if such is availed to me and even drift back to sleep. Left to my own devices I can then write for hours, uninterrupted.
Why then this sometimes frantic nature?? I have dreamed, and so often lived, in the absence of that. I have retreated to my Nogal House and spent days in such peacefulness. I have wandered the wilderness, for days, and even weeks at a time with no distractions, and found true happiness. I have sought the same in every waking moment when things were otherwise, and found it so difficult to maintain. I have allowed the very virtue of necessity and dedication to tip the balance, while still maintaining some sense of the same. I love my work and approach it with true devotion and seriousness, but the hurdles seem all but insurmountable at times. If I recognize the reasons I have yet to find the solutions. I am bound to try once more, as I am happy to be where I am, and the serenity I require is also in my reach.
How so? I saw it yesterday even as I was weighing my options of leaving. It is closer here than elsewhere, and the intimacy I have established with it remains, even at a distance. I need but gaze to the northwest and it surrounds me. I need but make a thirty minute drive and I am there, and it is also closer than that. Each and every canyon and cliff seems to emanate the same energy, each rock on the sandy ground reminds me of its presence. The connection is powerful, and viable in every sense of the word. If I have also found it elsewhere it is closer here. It is something I require and in recognizing that I also see the need to strike the balance so that I can stay. The serenity must carry over into everything I do if I am to succeed. It is the one thing I have too often failed to do and if I cannot accomplish that here, neither can I do so elsewhere.
Perhaps I should have titled this, ‘Another Life Lesson’, as that is most certainly what it is. There have been many of those along the way but this is as important as any. Having had a week off and stepped away from all but my own requirements, I have again found center. I have so quickly restored the sense of balance I depend on, along with my inherent serenity. It is inherent, I was born with the ability and desire to exist in that very state of being, and have worked towards it for my lifetime. I dreamed of the solitary cabin in the wilderness from the start, and sought it ever since. I have lived there often and have the same here and now. My bus is the epitome of that in so many ways for I need but drive off into the desert or the forest and I am there. I have done so often enough! Even where I sit I am in walking distance from the lake and can see its glimmer out my window.
Why then the disruption? My work place is serene enough also, when I am at Clancy! I can drive but minutes from the office to my own peaceful spot. I can climb the stairs to the old block building and leave the door ajar to the sunshine. I have a view of the old town, squat houses, trees and narrow streets, and I am alone to do my work. I can sit there for hours sometimes with no interruption, yet I am minutes from anything there is to do. I am productive there and have already made a strong contribution, though I have yet to see the results. I need to be patient on that count, and have been counseled with the same. I need to learn to disregard the perceived failings of others, and be grateful to sidestep that also, while having the good sense to not criticize. That in itself would be wonderful, and the learning curve has begun. I also need to ignore the inertia and instead perceive it as an opportunity for me to excel, if such will be allowed.
That then is the issue, and I feel stifled. Having lived alone for so long I meet my own needs and requirements head on, and address them. If there is an issue, I identify it, if it is broken, I fix it, I make lists, and then follow them. I want to do the same here but it is far from that easy, and there are many other people involved besides myself. I am eager for results, but they too have their own agendas. I just got here, they have been here for years. I move quickly, they walk slowly. I have questions and ask them, they are slow to reply. I need to be still, keep doing what I do best and leave it to them to carry on as they will. It will either work or it won’t but if I shatter my serenity in the process, or theirs for that matter, the whole thing goes to shit. It is up to me to step up, not them, and if I fail it will be my own failure, not theirs. The moment I blame anyone else for my own unhappiness, as I have already done, I lose the path I should have followed.
I am, by nature, serene. There is no reason I cannot step forward into each and every day with the cloak of serenity wrapped around my shoulders. One would think that would be so simple, having made such a suggestion, but it is not. It takes true strength and character to allow any slights or challenges to slide off of your shoulders and to consider them from a distance. If I have attempted to do this in the past I am just now really starting to consider it objectively. If I can do it in a given moment, why not put it to practice. Just as I have set my mind to a healthier diet, in mind, body and spirit, so I need to apply it at work as well. It needs to be twenty four seven and 360 degrees, not just about myself. If I have already restored a healthy aversion to candy and donuts, why not to frustration and resentment? There is no room for any of that in my life if I am to be truly healthy and happy, and no reason why I should not find the means to have it.
If I am so smart let me begin with this! If I am the first one to make light of my own philosophy then I should also be the first to act on it. I have long proclaimed that one of the best things about being alone is that one cannot blame their unhappiness on anyone but their selves. Well…………doesn’t this apply to all things? If I am to not take anything personally then I should also view others from that same perspective, and leave them to their own devices instead of expecting anything from them. If it is to be done, I must do it myself, and I am also getting paid for the same. If it is theirs to do, then I should allow them that also. If it fails to get done it will be on them, not me, and I have plenty to do as it is. If I have learned to not only find problems, but to also find solutions, so I should do so, with no regard for what others could have or should have been doing. That is not my concern, nor in all honesty for me to judge. I have been so busy asking why others have not addressed the things I see need to be done that I have failed to balance myself in the process. If I am to stay this is the first thing I must do. I am by nature serene, and I have done just that.
March 14, 2018
Caballo, New Mexico
For Antoinette, Nurse supreme!
Ha Ha. I wrote a note to myself and posted it on the wall where I cannot miss it. I fasted it to a magnet with a screw. The symbolism is clear, the note says “DIET, BODY, MIND, SPIRIT”. The screw says that if I do not abide to my own advice, I am screwed. Funny, but not. After yesterday I have a very clear perspective on my personal does, and don’ts. The meanings I have chosen to attach to the experience will serve to confirm my purpose.
Ok, friends, brace yourselves if you care to listen and if not you are forgiven! My writing has always been a ‘me first’ affair from the start though I have also tailored it to sharing. I write because I must, because the voice inside my spirit begs to be shared and expressed and the page has always been there to receive it. When I say shared I mean it in the truest sense of the word, not just because I need to record it. It is because I feel, deeply, that we have all been given a gift of insight and in the exchange of that we gain an equal measure of wisdom. As I have made many misjudgments in my life, but also had some enlightening epiphanies, I shall continue to share them both. Don’t say I did not warn you!
So I had to get two molars pulled yesterday. My dear dentist of many years begged off as he knows from experience the challenges of pulling my teeth, he has done one. That ordeal lasted nearly an hour, or what seemed to be, and involved a grinder. Enough said. So this time I opted for anesthesia, but I did not have anyone to stay with me so I decided on nitrous oxide. If I wasn’t looking forward to any of it the memory of the last time I had ‘laughing gas’ was favorable. When the time came I sat back with but a mild intuition that it might not be a favorable choice, but who doesn’t get worried at the dentist? Then she turned on the gas………….
It only took a few seconds before my thoughts became fractured. I went with it initially, but then it became chaotic and I quickly realized I was venturing into forbidden territory. Verging on panic I removed the mask. I informed the nurse, in a voice that was oddly distant from my own, that I couldn’t handle the gas, even as the panic continued to escalate. She convinced me to put the mask back on by telling me she had to give me oxygen to assure I wouldn’t get a fierce headache. I breathed that in until I felt calm and quickly removed it. I will be forever endeared to her strength and consideration as she walked me back to sanity, and then some, as she and I found much common ground in the process. I was sorry when the conversation ended, and also quite focused.
The ensuing procedure wasn’t much more fun, but went quickly, though I think the doctor was accustomed to his patients being sedated as he was far from considerate. But this isn’t about the dentist or the teeth, it is about me. The need to rationalize the experience stayed with me, and it is meaningful enough to capture. What of the chaos that so frightened me as the gas pervaded my thoughts, and why did I immediately descend into a state of near panic? I initially blamed it on past, drug induced excursions into madness. Twenty six years ago I freed myself from a two year hiatus from reality, but the experience will remain with me forever. If I was, for the most part, a weekend warrior, I still suffered from addiction. That adventure took me over the brink on more than one occasion, though miraculously I survived intact, to the best of my knowledge. Having achieved a successful career since then I have to be assured I m reasonably functional!!! I do believe, in that brief excursion at the doctor’s office, I revisited the boundary. Having learned to put order into chaos and to keep it there I have no desire to ever cross that line. That said, even if I still harbor a fascination for the peyote ceremony, I have decided now I will never attempt it! Though my spirit is strong, I may not have the resilience to make that journey.
You all can bail off here if you wish to but I am inclined to share this!!! If I so often write of such things and never publish them there is also a lesson here. For a moment I encountered chaos, in the fullest sense of the word, as the gas wreaked havoc on the order of my thoughts. If I have done my best to retain my spontaneity, and the ensuing innocent trust equated to the same, I am also very structured person. I require order in my life to function, discipline to survive, and purpose to remain on task. Though I still struggle to keep that in balance I believe for the most part I function well, though I am more driven at times than I wish to be. Age is teaching me how to temper that and I am reasonably successful. Yesterday’s lesson brought it further into perspective and I am trying to capture that here.
Might I have allowed the gas to make me laugh rather than the ensuing tears? Could I have allowed it to take me for a moment knowing I would return less two teeth but uncaring about the method of removing them? Perhaps, but if I could do it again I would prefer the degree of consciousness I suffered through. Truth be known, even if I have little desire for any sort of intoxication, I will avoid the same going forward and haven’t even touched my pain pills. Ibuprofen will have to do! The lesson is clear enough. If I have functioned well in a state of clarity for years perhaps I have over done it to of late as I have struggled to rejoin the workforce. If I am, to a great degree, happy with that outcome, I have also pushed up against the boundary of balance. Yesterday, briefly, took me over the edge. I returned enlightened by the journey.
DIET, BODY, MIND, SPIRIT. Having decided now is the perfect time to go on a diet and shed these fifteen pounds which have been haunting me, it is also time to attend to all my other needs. If I have always tried to focus on body, mind and spirit I too often get sidetracked, and suffer for having done so. I am not so far off track but yesterday left me feeling fragile enough to feel the need to center. I have already done so, as I did sitting in the dentist’s chair afterwards, ready for all that was to come. I saw it through gracefully, with a firm grip on the chair! I awakened today with that same resolve.
In my life, maintaining my balance is essential to my survival. If I have always been aware of that it has never been more critical than it is now. I will be sixty in July. If I am not yet old, neither am I young, and I am beginning to feel the warning signs of age. If I can expect to live at least another twenty five years, and possibly more given the longevity of my family, I want to enjoy them! So it is, even as I firm my resolve on one end, I will loosen the constraints on the other. I will lighten up and try to relax my approach to my work and responsibilities while honing in closer on myself. I will eat better, walk more and rejoice in the joy of my life, though the latter is already a constant. If I am mindful enough, there is always room for more, and the less I worry the more time there is for that! Having conquered chaos for the most part, perhaps I can loosen the constraints there also, and maintain order in a calmer fashion. It is well worth a try, I can always alter the approach.
This then is a lesson for us all, if you have borne with me to the finish! I think again of the nurse who stayed the course for me yesterday. I thought her a bit tough at our meeting, abrupt and professional, with a coat of armor as well. So quickly I found myself relying on that strength, a role she must play far too often. She then gave more of herself than I would have expected, something I will often do myself, a seemingly rare trait in this modern world. She not only calmed my panic, she then led me back to my strengths as she shared the story of her own, while taking the time to hear mine also. She did not have to do that! I hope she will chance to read this, so I might return the favor. It is something we could all do a bit more of, though being selective is important. This is much the reason I write, so I need not pick and choose!
For Antoinette, “Relax girl, it will be ok!!! Those struggles you have faced have made you who you are. Those kids, they will grow strong and survive, as you have done. You are their rock, and even if they battle your discipline, they will reflect it as adults. I know, for mine have done the same. Your job??? I hope they pay you well because it asks a lot of you, but we are lucky to have you there. Stay strong, but take some time for yourself also, it gets easier in some ways, but tougher in others. You made a friend yesterday, and gave her much insight. God bless you girl! If you ever need anything let me know. I made it, and so shall you! Thank you!”
To my friends and readers: Thank you for being there to share with, and for staying the course!!! Cheers!