March 16, 2020 This is one of my favorites from six years ago. I am so glad to have recorded it!
March 15, 2014
Nogal Canyon Road
Bent, New Mexico
Earth and Sky
I wish that I was walking the ridges with my native friends (Karl and Rusty) today, but I am not. I begged off as I was neither physically or emotionally fit for the effort today and the remains of last night’s rare storm still threatened to return. The sky is peppered with clouds and the air is rich with moisture while the peaks of the higher mountains are still kissed with snow, it is a lovely day. I might have joined them with some encouragement but I am grateful for the respite, I am still coughing out the remains of the dust which has clogged the air and my lungs until this morning and I need some more time to recover. For the moment it is enough for me to picture them on the mountainside and to recall their shouts through the canyons as they sounded off to each other as the ravens do in flight, I can still hear them. They will come back richer in antlers and I will be fuller of thought, we will all profit from the effort.
I am still trying to learn more from and about my Native compadres. While we are the same in so many ways, being human beings on a shared planet, in others we are inherently different. Our sensibilities may be shared and yet they differ as do night and day, and some things make no sense at all. Where I, as an Anglo person, seek the peace and clarity I have attributed to the Native Tradition of earth and sky so it seems these men I know I have embraced everything but that and they seek solace in distraction instead. Where I walk into the desert to find my peace of mind they turn up the music and guzzle vodka. I seek respite from the world which surrounds me while they embrace the chaos. What, I have to ask, is the sense or the logic of that? It defeats all of my judgment and contradicts everything which has brought me to desire to live and work amongst this community. Where they seem to fail in their quest for knowledge I enhance my own existence with the very essence of their faith and find more solace in the elements of this earth than I do in the company of humanity. They crowd the hillside to share their bottles of whiskey and stumble down the road inebriated to the point of senselessness without ever achieving the comfort they desire. I escape to the desert to replenish my spirit in the utter solitude I find there and when I attend their ceremonial dances I am transported into another realm of existence. When their ceremony ends at midnight and we Anglos are banished from the feast grounds they celebrate the event by getting drunk. The contradiction is so maddening I cannot even define it.
Just days ago I parked my truck alongside the road and climbed the gate to the wilderness. I wandered along a dusty path to a deep arroyo where the river runs winding down the slope through rock and sand. Willows and elms towered from the depths of the draw and the glow of their fresh new leaves was illuminated by the setting sun. Filtered through the branches of the trees the sun’s rays spread like a fan into the canyon and I captured the moment on camera while kneeling on the crumbling edge of the wash. All the while I hoped the sandy wall would not crumble beneath me and send my body plunging to sure death below, buried in dirt and stone. The resulting photo portrays a celestial moment of glowing light through which the curve of the river can be distinguished upon closer inspection. It was Godspeed to say the least, heavenly light at a bare minimum. I saved the picture and texted it to my friend, who was off on another binge, with the caption, “May all be well with you fool, I will leave you alone now.”
Having satisfied my need to risk my life in order to capture and share the moment I wandered further into the desert as the sun slowly made its way to the distant horizon. Its glowing orb faded from white light to a rich golden glow as it settled on the distant mountains on the western horizon and the sky took on an amber tint. As the last light glowed over the mountain peaks I found my knees. I was mesmerized by earth and sky and drawn to the moment with a reverence that required absolute devotion of mind, body and spirit. It was in this instance that the contradiction between my personal practice and faith glared in such a contrast to that of my closest friends. While I found absolute comfort and solace in the complete and utter solitude of the moment and established such a connection with the totality of life itself my Native counterpart was whirling out of control in an alcoholic stupor. Such a terrible injustice seems beyond belief and comprehension to one such as I who has found such comfort in the simplest things which life has to offer. The very set of values it is based upon is something I learned from the study of the native beliefs! Just where is the disconnect and how can it be reattached?
If our ancestors captured the Native peoples and herded them onto the Reservations like cattle into a corral did they also effectively slaughter their spirits? Can such a strong and proud race such as they who lay claim to being the “First People” simply lay down their weapons and allow themselves to be killed off by a far lesser human presence? Of all the tribes in this state the Apaches were the last to be driven into captivity and yet they are as defeated as any other I have met with. Can the force which is so effectively destroying the very atmosphere of this world even poison the spirits of those who inhabited this planet in absolute harmony with the earth and the sky and who held such a reverence for the same? Can the distillation of alcohol, rendered from the very fruits and seeds which nourished generations of people, be the final destructive force? What an injustice that would be! That these men and women willingly allow this to occur is the greatest injustice of all and I must ask each and every one of them how they can permit this to happen. Who then will inhabit this earth when the other peoples have destroyed their own lives and the animals return without the Natives? They will have relinquished their own right to the planet by making such a choice.
I implore that there will be Natives who will read my words and wish to contest them. I hope and pray that they will rise above the defeat and the apathy which has allowed so many of them to relinquish their very spirits and that they can vnquish the demons which were introduced to their lives in order to conquer them. I beseech them to return to the desert and the forest and to call upon the same Gods who have blessed my heart and to find the strengths in themselves to restore all which has been taken from them. I have searched my life through to find the solace and the comfort of earth and sky and have found it no place else except for the solitude of the desert and the forest. I wish for them to do the same. I cannot know their Gods or their spirits but have found something equal to them instead and I can only imagine the power they have for their own people!
I am amazed and saddened by the failings of the people who I have idolized from the early days of my life. I have taken the Native American wisdom and imparted it on my own spirit in order to rise above the fear and the strife which defined my youth on the east coast of this great country. I fled from the masses for the protection of the forest and desert here in New Mexico and sought to heal myself from that pain. I succeeded to a great degree but have also nearly defeated my purpose at the very instant I thought I might have found sanctuary! It is the very failing of these people who I have idolized which has driven me to the brink of my own failure as I have taken on the very sorrow which they have allowed to destroy them. If they cannot survive it how can I possibly manage to do the same?
Survive I will, it is an inherent part of my nature to do so. I have communed with the earth and the sky and found it to be good. I have embraced the warm breast of nature and found the comfort I required. I have found strength and direction in the wind and the sky and all is well with me. I have walked in quiet solitude as the day faded to night and found the answers which I needed for my questions. I will walk forward proudly and in strength and offer my words and my accomplishments to everyone I meet with who might wish to listen. I pray that I am able to share that. I will turn my back, as I already have, to all which is out of harmony with life itself and instead embrace the goodness of the world while hoping that the very people whose wisdom taught me how will also do the same! May all be well with you, my Native friends.
March 14, 2020
Indian Divide, New Mexico
The crisis outside my life seems surreal this morning. I woke to a cool clear morning, the air moist and fresh from yesterday’s rain and the sky a brilliant blue. All of the colors of the landscape seemed sharper for the touch of moisture and for a moment I stilled completely by the beauty of the dawn. My morning prayer was raised with the sun in my eyes as I slept well and late, unhurried by any urgency or pressure. My life is as good as it can get right now and I am taking the time to savor that while I can. I have chosen to take pause while still putting forth a sincere effort to support myself and so far it is working. If my income is sparse the money trickles in as needed and my time is well used. To compare this to the rapidly escalating events beyond my solitary perch is ludicrous, but necessary. This event is affecting all of us and each day it creeps closer to our lives. I don’t know anyone personally who is ill but before this spring break is over I imagine I may. I could even be exposed and have already had a close brush with it at the airport in California. So far I have been spared.
Do I stay home today because of this? Can I allow an excess of caution to keep me here rather than trying to market my wares? That could be an excellent idea but I still need to sell my art and now is the time to do so. There is lots of traffic today and the travelers pass my store. It is a good day to be there and I can sell outside and limit the risk. I will do so, but not without some trepidation. It seems foolish to take the risk and I have to consider that, but life goes on as well and this is bound to get worse. Two weeks from now I may have no options but for the moment I do.
This is surreal when I compare it to my immediate surroundings. I am ten miles from town in either direction and I live well away from everyone else. Given my simple life much of my time is devoted to my daily routine, my writing and artwork. The necessity of travel to obtain my staples and to market my work take very little of my time, though my gallery begs for that attention. I am ready for the effort in so many ways but this virus has me stalled just at the moment I was ready to get going. I will go anyway, at least for today, but I am also ready to retreat. My appreciation for the opportunity to make that choice has heightened immensely and I will not waste the chance. If I have to hunker here I will continue to work and create more product and endeavor to market more on line as I should be doing. That has been my least favorite option but it is a good one and the appeal just redoubled also. I can and will succeed, and do my best to stay well in the process.
It seems to me that the ultimate outcome of this entire event will be to drive us all further apart and to propel us all towards the digital reality of the times. If we can work remotely we will and going forward that transition will likely become a constant for so many people. In some ways that will be a good thing but the ‘social distancing’ that it creates is a life changer also. Whether this entire outbreak was purely coincidental or highly engineered the powers that be are going to take full advantage of that as well as the fact that we will instinctually respond to it also. It has already turned our focus to our immediate needs and none of us will ever return to the place we were before it happened. I have never been a ‘prepper’ per say but I am now prepared! Certainly my lifestyle has always been geared in that direction for many reasons but it has taken a new light for certain, and I am not disappointed in the outcome. In fact, it has already taken me another step forward towards my independence from the mainstream, and I find it very comforting. The ensuing contrast to the reality that most other people exist in is almost surreal also, at least from where I sit. The thought of living in a large city at this moment is appalling and my heart goes out to each and every person who has no options but to do so.
I started a story many years ago when the rain forests to the far south were on fire. The smoke reached us here and for weeks the sky had a dull grey tint to it. The feel of it was oppressive and it loomed over us like some ominous portent of Doomsday, much like this virus is now but it was visible and distant. I began a fictional journal at that time with the intent to write a full length book but the sky cleared and I abandoned the effort. I hope to return to it someday as it was a great story and for some reason I have always been fascinated by the human response to some worldwide crisis. It seems that from the present perspective that is because we have all lived with the potential for the same and having some understanding of how that might play out prepares us for that.
Because of that same practice I am somewhat prepared, and even more so than most, but not at all enthused to exercise it either. I prefer the serenity that I have surrounded myself with and having finally established some means of maintaining that I am unwilling to go backwards. Presently there is little choice in the matter but to settle myself deeper into the solitude and stillness, and it is a welcome retreat. Certainly I am concerned about my finances but quite honestly I am more focused on my immediate needs than anything else. In some ways I could view this as a welcome respite even. If this whole issue does escalate I am so off the hook for a minute because everyone will be in the same situation and I will be absorbed into the lot of that. It works for me, and I am but a small fish in a very big ocean who is simply trying to do what I feel I am obligated to do, which is pay my debts. I thank God that my living expenses are so few, and I appreciate that so greatly at this moment.
Instead of worrying any further I am going to go plant some seeds, seeing that a garden may be of the greatest importance right now. I am then going to market my wares for the day and hope to make a few dollars for the days to come. So long as I am outside and mindful of what I do I feel reasonably safe. If someone comes by who is ill I will kindly ask them to leave, it is as simple as that. I have never been rude or unthoughtful but we should all practice the same. Maybe I am even wrong to be in public myself, as we should all be careful, but for the moment life goes on. It seems I will be hunkered down soon enough, though I pray that we don’t have to. In the meantime I will send out my blessings and continue to pray for each and every one of us. I saw a falling star just last night as I gazed on the incredible beauty of the cloud spun sky, the stars illuminated by the moisture in the air and the rain still falling gently above me. My prayer came quickly and easily that we all remain well and healthy and that this illness be short lived. This all may seem surreal but such prayers are as real as it gets. Be well my friends !!!
March 13, 2020
Indian Divide, New Mexico
Today is a day for rationale. I feel the need to share this today because even my own usual calm has been disrupted. If just yesterday I returned from a short venture north to a rich appreciation of my simple existence I am off kilter as well. I rarely live with fear even if there is an occasional concern. I have over the last few weeks distracted myself too often with my concerns and even found justification for worry. A week and half ago I ventured to California in spite of the need for caution and even flew back from there, against my better judgement. If I was the only one on the plane with a mask I was not embarrassed, and I am glad that I wore it. Two days ago I found out that three of the TSA agents at that airport are ill. They were on a different shift and airline than the time of my passage through there but they got sick from someone! I have tried to keep my distance from everyone since that trip. Today is day nine since I traveled and I am feeling well, and rather relieved also. Hopefully I avoided any contact with the virus but I am still nervous.
Today is a day for rationale. I perused my dwelling when I returned home from the last adventure and found it to be adequate. If anything I am as prepared as anyone for a lengthy containment, though I wish the windmill worked. Aside from relying on stored water I have all that I need for weeks of isolation, for all the good it may do. It seems that at some point we will all be at risk to get sick as this is likely the new normal. None of these things just go away on their own, but it is nice to hope they will. Regardless of the future it is the consequences of the present that loom over all of our heads. It isn’t just the worry as to how ill we will become, or how that process plays out but the volume of what is happening around us. Things will never be quite the same after this is over and we know it. It will be months before we really know the entire scope of this event, and we may never shake hands or hug someone again without recalling this time, let alone use any public facilities! I’m rather glad I have worked in wastewater for so many years as I am already mindful of the things that lurk on surfaces and ultimately my hands. Sadly, I still bite my nails on occasion.
What is my rationale this morning? My appreciation for every aspect of my life is at a peak. The warmth of my family nearby is as precious as it has ever been and I am more concerned for them than I am for myself. I want my son and his wife to be safe and I hope this is not the new normal for my grandkids. I had the longest conversation I have ever had with those two boys last night and they listened closely and contributed their thoughts. I wish they weren’t so wise or aware but then we had our own fears at their age also. Hell, we grew up with the Vietnam War, 1984 and the Brave New World, birth defects from medications and friends who had polio. Maybe this isn’t so very different after all? At least our children are the least vulnerable to this latest scourge and if anyone has to get sick, let it be me. I have a fairly good survival index and if I don’t make it it’s been a good ride! If it spares us all, as I hope it will, my appreciation for all things just upped a few notches! It is good to be alive.
I think it is the uncertainty that bothers me the most, as I am sure it does everyone at this moment. My business plan is shaking on its foundation. I can open the doors as I may but I am inviting in something I would rather avoid. Now is a great time to stay home! When I was traveling this week I avoided stopping anywhere unless necessary and I peed on the roadside. My thought is that any of us who is mindful of ourselves and others will be doing the same and anyone else is less cautious and therefor more dangerous. What a thought, right? With that in mind do I want to open the gallery doors at all? The answer is no, but I still need an income. I was fortunate to have a contract offered to me that will help me out but I, as with all of us, am worried about these next few months. The word appreciation arises again because I will have a roof over my head regardless of what happens, even if I can’t pay my bills. I know how fortunate I am because there have been years out of my life when I had so little to fall back on that I would have wondered where to go.
I hope that we are all overreacting, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. That the older population seems to be much more vulnerable to the virus is concerning. I have had pneumonia before and even the usual is scary, and this seems much worse. That it seems to spread so easily makes it even more frightening. My instincts say to be still and I am considering that closely. My appreciation for where and how I live has never been as great as is it is now, and I have always been grateful! That I am even more prepared for such an event as this than I thought I was is a huge comfort, and a genuine affirmation also. I am glad to be where I am! When I said my morning prayer today I had so much to be thankful for.
Speaking of prayers. I have said a morning prayer for many years now and it has humbled and educated me to some great degree. When we acknowledge that there is something greater than ourselves that guides our lives it changes our perspective on every life event. I have come to say thanks throughout each and every day as there is so much to be thankful for. I also pray for others, for my life is already full and there is so little I can ask for, or feel the need to do so. Instead I pray to extend those blessings in any way, shape or form that I can. Today I prayed for us all, for our health, protection and good grace that we can come through this challenging time as well and complete as we possibly can. Now is the time to trust that all will be as it is meant to be and that we should all be here with and for each other. It is a good lesson to remember and a much better focus than being fearful or afraid. What will be will be. May all be well today, for all of us! That is the best rationale I can think of.
March 6, 2020
Indian Divide, New Mexico
Contrast, earth to sky, mountains to plains, desert to ocean, solitude to the press of the masses. I have run the gamut in a matter of days, crossing three states, New Mexico, Arizona and California, all the way to the coast, and back again. I left paradise with my final notes expressing the wonder of the silence of my solitary perch with my ears ringing in the peacefulness. I then drove off into the fray of mankind’s activity and spent three days on the highway. I drove the backroads to Flagstaff and then joined the press of the interstate, running eighty miles per hour with the best of them clear to the ocean and washing my hands continuously.
California, with her beautiful green fields, lush vegetation, rolling hills and towering redwoods, viewing them all as they rolled past. Arriving, diving into the sprawl of suburbia and then just as fast turning off onto some narrow road, paved and then not, winding and climbing, deep through the redwood forest and then out on the edges of the mountainside as it climbed to the ridges and beyond. The road was narrow and precarious and the drop below the edge was endless. When I chanced to take my eyes off the road the views were spectacular. Eleven and a half miles and several mountaintops later I turned through a gate onto a narrow two track. After another half a mile I crested the mountaintop with a view of the Monterey Bay and the oceans endless expanse beyond. For a moment I returned to solitude until the darkness revealed the lights of the cities huddling the coastline below me. There is no escaping humanity in such a place and if it was truly beautiful the reality dimmed the ambiance to a subtle glow.
Contrast, when driving back out of the mountains to the highway where every car rushes headlong towards the other on narrow roadways through glorious scenery, unseen for the fear of taking one’s eyes off the road. Everyone is in a hurry there and the traffic screams with their desperation to arrive on time to whatever destination they are seeking, even in the absence of deadlines. The highways are bumper to bumper whether they are going ten miles an hour or sixty, so reminiscent of New York even forty years ago and all the reasons for me leaving there. On a scenic drive we escaped for a wondrous interval and plunged into the deepest of forests with the towering trees dripping with moss. The mysticism of the filtered sunlight illuminated the brilliant green hues of the forest floor and drew me into their beauty. I was then freed of their spell as we rushed back out into the sunlit reality of the highway. I might return one day to explore those mystical depths of nature but as likely I will not. I know of places in Mescalero that have offered me the same fascination and the memory of them is enough.
We then returned to the mountaintop and its view of the bay. I wandered the hillside, finding the trails through the manzanita and madrone that reached and stretched to recover what is theirs. They choked the hillside and crowded the trail and even aspired to overtake the roadway. Nature reclaims everything with time and the lushness is wonderful until one considers the continual battle to keep nature at bay. What the rain and the trees doesn’t reclaim the winds will take instead. The wind there is even worse than here and when one stands on the mountaintop the sun is equally intense. There is beauty yes, in copious amounts, but it is still no match for the mountains and the plains that surround my own home. Nightfall brought a glorious sunset and again the glow of the lights on the coastline far below, which were lovely in their own right. I stood and gazed on them for a long moment, conveying them to memory along with the distant curve of the earth across the bay leading to the ocean. I do miss the water, the cool ocean breeze, the thunder of the waves on the coast, but could not exchange that for the peacefulness of New Mexico. I was grateful to depart come morning.
Then there was the journey back, the drive off the crest of the mountain at sunrise. I took in more of the beauty of the drive as the road was a bit more familiar. It is a stunning place and I am glad to have chanced to explore it. Still yet, in spite of the sense of solitude and wilderness a line of cars materialized behind me before I even reached the pavement. The traffic to San Jose was even heavier but steady on. Having left early I stopped for breakfast and a brief taste of the local culture. I savored it for the moment, knowing that I am missing some vital part of my existence by distancing myself so thoroughly but unwilling to change that either. It will have to do as it is because I cannot exchange my solitude for the masses of people elsewhere, not now and not ever. I even met a most pleasant man before I left and regretted not having more time to spend with him. I marveled at the reality of that as he drove past me in his shiny Porsche, waving and smiling as he passed. What did I miss just then?? I will never chance to know.
Then the trip to the airport, somewhat surreal with the taxi driver complaining that the disinfectant he has to use for his vehicle gives him and others headaches. If the virus has yet to appear in San Jose the Bay Area headlines say it is close. The airport itself seemed fairly normal though some of the personnel wore masks and they all had on gloves. I kept my distance from everyone all that I could. I will admit to a slight twinge when someone coughed and I am sure they were embarrassed also. I donned a mask for the flight even though most passengers didn’t but I will rest a little better for having done so. I relaxed a little more when I arrived in Phoenix and was grateful to be out of California. I had experienced some mild concern that at some point they may close the airports. Why would they not close them? Perhaps I worry more than I should but it seems that they might want to contain the outbreaks before they spread endlessly, though it is likely already too late. I hope not to travel again until this is over.
Returning to New Mexico I gladly reunited with my truck, quickly leaving Albuquerque to Tijeras, Tijeras to Estancia and then the utter wonder of the road from Willard to Cedarvale which was absent of everything but the sun and the sky and not a single car for miles and miles. I could ask for nothing else. As I sunk back into the reality of this place I call home a sigh of relief escaped my lips and my spirit revived itself instantly. I fled the masses of humanity over forty years ago and promised never again to return to them. I have for the most part kept that promise and only return for brief intervals out of the desire to reunite with my family on one or the other coastline. I have added another friend to that list though I passed over a much needed visit with my aunt in southern California. I might have gone to visit her but there would have been yet another airport in Los Angeles where even more fear of infection would have been present. If I was grateful to fly out of a smaller airport the concerns still followed me there and these next two weeks will be worrisome enough.
Returning, waking again in my own bed with no need or desire to be elsewhere. The wind is up but I am okay with that. My garlic is breaking ground, the peach trees are trying to bud and the temperature was forty degrees at daybreak, a sign that spring is getting close. I am as taken by the contrast this morning as I was yesterday when I hit the road south of Willard and drove out across the plain on cracked and empty pavement. I never passed a car for over thirty miles and even then there were few. The absence of people made up for the barren scenery and I would exchange such utter solitude for the press of humanity indefinitely, and I mean that. If I had to choose the choice has been made and the contrast is as stark as the landscape. Let the sun and the sky fill the coffers of my soul and I shall be content.
February 8, 2020
Indian Divide, New Mexico
The Absence of Things
Sometimes it is the absence of things which resonate the most in our lives. Today is one such day. The wind and the deeper chill of winter are absent, having receded as rapidly as they arrived. The air is warm and still, and the cloudless sky is a brilliant shade of blue. The morning sun glimmers brightly as it rises over the hill and its warmth, unfiltered, already reaches me through the east window. It as if she knows that I am writing of her and has altered her angle for my benefit as this is the first morning that her light has touched me so. I am grateful for the blessing.
In this moment of gratitude I have taken note of the absence of other things. It is this stillness in my spirit which also resonates. There is no distraction, no pressure, no looming crisis in my life. Having spent so many years of my life struggling with such things, they are absent. Granted, I am alone, but in lieu of my last relationship that is a comfort also. If I did my best to save his life, he failed to do the same. If his company was worth it for a time, neither do I miss the struggle. He left a constant wave of crisis in his wake, and in trying to intervene for him I allowed it into my own. In the absence of that I discovered a strength in myself I had never fully acknowledged. Through that lesson I learned to fulfill my own needs, and I am content to be alone. In fact, the absence of another person in my life has taught me the means to appreciate the simple things. I might have missed this poignant moment had there been someone else here to fill it.
The utter stillness of the morning after three days of wind is stunning. It is also a reminder of what is to come, and springtime here is lovely but the wind is incessant. I am not going to worry about that for now, but rather pray for more snow. For a moment the dusts of drought are absent, and the ground is soft and wet. It is as if the earth itself resonates with the blessing of the latest snow, having been restored for a moment by the ample moisture. There are even signs of green reaching for the sun with every living thing restored by the melting snow and the warming light. It is just now February but spring is aching to make her entrance. With another storm on the way she will have to wait but even the hint of her presence is worthy of mention.
I see now what I have been missing, though I brought it with me all along. It is in the absence of any pressing need or desire that I have restored my serenity. Of course I am blessed to have a warm dry shelter to reside in, even if it is but a mean shack that I have no ownership of. I have no need for anything else at the moment and I am so grateful to be here. To be perched on this mountainside on a day such as this with no sound but the ping of the woodstove beside me is priceless. I am even aching to go outside to embrace the new day and the hillside is just across the fence. I will never be wealthy for so long as I remain here but I have riches beyond measure. In the absence of any desire for material gain I have again restored my serenity.
I have but one goal for the moment and it is a simple one. If I can but further the means to perpetuate my present existence I will be satisfied. I have never really aspired to much more than that, but I have left here so many times in search of the monetary resources to return. I made myself quite miserable in the process. Not that there haven’t been adventures, there were many of them, but they all came at a cost. I have returned once again, and finally with the devotion required to stay. There will be challenges, as there always are, but in comparison to so many of the previous ones, they will be surmountable. It is in the absence of my willingness to alter my present state of grace that I have found the greatest comfort I have had in years. The serenity I have always desired has always been here and waited patiently for my return. In the absence of any greater reward, poverty is such a good option. The time to enjoy my life is worth more than any riches I might ever aspire towards. I will thrive in their absence.
February 3, 2020
Indian Divide, New Mexico
The Perfect Storm
This is the perfect storm
Arriving on the heels of a bitter wind
Laden with dust and drought
And having led me to question the merit
Of a life on this windswept hillside.
The winds come in March I thought
And if this is winter
Summer will be unbearable,
Until this morning.
The flash mob of snowflakes
Bursting from a unknown place
Unexpected and enlightening
Became the perfect storm
I am rarely as surprised as I was this morning, waking to snowfall. It rained last night from a clear and star filled sky, so of course it would snow, wouldn’t it? There were clouds, yes, off to the west where the storms now come from. They always came from the east before now, but everything else is awry, so why not the weather? This has been one of the driest winters, and warmest, until today. What was it yesterday but for a minute like summer, until the winds came. We have run the gamut of seasons in the course of twenty four hours, and I am okay with that! I scurried to bring in wood thinking myself a fool, and that it would warm again by noon. Now I am happy to sit by the fire. I have been tricked before, and even the weather man did not predict this. It will be twelve degrees tonight. Last night it was thirty two, and that hasn’t yet wavered since this morning.
The perfect storm, when I had a list of ‘must do’s’ for the day. Instead I can add one more thing to my list of things I am grateful for. There is nothing I wished to do that cannot wait until tomorrow, and no crisis in allowing that to occur. Instead I can fall back on all of the things I wanted to do, and find pleasure in the doing. There is a book to finish, and perhaps another to begin. There are the loose ends I can tie, and a few phone calls perhaps, or not even that. What about the perfect silence of the falling snow? I can revel in that as well, and there will be no visitors either. I have come to treasure the silence as much as I do my solitude, in careful measures. Better that I take the time to ponder the blessing of the snow, knowing that the drought makes it all that more precious. The dust will lay low for days, or maybe even longer.
This is a good day for a slow fire, a big log and a little air, cozy. The stove pings quietly with the flickering flame, and the heat radiates softly through the room. There is a slight draft somewhere, but not intolerable. The breath of cool air through the window frame is a welcome reminder of the cold I need not face. There is a great comfort in that, knowing there is no ice for me to break or chores to be done, even if I miss the horses. It would be worth it, to brave the storm for their sake, as I have done in the past, but for now I have been spared. I would also trade the exhilaration for the comfort, gladly. I will have to consider that going forward, but neither shall I complain. For today I shall revel in the perfection of this storm, unplanned for and unexpected. It caused me to take pause, and I will take full notice of that. Sometimes, no matter how mindful we think we are, we forget the essence of things. There is nothing that I have to do today that cannot wait until tomorrow. Instead I will do all of those things that I had chosen to let wait. Turn around is fair play, isn’t it. That has made this the perfect storm.
I AM SO EXCITED TO ANNOUNCE THE PUBLICATION OF MY FIRST BOOK, “IF NOT NOW, WHEN?” I WILL BE READING SOME OF MY ESSAYS THIS SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE ADOBE PALACE BALLROOM (NIKE BAR) IN CARRIZOZO, NEW MEXICO, AT 7:30 PM. I WILL ALSO DO A BOOK SIGNING AFTER THE EVENT. PLEASE JOIN US FOR THE ART WALK FROM 6:30 PM TO 9:30 PM.
IF YOU CANNOT ATTEND AND WOULD LIKE TO PURCHASE A SIGNED COPY OF MY BOOK FOR $15.00 (plus postage) PLEASE MESSAGE ME HERE OR ON FACEBOOK AND I WILL RESPOND IMMEDIATLY.
THANK YOU FOR FOLLOWING MY PROGRESS AND MAKING THIS DREAM A REALITY! MORE EVENTS TO FOLLOW SOON!
November 2, 2009
Vera Cruz, New Mexico
Body, Mind and Spirit
My feet found the mountain paths yesterday and led me far and high on an ancient road I had not found in previous journeys. I often set my direction for my walks, pointing myself to the places that beckon the most, but as I often allow the mountains and the canyons to guide me. I have walked these hills for years and am familiar with the sacred spots where people before me worked their flint, stood guard or made camp. So I am with those who carved and pecked their art into the stone, a sign board for all who came after them. I cannot ever fancy myself being the first wanderer to find these places, but also know I am one of few who frequent them on a regular basis.
I found myself straining at the first steep ascent, having not climbed in weeks but rather taking a few more casual ventures down the arroyos I had never explored. My time has been well spent on other ventures but cannot replace the elation of attaining the higher haunts. They are well worth the effort of the climb and even the strain has its returns as my muscles recall their uses. I find the strength to persevere and in but a few minutes have the added vigor to climb the next hill. I find that our bodies, as well as our minds, given the chance and the determination, have a phenomenal ability to rebound from inertia, given there is a sound foundation to return to! Having climbed these hills, having even run up the slopes, it is simply a matter of making it past the nominal effort to find that selfsame vigor of the past. My heart speeds up, my lungs expand and my muscles stretch, soaking up the added oxygen and giving me the strength I require. My mind suddenly finds the greater depth of perception, perhaps from the adrenaline but in equal proportion from the concerted effort that is missing in more casual pursuits. Something greater is required here, another doorway flung open onto a far broader perspective, literally as well as figuratively as I turn to gaze back across the Vista del Valle Ranch!
I have often pondered how it seems such a challenge to apply myself to the things that are the best for me. There are dual reasons for this; the added effort, the denial of more pressing need such as work vs. play, the ease of taking the lesser task over a greater challenge. There is always the temptation of immediate gratification and it is so easy to slip into the comfort of inertia and put off such things for other days. In time it becomes easier. Yet for me there is always the nagging sense of loss and the absence of the genuine elation that can only be found through the genuine effort to achieve some greater goal. Though on the short term we can appease ourselves with some simple pleasure nowhere in that will we ever find the lasting reward of the purer pursuit. Even as I can wander down the arroyo and find the pretty stones left behind from the torrents of rain I can never see over the high walls of the wash to the horizon.
Perhaps for some people simple satisfaction is adequate, but not for me. I fancy myself to be amongst the thrill seekers, but in rhyme and reason more than excess. I need not feel the rush of a plunge from great heights, no more than the adrenaline boost of risking life and limb, but challenge I require. I want to test my muscles, my wind and my mind. I want the heightened awareness to kick in as I climb a steep rocky slope, to watch where I place my feet and my trust, be it mountain or highway, where my instinct alone can guide me. I want to hone my skills, physical and mental, to where they can serve me best, so I can make a flash judgment and have it be sound. There are the same opportunities to address these desires as there are to placate them. As always, the later be readily in reach while the previous will be something to work towards. Such a sad state of affairs that we have learned to cater to the lesser of the two. We even condemn those who make the other choices to being seen as “over achievers” or extremists of one sort or another, non-conformers, for the lives of those who decline the higher pursuits pale in comparison to theirs.
I cannot afford the risk of inertia at this point in my life, for I have reference points to look back on. There have been times when I sought and allowed myself the thrill of the instant pleasures, and I have lived to pay the price. In fact, I believe that having done so makes it even more difficult to attain the goals I have set for myself. My resilience was weakened, the very fibers of my nerves and wit stretched beyond their capacity, and the horizon widened further than the limits of sight. Just as once we have allowed that extra layer of fat cells to form on our waists and thighs, those same voids refill quickly once they have been emptied. I believe our minds do the same, and once the vessel has been stretched any input slips into those empty spaces before it reaches our senses. We must ever reach for a greater height to replenish that. Can it be restored? Only if it remains full, if the effort is a constant, so those spaces, and that muscle memory, are continually replenished, and the voids are never again emptied.
Years ago my mother pointed out to me someone who had worked to achieve a great deal of muscle mass, biceps, pectorals, etc. She explained that having increased these muscles to so great a size this person would have to devote the remainder of their life to maintaining that state of fitness. Otherwise, she advised, it would fall to flab, having been increased beyond its normal boundaries. How well I have learned this as years of hard work kept me slim and fit and those behind a desk allowed the flesh to soften. Even as I gained few pounds the flab outweighed my muscle and my clothes grew taunt as the muscle became soft. I regained that fitness last summer, with no small effort either, but have promised myself to never allow the rebound of such excessive bulk. This means I too must work hard the rest of my life. Such a requirement is a small price to pay for the returns, for even as I must apply such a discipline to my physical activity, so it replenishes my mind as well! For me the pleasure is tenfold of the pain, for to lose my strength, to relinquish the fitness that has been restored would be to surrender my mind, body and spirit. That is far too great a price to pay for even a moment’s pleasure!
August 15, 2019
Indian Divide, New Mexico
I brought things back into focus yesterday and will make every effort to keep them there. I woke well as a result of that same effort. Yesterday it was the wind that ordered my thoughts, today it is the stillness which followed it. That and the rain, and one such as the earth has begged for all summer. This was the true monsoon rain, arriving late in the day after threatening from early morning. The clouds cloaked the mountains at dawn, and then circled and built through the day. I watched them from the ranch, sitting on the tractor, for eight hours. They built and circled, turned the southwest sky dark grey, moved east, and built again. Ironically, the true storm came in from the north and moved south, threatening for an hour before it let loose.
If I danced all day with that storm, watching and waiting for it to come in, I also misjudged it in the end. I am working on my friend’s ranch mowing the fields, and I thought sure it would catch me on the tractor, but I was close to my truck. It takes likely ten minutes to circle the field I was mowing, so there was no worry. I have done this before, and I might get damp, but not soaked. The fact is, usually the lightning will make me flee before the rains ever come. I have been in that same field when the lightning struck so close that the cows ran. I was close behind them. That never came yesterday. Instead I finished the field and even thought about moving the tractor to the north end of the ranch, but decided against it. By then the sky to the north had turned dark, and the storm gathered in earnest.
Instead I drove my truck along the two track north, to check the one crossing at the arroyo before I moved the tractor to that far field. This arroyo, or some branch of it, dissects the entire ranch. This particular crossing is steep on the edges but sandy on the bottom. Of all the crossings it is the one that stays clear, but it is best to be sure, as the banks could wash out there as anywhere else. It is also far easier to reach and return from by truck. If the old Ford tractor is resilient, so it is slow, and if I needed to turn back I would lose more time, and maybe even get wet. So I drove. The crossing, as always, was passable, though I had to use the four wheel drive to get through it, as the banks are soft and dry, or they were! The way the rain came through made the arroyos run last night, and it might merit yet another inspection today.
I turned back after the arroyo and crossed it to the south with the storm still building behind me. The rain was close but I spotted a dead pinion to the east and drove across to inspect it. As I pulled up I spotted a deer antler laying nearby, and laughed joyfully at the discovery. It is always a gift to find a horn, but after the years spent on the Apache Reservation in search of the same, the find had even more meaning. I took the horn to be a blessing, on myself, the day, and the choices I had made to arrive there. I might have waved the extra effort, I might have returned to the tree I was already cutting on, I might have just gone home, but I didn’t. It was already five o’clock, I had mowed for eight hours, but I still chose to cut wood instead. Following past experience I took a moment to look for the other horn, small as it was. The two forks told me it was a young buck, and the horn was already turned white, so it had lain there for at least a year, if not two. If they so often drop both horns close together the other was likely gone, fodder for a porcupine or some other creature, searching for salt. Whatever the cause, the other horn was nowhere to be found, but the brief search was joyful all the same. Even after a day in the field, simply being outside is a joy in itself, and a pleasure in every sense of the word. Failing at the effort to find the prize, I returned to the tree and sharpened my chainsaw. If the storm was building fast, it was still several miles away.
I cut wood for a good hour before I felt the rain drops, but I savored the cool breeze also. I perused the sky, and kept at my work, even as the thunder drew close. I was on a slight rise, but the lighting was far off, miles yet to go. Finally, it began to rain, softly, but gaining strength. I stacked the wood I had fallen and gathered my tools. Even as I stripped off my chaps it began to rain in earnest, though not heavily. By the time I rolled up the truck windows the drops were steady and I started to hurry a bit, given that the road would get slick by the gate. I have four wheel drive, and it was engaged, but the road is risky at the end. I crossed through the brush to the two track I had followed north, and turned back to the south, stopping at the tractor to close the hood as I had left it open to cool. When I had driven north there was still a chance I might have moved it to the other fields, and would have fueled it if I had. By this time it was pouring rain, and enough to soak my jacket through in seconds. I laughed at myself, and recalled the knowledge that rain represents those who are passed from our lives, and returning to see us. I knew who it was in a glance, and welcomed his presence, he who I hunted horns with for so long………..
When I reached the mowed field I stayed to the grass to keep from tearing up the road. Just an hour ago I had taken a picture of the old two track to show it had finally grown in, and did not want to disturb it. Besides, the grass isn’t as slick, and the field was still dry enough to cross, even as the rain began to soak in. I made the gate in style, even if the dirt was already slick, I had minutes to spare. The gate was different. I paused a moment to peruse the storm and it gathered strength immediately. I laughed again, as I knew better, and it was pouring when I exited the truck. Of course it took a minute to straighten the chain also, long enough to get soaked, and even my pants got wet. Back in the truck, I opted for the heater, and recalled my thoughts from the morning, that the wind sounded like winter. It won’t be long now!
I drove out to the highway slowly, enjoying the storm. The mountains were cloaked in the haze of the rainfall and I thought of the blessings it brought. The ground is scorched, and begging for moisture. The field was dusty when I mowed, and just a dull green from the broom weed, with the grasses laying low in waiting for this storm. They will green now, and reward me for my efforts with a late crop of pure grass, and the weeds a fine mulch. If the rains continue it will be better yet, and this storm, late as it is, was still a good sign. We have a few weeks yet, and maybe the monsoon will stay. I admired the small horn as I headed home, its surface smooth and soft, and a little darker on the bottom. It has a few deep scratches, perhaps from a scrap or two, a rambunctious young buck so it seems. Perhaps I may see him one day, though I will never know if it is him for certain. Maybe I will find the other side, or better yet, this years’ sheds, if I am so lucky. I am home, back at the ranch, and cutting wood, and I am focused. And quite blessed I must say! Life is good when we allow it to be. Such is my focus.
January 31, 2011
Indian Divide, NM
I stepped out my door this morning into one of those Zen filled moments I would have missed, if there had been even a moment’s hesitation. As is my habit, I looked to the east for that first vestige of the sunrise. I was greeted instead by a moment of pure beauty such as the early morn and sunset seem to offer, more than any other part of the day. A small grey cloud hung in the sky, framing the fine sliver of the waning moon, itself aligned with Venus, and the final glimmer of the night. In perfect harmony with the view, was a raven, hanging still for that rare instance when his wing force was equal with the wind, as if he too was destined to be part of the moment. What, I must wonder, made me so worthy as to be the witness?
So I begin my day. The soft clouds of moisture, such a pleasure to view in our arid clime, make me think of springtime. The day has far more of that quality than it does for mid winter. The temperature is already above forty degrees and feels balmy. The wood stove is already too hot, and the buds on the trees are straining to grow, even as the wind threatens of storm. How can this be winter? I watch the small birds that I so selfishly feed for my enjoyment, and wonder if they are fooled as well. Just a week ago they were huddled in the cold, their fine feathers fluffed to stay warm; what do they know? My eye is drawn to the bright magenta that paints the heads of a few of the birds, and wonder how I can be so pleased by such a simple thing. It is enough to watch them flitter and fight.
I have once again regained the simplicity of my life. I have returned home, though I find this in other places as well. What that it has once again become an integral part of my life, and there is no way that I can disrupt this! I want for so little else that it is difficult to even consider any sort of change that would alter this element of my existence. For a moment I can be still. I can also see, as I realized just last night, that I have successfully reached a goal, one which I set myself on not so long ago. It was an attainable one, which I started on as soon as I decided on it, and it is now in full motion. I can thank my friend Antonio for this, and if this is all that ever comes of our alliance, it is more than enough.
I can remember gazing on the utter simplicity of his home, as well as the overwhelming desire to make it my own, and thinking that there was something there to be learned and incorporated into my life. Not just the simplicity, but for the need to be free of all that is not necessary to my immediate existence, excepting the true keepsakes of course. I returned here ready to ‘clean house’ and have, since then, accomplished that! Certainly there are still a few superfluous items, but for the most part the clutter is gone! I not only sold off the vehicles I no longer needed, I also emptied my silver trailer, and sold. Most of what it contained is gone as well. I shall repeat the process once more, and be quite pleased with the outcome.
There is another element of that goal, which is my book, and all that it entails. This has been a long term goal, and I find myself perched before my laptop for the hours that are required and realize that I am, in that process as well, and devotedly so!
Goals. We set our direction early on and then do our best, or not, to navigate in that direction. As I once held a compass, when I was working on the White Sands National Park, perched on the sand dunes there doing a water study, so that we might pull our cable as straight as possible, I have of late set my direction in much the same way. The reward has been heartening, and I am moving towards all that I wish to accomplish. The affirmations of this last week are more than I could ask for. Focus, the element of life that is so critical for success, seems within reach. I must learn to manage that carefully, for I do not wish to wander from this track. Unlike with my work, I haven’t the compass there to direct me, and I must be my own instead!
Zen. There are some things that one must capture with the eye, and save within their mind, as no camera can replicate them. They occur in such fleeting moments as I found outside my door, just before the dawn. It repeats itself in the brilliance of the sparrow, perched for but an instant amongst the bright red branches of the peach tree. The new growth is as brilliant a red as the magenta feathers on the birds head and breast. I want to save that view for eternity. I must embed it in spirit for to do so. You cannot take of picture of true beauty, for it exists only in the minds’ eye. It is this that I shall carry with me.