July 17, 2017
Vera Cruz, New Mexico
Luxuries Versus Necessities
The conundrum of freedom! Do I delve into the list I prepared last night or do I pause to write? Having just reread a piece I wrote in 2011, some six years ago, I have already spent a good thirty minutes simply pleasing myself. At least I have affirmed that I have been gone from here almost exactly six years, excepting a brief interim of starvation when I returned from Arizona. I faced a similar challenge first thing this morning, after I lit the gas stove. I stepped outside to the early dawn and asked myself if I had better build a cook fire instead. It would take but a moment to do so. There is a plentitude of wood there by the hearth, and it is plenty dry. I need only crumple some paper, build a small stack of sticks and put a match to it. I even have lighter fuel (Boy Scout juice, ha ha), to assure a quick flame.
I should have built the fire, and will restore that practice immediately. It may take more time, and gas is cheap enough, but I need to find my knees there also. It is a practice I have heralded for all the years I have been here, even before I built the hearth but stoked the woodstove instead. The hearth is for the summer fires, and I built it years ago. Propane was a luxury I could not afford at the time and there was no bottle for the stove.
There is never enough reverence in our lives, nor the opportunity to observe it. Fire building is the best. Even in the summer at my outside hearth I chance to pause and consider the wonders of my existence. I have caught the change in the wind, when I might have missed it. What better way to measure the weather than to see how soon the wood will catch or the direction of the smoke? What of the beauty of the sky as the dawn finds the hills? Sitting in the house it is so easy to miss that. When I kneel to build a fire in the winter the return is equal and I will be warmed by the effort soon enough. What can make one more grateful than that, especially on a chill morning when the coals still glow hot and the fire comes with but a moment’s effort?
Need I delineate between luxury and necessity after such a colloquy? Most likely yes. There are those who would question even the logic of taking the time to write with such a list of things to do. They would ask why I would pause to muse when there is so much necessity instead. What that my finances have cratered and I am free to go to work! I should be penning a proposal, not my simple thoughts. I should be networking with Indian Health Services and the New Mexico Environmental Department, foolish girl! Why waste any time at anything else, get on with it! And then you want to build a fire to heat a little water and some tea? What??? It takes twenty minutes to do all that, before the water will be hot, such a waste of time. What can you be thinking?
Time. I have all of it I can ask for right now, even if there is so much to do. I need not leave my house, or my yard, and there is plenty to address. I have a room full of ‘stuff’ I haven’t touched in six years, precious as it is. I need to go through it. Even if I stay it is simply baggage if I am not using it, though the books I will keep. If I decide to stay I will return them to the shelves and reread all of my favorites. I have wood piled up that needs to be cut, split and stacked for the future. I could clean some more of the house, the yard, the sheds……….but at least my living area and the outhouse are done. Hah, what more do I need except that? I am more comfortable when things are in order, and they are not, fully. They are in order enough, and the luxury of being still and tending to my own wants and needs is a pleasure. If I am diligent in the effort I sometimes neglect the finer details. It is those same things which are such a necessity!
This morning I read a piece I wrote a full six years ago today. I had accepted a job in the Grand Canyon National Park. It was that dream job we all speak of and never seem to find, and that it was. I had promised myself before I departed for that empty handed leap of faith that I would first retreat. I ventured deep into the Alamosa Canyon, miles from ‘civilization’. I paused to edit my book and to reflect on the simplest of things, far from the demands of my day to day life. What I found there was good, in the richest sense. My musings reflected that. I then ventured forth on a final, or so I thought, effort to rejoin the formal work force. I returned three months later with less funds than I have now, and sorely disappointed. I soon waded out into the waters again for yet another challenging effort, and stayed the course until now.
Luxury or necessity. It is a luxury to contemplate finding another way to survive aside from a conventional job. Who am I to complain when there are $60,000.00 a year positions I might be qualified for? If they offered me one I would flee, no matter the consequences! Could you, anyone, even just reading these words, envision me in a cubicle in some office in Albuquerque, or even Santa Fe? Yes, no, maybe, sure…..me too. In time, if I stayed, I would have that same ring of fat around my middle and blank stare of resignation the rest of those folks do, even if there was money in the bank, waiting to be spent. I could have all the luxuries I wanted, simple as my life is, but I would be miserable. If you have read what I have written these past few years there are harbingers of the same, and I was in a far better place than that.
It comes down to necessity, and even now I may well be a martyr. I know what I need and want but I have yet to achieve it. When I am here I am so very close. There is the wood and the fire, the mountains and the sky, the absolute freedom I have always required, and so little means to sustain it! I have bemoaned this same fact for years and have yet to find the means to address it, even after sacrificing six years trying to do the same. When I reread my musings it is the common thread, and redundant. Now I am faced with the reality of my choices and I will once more have to choose. That I am older now is factor as well and if the past I have had only myself to consider, I now have my children’s lives also. If my happiness is the first priority theirs is important also. I never want to be a burden on them and my choices will determine if I succeed!
The necessities come first but the luxury of being able to choose is priceless. I share this with my readers because we all must make these choices. With tomorrow as no guarantee and the years flying by in rapid succession we all have to make the descision, each and every day. If it is challenging enough to take a day for ones’ self, what about a week, a month, or a life time, such as it may be. Who’s to say we even have another year to decide. And what if we don’t? I have a cancer on my nose, what if there is another? If there are questions everyone asks themselves these are likely the first and the foremost, if they are asking at all. I am so fortunate to have the luxury of choice, where for most the ruling force would be necessity!
What will I choose? I have chosen a life that is ruled by necessity. If I want water I must carry it. If I want wood I must cut it and if I want to cook or be warm, for the most part, I must build a fire. I can turn on the gas stove if I am in a hurry, or just lazy, but I will have to buy the gas as well. I have made a lot of money over these last six years, and I spent just as much. I have a few things to show for it, and I am grateful for those, but there is so little else that I need. I got water, ice and groceries yesterday and some gasoline, all for a little more than $100.00. I could close my gate right now and not leave for a week and I’d be fine, less the debts I need to pay. If I had the solar panels I am dreaming of I could go for two weeks, and if I had a garden, even more…..there is canned milk in the cupboard for my tea. I could be building art work and writing while I stayed.
I don’t know what I will choose. I have a skill set that would be a shame to waste, and knowledge I wish to share. I need to write a proposal for Small Water Systems Guidance, and one for some new regulations. These are things which I aspire to pursue before I end my career and involvement with the state. I want to pay my debts, but there is one I owe myself. I will have to find the means to balance them both. I have had six years to consider this and I believe I know the answer. There is a choice in the end and a balance to be achieved. I have already chosen. I will address the necessities and have the luxury of doing it, in the manner which I please.
Six years ago today……………
July 17, 2011
Monticello Box Canyon, New Mexico
It has been too warm here at night to sleep well. This was something I did not anticipate and I was afraid would threaten my creativity, the very thing I came here to make full use of! As it turns out I am ok, not perfect but still grateful for the seclusion and the peacefulness. I have so looked forward to this adventure and waking here each morning is heavenly. That I am a bit stiff from my hike yesterday reinforces the dual purpose for my journey. I brought no other materials aside from my writing and reading to busy myself so I will get some much needed exercise as well! I never gave that a thought or I should have brought some leather so as to do some handwork as well. Too late for that.
I awoke this morning to clouds so perhaps the weather will cool, though the threat of rain then looms as a concern. The canyon floods even when there is no rain nearby and even yesterday with no clouds in the sky the creek ran brown and muddy. The water must travel a long ways to get here. I will have to ask Randy about that as I had believed that the origin of the flows, excluding flooding from the rainfall, was from the springs we had sampled when I came here with NM Tech, in which case perhaps somebody was working on the road upstream.
I am savoring the brilliant green of the cottonwoods and the irrigated fields, something that is at once alien and familiar. The land surrounding my house at home is parched and dry except for my garden and fruit trees. I do have a similar escape when I go the ranch where I water the grass and have the big walnut and elm trees to admire. Even the towering hills are not unlike my own but these are sculpted lava rock carved by years of wind and rain and because of that more spectacular. The looming canyon walls up and downstream are also thrilling. That there is new country to explore adds to the pleasure. I have looked only at the surface of this place, the canyons hold many secrets.
Then comes the lessons, those that only change and seclusion can drive home. In spite of the fact that I have spent many weeks out of my last year and a half in this very area in utter seclusion I was also assigned a task. Each and every day required that I go out and measure or sample wells from dawn to dark and then I returned to camp. Nearly every morning I took a few minutes to write and then wished that I had days to do just that, now I do. What I had nearly overlooked was the fact that I am so terribly accustomed to being busy at something that I might find the idleness daunting, and so it is! Not that I haven’t plenty to do but there is so much time available to me and nothing specific already in place. When I am at home there always is.
Many years ago, 1980 to be exact, so that being thirty one years ago, I was equally alone. I spent a summer in Ribera, New Mexico caretaking Russell and Dawn Bienvenu’s house while they were away on vacation. I was twenty one years old and had never in my life been so alone for so long. It was a challenging experience. This is by far less traumatic yet I can see that by the end of the week I will have delved into places that I will be grateful to have explored. They have wished for a visit for a good while, perhaps since I left Oklahoma in 2005. Doing so will also aid my transition to the Grand Canyon. As it was when I moved to Tucumcari, change always reveals the areas of our lives that need more attention. My life is always full but diversity is a must and routine tends to offset that. Too well it seems, which is much of the reason I am looking forward to a change. In all likelihood this is one of the reasons my life has been so full of similar transitions. I want to stay awake!
I am here to write but had no plan to begin another book, not yet, even if I was already considering it. All the same, here it is. What makes me think that my thoughts will be of such great interest to anyone but me? For one, simply because I find those of others so fascinating, especially when they are coupled with adventures and lessons. When their journey goes beyond the realm of my own travels and experience I am a rapt audience and I hope it will be the same for everyone else.
When I finished writing yesterday afternoon I found myself ready to do something, anything else than that. It was fortunate that it wasn’t any hotter outside than it was for it was then I discovered the lack of any material to occupy my hands or mind. I do not like to read during the day as it is such an idle pursuit and I need to be busy. With no work, no garden, no art to fill my time I had to go walk and it was a pleasure to do so. I set out thinking to follow the creek back west down the canyon but quickly wet my feet in the process. I followed the muddy stream bed for a ways and then decided to explore the canyon above me, so off I went.
I scoped the hillside for a good trail even as I sought a good destination in the peaks above me. My eyes first found the old fence line and followed it to the highest peak. It was tempting but too steep, even if the view would be fabulous. Instead I sought a lower crest and some large rocks that protruded from the mountainside and once I found an established path proceeded to follow it.
Just West of O’Tooles, climbing to the south. Feild notes……….
“I thought for a moment how regrettable it was that I have so quickly fallen out of shape, even if I have not been idle. I have, over just the last four weeks, spent hours sitting at my desk and working on my book. I have gained more inches than pounds as my firm muscles go lax. So, I thought, this will determine the scope of my trail as I leave the muddy creek bank to scale the hillside, the rocky crags inviting me to climb. I will tire too soon and turn back even as I look for the elk trails I wish to follow. Even now as I take advantage of the rare shade, sitting on the lee side of a cedar on the rocky hillside I see this will not be the case. It will be the rocks instead, not the ones that I find beneath my feet but rather the ones I simply cannot leave behind! I have already added two to my backpack, and certainly there will be more.
The shadows of the clouds walk the hills. I am jealous, they can move much more quickly than I can and I want to go to where they are! I lack both wind and endurance though I will have regained both before this week has ended.”
Several times I had to stop as I scaled the rounded hillside I had chosen to climb. At the first I was out of breath, then leg weary and finally becoming dizzied by the effort, slightly concerned but far from worried. I had simply not exerted myself this much for a matter of weeks. Somewhat fatigued I considered the possibility of being satisfied with what I had accomplished, having climbed high up the hill and close to the rocks I had admired from below, but I also wanted to see over the crest. After a moments rest I continued and soon recovered my usual vigor, I simply had needed to clear my veins I guess. From there on I never again felt the vertigo that had stalled me for a moment and felt that I could climb for hours. I did avoid any further steep grades and considered carefully what I might or might not have to scale if I had to backtrack again.
At the end of my walk it turns out that neither leg nor lung was as limiting as my nerve. Having climbed higher than I had intended to I had to decide whether I was to return by the same way that I had come or risk the hike around the steep mountainside in hopes of negotiating another way down. There was the chance of either getting lost or of coming to some great cliff or canyon whereby I would have to turn back and find my way in the direction from which I had come. Mind you also, as usual, nobody knows where I am and it is already late afternoon. Darkness comes early in the canyons.
I chose to take the chance. I had my bearings if no compass (duh!) and a line of sight on a landmark that towered just below my cabin, so off I went. Still, I carefully placed myself and noted some landmarks and paths so that in the event I had to come back this way I would not get lost. The country always looks so different when you turn your back on it. After measuring the risk and the slope of my back trail I carefully judged the difficulty of the return in case I needed it and hoped I would not. The slope would be steep to climb if I was tired. With that in mind I chose the higher trails rather than the easy escape to the washed out arroyo, and in the end chose well.
I rounded a curve to find myself on the west side of the same towering rock and deep bowl shaped canyon I had discovered when I had hiked up the Christmas Canyon on my last visit. Now again I had to choose. I could either hike around the rock and return down a familiar path, back through the deep arroyo and down the ladder that scaled the cliff within it or follow the elk trail. Knowing that the trail must lead to the green meadows below my cabin, where the elk grazed at night, and having already thought to climb the hill facing the same, I was somewhat assured of a passable exit
My confidence somewhat restored I took the later even though it led to parts unknown. I still had to circle the mountain before I knew what I would find on the other side. Finding the elk trail once more I was then led around the slope and back to the east, the only way to go in these rocky hills. The path led around the steep side of the hillside, narrow and precarious, overlooking a sharp straight fall to the bottom but headed south and east as I knew I must go .As I ventured further I felt a rare sense of panic start to rise in my chest, my heart striking a note bordering on fear. I need not slip or fall! I was still concerned that I would round the hill to find myself teetering on some great precipice and though not afraid of heights cared not to scale a cliff face either. I would have to take a long walk back instead. The cliffs here are sheer and forbidding and even though I was in familiar territory I had no clue where I was in relation to that.
Finally, steep though it was, I rounded the slope to find a full view of the irrigated fields. Then, as I got closer, the roof of the cabin and the nearby house came into view. I found some relief then for I had chastised myself already for my foolishness. This is forbidding country and I had taken an undue risk by striking off as I had, even if I had some good bearing on my location. That I was there alone and my friends an hour away in town had only briefly crossed my mind, let alone the lack of cell service. The trail wandered back a little to the west and I was tempted to walk straight down but was cautious instead. The elk know these hills better than I ever will and always find the best path. I soon arrived back at my cabin, my spirits refreshed and having learned another trail!
July 16, 2017
Vera Cruz, New Mexico
If I learned and relearned so many lessons yesterday I have already begun to put them to practice. A new friend mentioned he always wakes early to watch the break of dawn. The same has been my practice for years, as much to capture the beauty as out of necessity. Since I have returned here I have done the same but just as often opted to sleep late, simply because I can. I will wake with that first glimmer of light but beg off for the comfort of my bed, often sleeping too long and waking groggy. Today I woke early, as usual, but got up immediately, and was rewarded for the effort.
How often I have heralded the dawn, here and elsewhere. It is a lovely moment no matter where I am but this place, with the sweep of the Sacramento Mountains to the south and the Carrizo to the north, is a treasure. As with the sunsets it is ever changing and even this morning it sought to outdo itself. Yesterday’s rain left the thirsty earth still dry but the moisture lingered on high. It appeared in soft foggy clouds on the peaks, such as has already burned off with the sunrise. I would have missed it had I slept another thirty minutes. Instead I stepped out the door to greet the day and was rewarded fully for doing so. I grabbed my camera and circled the house to capture what I could and then stood still to breathe in the beauty.
Such lessons! I ventured over to White Oaks for the Farmers Market yesterday as I had promised myself the pleasure. If I am to stay here I need to reunite with old friends and make all the new ones I can. While I have bemoaned my solitude it is I who have contributed to it. If I do not want to repeat that then I need to seek out the company I have so desired. Though it seems the likeminded others I have wanted to find have evaded me perhaps I have avoided them also? I seem to have found them in plentitude these last two visits and perhaps it is I who have dodged their company in the past. It may be I am now more receptive also, having ventured forth and returned yet again. I find my old friends to be as dear as they have ever been and the new ones are treasures as well. Six years is a long time to be gone and I seem to have matured in the process. I certainly hope I am wiser for the wear for I am certainly older than I was!
Lessons. Even as I listen to the long sweet trill of some bird I cannot see my spirit is lightened. A fine sweet gentleman invited me to his home while I was at the market and he led me over to a woman I visited with the week before. She had been so kind as to leave a note on my gate and I was thrilled to find her there. We left her husband to his own devices when we reunited at the door. Such a gift they both presented me. If I have aspired towards simplicity and to be self-sustained, they have accomplished it. If I will never have the means to build such a lovely house as they have, or to purchase a solar array of the same capacity, so I am working towards a similar style.
I have to rebuff myself for not being more diligent, but then I have had the same in times since past. If Ronnie and I started a greenhouse, the one she showed me is thriving. If I too have gardened well, theirs is in full swing. If I had the windmill running I would be on my way to the same and it is an even greater priority now than it was, even if it is almost too late to plant. There is still time if I was to start now, but alas there is not the money to do so. I could enclose my porch if I was so inclined but as of now I have no clue if I can stay. Still yet, the lesson rings clear and if there is anything I want to have which would bring me joy and happiness, let alone those layers of nourishment, it would be a garden the equal of their own. That and the serenity, though I can carry the latter wherever I go and it is still in plentitude also.
Those two people worked hard to attain what they have and such a rare breed they are. If so many people aspire to have what they have created even she pointed out how rarely they seem to realize it. Somehow they have preserved the simplicity I have clung to in my lifetime and succeeded in securing it through the efforts they put forth. I have so much more to learn from these two and will seek their company again whenever I have time. I will also make the time for that, yet another lesson, and from here on I will set aside my Saturdays for that practice. If I have felt that I was too alone I have now found the means to avoid that.
As if that wasn’t enough, there is more. I wandered further on from there, missing a stop at the Brown Store and other friends but instead stopping at the Saloon. I stepped in more out of curiosity than desire as I have no wish to be intoxicated either. I might have left quickly too but paused to be friendly and was rewarded yet again. Even the owner, who has always been nice but somewhat aloof was kind enough to visit with me. I then perused the crowd, an older one than usual and was rewarded yet again, and again. I met not one but two older couples whose history runs deep beside mine and we found many common ties in the process. In fact the day was full of such encounters as I has met two others at the Market whose history was connected to mine. If those at the saloon knew many of my friends and the one had packed mules at the Grand Canyon and shared the sentiments I had regarding the Park Service, the others were even closer to my heart.
If I know some of the history of my house I met someone who seems to know its origin. Though I had assumed it was an old army barracks I may now stand corrected. If the color of the door trim is any indication the house may have been built by this gentleman’s family and moved from Bonito so many years ago. I am almost certain it is one and the same. To add to the wonder of it, as these two were certainly well advanced in age, his wife once lived with man I knew well from some thirty seven years ago. I first met him in Santa Fe but remained in contact with him for the remainder of his life, if only in passing. I even rode his horses in Sunland Park, as far from here as Santa Fe is, though he was born and raised in Nogal.
The world gets smaller when one stops to talk. Perhaps I am a little more patient now than I used to be, and little more curious and open to meetings. Maybe, even if I have always been gregarious when possible, I have learned to listen just a little better. It may even be possible that I am just a little more settled and more receptive to others than I was before, and just a little more blessed. If the crowds in Ruidoso made me wish to flee I found myself in White Oaks yesterday, wanting to stay. I left from the saloon and went to the old brick house on the hill before I left town. I sat and visited with the dearest of my old friends, grateful to find him sober and clear of eye. We talked until the sun faded from the sky, as we are always wont to do. He is the sort of man I have loved for all of my life, (less the alcohol, though that pattern runs true also), and the best of my friends, I might add. There is never a gap in our conversation and I would as soon listen to him as I would to talk. I am sure he feels the same. When it was time to go we stepped outside and talked for another thirty minutes. We stood and watched the sun fade from the sky and as I turned to go the bats began to pour from the attic of the old house he calls home. Awe struck, I stayed until the last few fluttered into the sky, laughing softly as they did. It was nearly dark before I departed!
There was yet another lesson there, one I carried with me to this morning. It is one I learned so many years ago and the same I hope to capture with my words. There are so many distractions, so many aspirations and desires we are led to think we need. Even those of us who have sought to keep the simplest of things as the center of our universe get caught up in the flow. Even I who has no television, or a functional radio in either of my vehicles, gets distracted from my goals. If I spent the last six years of my life trying to make enough money to stop, I gained so little ground in the process! I have a few things to show for that effort, in the material sense, but it is the wisdom and the knowledge which I treasure the most, much of which stayed here and waited for my return. Perhaps I had to leave to really understand that, or so it seems for the moment. I am a little wiser for the wear, and far more open to suggestions. It is another lesson I hope to not forget. I am so grateful that life is such a patient teacher.
July 10, 2017
Vera Cruz, New Mexico
A Mean Shack
Mine is but a mean shack, here on the hillside. The roof leaks when it rains and the windows are starting to fall out of their frames. As old as it is, being an army barracks from one of the missile ranges here, circa????, it has asbestos shingles on roof and walls and the old wood frame windows held in with caulk. I even recaulked the windows when I first moved here in 2005 but have neglected to maintain the practice. Now they are coming loose and if I am to stay I need to salvage them and secure the glass once again. But it is too late for the kitchen window, which catches the north wind. I am short on cash for the moment but there is plenty of tin, and for the moment it will have to suffice. The outcome of that is I will be slightly less critical of other people’s repairs on their mean shacks, I can now sympathize just a little more!
Ahh, but look at this mean shack! Can you see the shadow of the windmill on the roof by the stove pipe? Do you see, aside from the glass I need to clean, the ornaments in the windows, the character of the frames and the mountains in the distance? Can you envision the sunrise each morning and the way the light walks across the mountainsides until it kisses the rocky face of the Carrizo? Or what of the cool fresh breeze that enveloped me when I stepped out of the door this morning at daybreak, uninterrupted by the silence of the dawn. Oh yes, there was a dove, and then a raven, but they are not counted as noise, but are instead music to the ears.
Dawn on the Vera Cruz. As I watched the daybreak from my desk a dove flew in and landed on the top of the can that still holds bird seed for the worst of winter days. I don’t feed the birds unless I am here full time or the weather is bad. They still come in, and when I have the garden and can run water they are here enforce. This dove came for another reason as she had spotted a small puddle on the lid of the can from last night’s rain. As water is so precious here she drank deeply and then set to take a bath. Hers was as luxurious as mine, for I too make use of the sparse supply I have afforded myself. When I am here heat the water on the stove (wood or gas as I choose) and savor every drop of the process. She is the same, spreading each wing, sweeping it through the water and then shaking herself off. She stayed for a few minutes, cautiously watchful but quite thorough in her effort also, and obviously drawing pleasure. Her mate waited patiently nearby, respectful enough to allow her some time.
I have suddenly regained my happiness~! If I sat here for two weeks feeling rather displaced and uncertain as to my future, I have been restored. Somewhere between making a list of prospects, going back to the fields and the rains which have returned, I am settled. Now, today, when I must drive to Santa Fe for a meeting tomorrow and then Fort Sumner to peruse my final move, I have no desire to leave! Where first I saw my failings, my own and the condition of the house, my perspective has changed. Yes, the roof still leaks and is an immediate concern, but as it has for all these years past. It only does so when it rains. Funny joke, but true, and it rarely rains much………but still, it is raining! It is once again to the point where I need to repair it and as soon as funds and or materials allow I shall address it. I do have some tin, screws and an able bodied son so it is not so out of reach.
There is more though. I have been reminded again of the simple joys my life here has to offer. If I was unhappy when I first arrived I was grateful to have a place to return to, and such a place as this. If it is a mean shack it is still a home, and it has been for years! The furnishings are the same, and well treasured, and my art and that of others adorns each wall. No, it wasn’t the failings of this place, though it is need of repair. It was the housekeeping more than anything, some of what was years of neglect on the house itself, but worse, so much of my own as well. If the Nordic Runes council, “Put your house in order and wait on the will of heaven.” they mean more than the house itself. It is the proverbial house which they speak to as well. It makes no difference how wonderful your ‘house’ might be if you have no completion within! In my case, both had been neglected to some measure, as much because of the distance between the two as any other. Now, I am home, at least for now.
Not that my other ‘house’ is not complete, for it is. I missed it as much as anything else when I first arrived, as I have become accustomed to its comforts. I always surround myself with things that bring me pleasure and that place is full of them, as this one is. I also missed the people I have been working with, who have become the best of friends, and the routine as well, for the most part. But, there is something I have missed here for all the years I have been gone, though I might have come back here more often. In leaving here I left a part of my life behind that, if I have replicated in so many ways, could not be fully realized any place else.
It is as much a part of the meanness of this place as is the chatter of the blackbirds that just returned to the hillside. It is the necessity of stepping outside to pee and to start the generator, or to walk to the outhouse. It is the way the sunlight plays across the hillside when the sun comes up and the glow of the sunset to the west as it sets. I find it in the moonlight and the sweep of the milkyway across the midnight sky as the true darkness still reigns of the night, as does the silence. There is little else but the hoot of the owls or the song of the coyote in the evening, except an occasional car. Humanity is close yet it is as distant as the hills and the irony is not lost on me when they pass as I am walking through my yard. Strangers look up here and marvel that anyone lives here and my friends ask me by text of Facebook if I have returned ‘cause they saw a truck in my driveway. Others honk or stop and come back to say hello, and I am happy to know they care!
I have to step outside for a moment as the blackbirds are everywhere, calling harshly to each other as they fly about. The morning is fresh and cool from last night’s rain. The shadows of the clouds dance across the mountainside and dapple their flanks and darken the canyons. It would be a great time to go for a walk if I wasn’t leaving……..I think of my friend who I stopped to see the other day. He too lives in a mean shack, though his is a towering old brick mansion in a ghost town. His home too has fallen into disrepair, as much from its great age as from the inertia that allowed it. My friend has nearly ruined himself with drink, but he still has his wit and character, which I love with all my heart. In fact it is his very innocence which he has preserved that makes it so easy to overlook his failings, albeit with caution. He lives so much as I do, but without all the complications, though he is quick to point out the drawbacks. Still yet, it was he who reminded me of the treasures of our lives as he led me back over the familiar paths we walked in years before. He held forth the treasures he has gathered, rocks and old implements, pieces of history, and even a lovely purple glass finial, broken from its base, which he gave me as a gift.
If I savored every minute we spent together so my tears fell freely as I did. I saw the corner post of the porch where it had fallen and was yet to be replaced, and chastised him for the same. I stood with him on the back porch as we watched the rain come across the mountain, and we talked of pretty things. There is a family of turkeys up the hill, and he is still cutting wood, and isn’t the thunder such a wondrous sound! He should fix the other house, but what for, it isn’t his. And the darn deer and the pack rats are eating his beans and his squash, but look at how he had channeled the rain water over to the garden, and he was building a new gate. There is even a twisted piece of a cedar that looks like an alien, can I see it from here? His dreams and mine are as tangled together as that tree, but as incomplete as his gate building.
Here is the contrast. My friend never hardly leaves his perch. He lost his driver’s license, and so much of his ambition years ago, though he stays busy every day, at least by his own measure. In exchange he has preserved something which I will never lose but which languishes in the process. If I still savor the beauty and peacefulness wherever I find it I am only surrounded by it here. He lives in the midst of it each and every day and doesn’t miss a bit of it, unless he gets too drunk. I don’t know why he has to drink, he has found that big love in so many things just as I did so many years ago. He lives with it all the time, but the liquor loves him best. I even tried to intervene years ago, as I love him also, but she won the battle. The trouble is, I too cling to my innocence but my elixir, if you will, is the necessity to work. He should and he does, but only so much as he has to provide his simple needs. I envy the opportunities he has squandered by doing so. But then, that is part of his failing, though mine is quite the same, just opposite! He doesn’t do enough, I do too much.
I have my needs also, and they are simple, but I have no house to stay without a job to support it. I am driven to pay my bills and my luxuries, few that they are. I have my phone, my truck, insurance and debts, rent for the moment, groceries and whatever else I think I must buy. He needs beer and food and a little gas for his truck, though he barely drives. What he has that I don’t is that he has turned his back on everything but the simple routine of his existence. If he is too alone and too drunk so much of the time, he has the freedom I am so wont to find. I am a little afraid to step as far away as he has, and yet it seems the better tack, less the liquor I might add. I have rediscovered that very treasure when I returned here, and he reminded me of the same. It is just too bad he isn’t sober, for we are both just a little too alone. Perhaps I should buy myself a six pack!
Somewhere between the two of us there is a happy medium. If I have bemoaned the necessity of trying to provide for myself I have clung to the simplicity. If I haven’t squandered my earnings over the years so I have overspent also. I see now that I might have returned here more often for solace and peace of mind, and saved more money in the process. Still yet, I would have also been too alone, and it is why I have left and ventured forth, as much as it was for the money. I see now the gains and the losses, and I am wiser for the wear. I may leave again also, but then again, I may stay! I have acquired so much of what I need and I have a good truck, or three, to fall back on. I have regained some great portion of my peace of mind, and it returned as fast as it could. My friend, in spite of all his failings, has reminded me of just how precious that is. I think he has the right idea, he just took it a little bit too far…………
As I go back through what I hope to be my final (final) edit of my book I find the precious moments I so hope to share. This is one of my favorites and stark reminder of what I hope to restore to my life!!!!
April 20, 2010
Indian Divide, New Mexico
Utter Bliss (For Charlie Gerrald)
The sky was filled with fog this morning, masking the mountains and shadowing the trees into a mystical fairy land with the haze of moisture being a rare and blessed event. What that it is nearly the end of April, 45 degrees at daybreak and I still have a fire going in the woodstove! I dressed for work with every intention of getting in a few hours before I prepared for my son’s wedding. They had planned a modest ceremony for now so there was no need for too much preparation but I finally came to the conclusion I needed the day off. I worked Sunday so I don’t feel pressured and the fog has yet to rise, it is likely raining in Nogal so I am safe. What is more important is that my heart is full of happiness and the thoughts are meant to be recorded and shared, weighing even further in my favor.
Yesterday I hurried across the Stephenson Ranch as best I could. Given that for fifty miles it is all dirt and rock roads the top speed of 20 mph is a risky one. I watched the clouds build and billow across the mountain peaks, breathed in the awesome coolness the rains bring to the desert and knew I shouldn’t dally. That seems simple enough but the ramparts of the ancient lava flows and the complex geology make it difficult, even in familiar territory! I have traveled this road several times but the thrill shall never fade from the views and the vistas it takes me to. It is the Land of Enchantment in its fullest glory! Every twist and turn reveals some new overlook and as if the scenery isn’t enough there are other wonders as well. The water filled cholla cactus are trying to burst at the seams and are twice as big around as last year when they were shriveled with the drought. The wildflowers are already in bloom lest they miss their chance and the mama cows appear with their bright new calves. Too, there are the bulls, dangerously handsome and best left alone and the gopher and the bull snakes sunning themselves on the roads, indistinguishable from each other until approached. The bull snake is handsome and docile but the gopher snakes feign the rattlesnakes and are even more aggressive for the effort. They will strike at the least provocation and even chase after you if provoked!
Such are the wonders of my job, coupled with the self imposed solitude of the effort. I could have brought a companion but wanted to go alone and it was hard to hurry. Even as the storm loomed above me to the south east I had to pause to savor the moment as I found my knees to take a water level measurement. Such was the reverence I felt, surrounded by the utter peacefulness of the remote country I was traveling through. The cool breeze took me further yet and I had to say a word of thanks before I moved on. I find it all but impossible to describe the feeling that comes over me in such moments except for perhaps to say it is utter bliss. There are no other requirements in such instances and time could stand still, which it does, slowing ones progress for certain! In all truth I paused for just a moment and hurried on, knowing the scope of my work would fill the day.
Leaving the Nagel Well the dirt two track turned to the east and dropped sharply off the hill into one of the bigger arroyos that encompass the roadway. I perused the conditions before I drove into it as the water is running this time of year, carrying the spring flows of melting snow and making it a challenge to travel through. The tracks of the ranchers’ truck from the previous day were my only assurance and it proved passable if still risky! I bounced back up on the dry road grateful for the versatility of my truck as well as my own driving skills and continued on my way back over the hills and through the still dry washes. I arrived at the Finley Well by noon and after taking water samples had to let it rest and recover as it had been pumping all day. It gave me a chance to take a brief walk once my paperwork was done and a little more time to take in the day, even if the clouds were starting to get serious! My work finished there I took the road back down off the mountain and caught a glimpse the eagles as they were sailing on the thermals, falling through the sky from atop the cliffs and quickly disappearing as I rounded the bend.
Late afternoon took me to the Brownstein Well and over to Niccum’s Ranch with another water filled arroyo to cross. This one had turned me back previously as it had appeared too treacherous to risk as the road takes a brief turn across it and the current runs strong, coming straight off the mountains here. There is such a wealth of moisture now after a long winter full of weekly storms. The snow is still clinging to the high peaks as it hasn’t done in more years than I have counted, fifteen perhaps if my memory is correct and maybe even more! Once again I had to trust that the tire tracks from the day before were proof it was passable and I headed across. I hurried once again as the rains were only twelve miles away and could easily contribute to the current. It seemed like this was the day to live dangerously, crossing flooded stream beds, coming a little too close to big bulls and playing with snakes, but then life is too short to do otherwise, isn’t it? Not to be outdone I made the four mile dash across the last of the sandy roads. I slowed to drop through the steep banked arroyo, grateful it was dry and on across the flats to my final well for the day. This one required an e probe to obtain the water level measurement, fortunately, and only took a few minutes to measure. A brief dwell to affirm the reading and I was off again, now driving into the wind as it carried the rain in my direction.
Dust billowed just a few miles to the north as I drove back towards the highway which runs just the other side of the arroyo, though it was near as it is far with the rain so close. Raindrops splattered on my windshield as I hurried across the flat, dust flying from beneath my tires, the pavement a stones’ throw away but well beyond reach for the moment. I arrived at the arroyo and it looked to be running higher already so I stopped briefly to switch on the four wheel drive low. I caught second gear at the bank and drove through the water as quickly as I dared. I scooted up on the far bank just five feet from the gate, as the water comes up that high, and then I was through. I turned and took a picture and texted it to my son to let him see where I was and to let him know I was safe. He texted me back with an expletive and told me to be careful, not realizing I was already across and that the arroyo has a firm bottom, not nearly as dangerous as it appeared.
I thought to hurry on, I could see the rain and dust coming and after a full day I felt pressed to keep going, but I stopped myself. The pavement was right there and even if the road gets wet it is within easy reach. I stopped, backed the truck up and parked it before walking back to the railroad trestle. I found a spot against the concrete base, sitting in the gravel under the bridge, and I laughed! Laughter, yes, for making it through the day as well as for the memory of the hitchhiker I had met just a couple of days before. He was standing in Carrizozo at the crossroads and I then met him in the store as I ran in to get change to give some money to him. I slipped a five dollar bill in his hand and our eyes met, and we even visited for a moment. We were kindred spirits from years past as I had lived the same as he. I spoke briefly of my own travels and the nights beneath railroad bridges. “The train will likely scare the hell out of yah tonight but you’ll be dry” I commented as he said he was thinking of sleeping under the trestle, the rain close then as well. Yes, and there I sat beneath my own bridge for a moment, thinking about the day, gazing at the cloud filled sky and listening to the water run. It is such a sweet sound in the desert, joyful laughter indeed! As if in answer to the warning I had shared with the traveler a military jet flashes by leaving a sonic boom in his wake and scared the “hell’ out of me. Go figure! More laughter ensued…………..
The word reverence comes to mind, for there is no other way to describe what one feels at such moments when God must be so close. What more could I ask for but to have spent such a day as this, running ahead of the storm the whole day through, watching the clouds skim across the sky and climb ever higher above the Sierra Blanca (White Mountain) Peak. The mountain is still snow covered and majestic, framed by the blue sky and surrounded by huge gray clouds, barely visible through its storm filled shroud! One might laugh at a woman like me and wonder what has brought her here to this place where she can be pleased by such simple pleasures and think even that she might be quite mad, but she is not. This is all the part of her which defines who she is. She sits there beneath a railroad track laughing at her good fortune, wanting little more and thinking of her new friend. She is wondering and hoping he sees in her what she so wants to share with him, the pure joy of the beauty that surrounds her, and the absolute pleasure of it all. It is hard to describe, this feeling that comes over me in such moments except perhaps to say it is utter bliss…………
June 24, 2017
Vera Cruz, NM
If I Stay
Though I planned to return to Fort Sumner last night a phone call bade me to stay. My doctor’s appointment for Monday is in Alamogordo, much closer than Albuquerque where I thought it was. I planned it that way, but as quickly forgot. Fortunately I was reminded before I departed and instead will stay for the weekend. It is blessedly cooler today as the rains are trying their best to make a showing. I will welcome any storms that come to visit as even one drop of rain is a respite! Having been trapped in the grasp of heat and drought any offer of moisture is greeted with joy!
I needed to stay, though the tension has yet to leave my shoulders. I am confronted once again with a barrage of choices, none which I care to make at the moment. I am content to listen to the wind and the soft coo of the mourning dove. I wish to surround myself with the same and wrap the cloak of serenity around my shoulders. If I would rather seek adventure change is the constant here! Jackson Brown’s words echo in my mind at this moment. “Don’t confront me with my failings, I have not forgotten them.” (Fountain of Sorrow). There are so many ghosts I can summon at the thought!
Still yet, there is a serenity which I have not forgotten either and even in the throes of change it prevails. It met me at the door last night and as exhausted as I was, it won out. Where I might have hoped to sit and relax, there were things to do. The only automation here is in myself, as the actions are, for the most part, automatic. I had to start the generator to charge my phone and for the lights. I opened the back door and a window to let the cool breeze flush the heat from the house. That done, I lit the stove to heat my bath water and then put the kitchen in order, as it has been neglected. It has been five and half years since I have lived here, even if I have visited and stayed often enough. By then the water was hot and I took a quick bath by the stove. I still need to sweep the cobwebs from the bathroom and clean the tub, as it too has been unused for too long.
If it all sounds like much effort, it is a part of why I live as I do! Each action, as always, is a reminder of the simplicity I require, and have surrounded myself with in my life here. I want to go through the motions, as much as I wish to build a fire for that selfsame reason. Give me the breath of wood smoke and I will breath in the same serenity it has to offer. I would have built a fire this morning if not for the wind, and was instead grateful I have propane. It is all relative in the end! There are as few frills as there are distractions and I am grateful for the absence of both. I need to let the serenity surround me and free myself of the press of humanity with threatened to crush me even just yesterday. I have yet to recover.
I should go walk in the wind before it heats up or rains. The howl of it says it just might rain. My life here has been ruled as much by those elements as by any other, for it means I live outside as much as I do in. That is the beauty of it, the out of doors is that close, and sometimes one and the same. If the roof isn’t terrible, sometimes it leaks. If the windows remain, two of them are broken and need to be fixed. As always there is a draft when the wind comes from the east, but I have learned to live with it also. If I can overlook those in passing they become personal when I stay, and it looks like I may stay, at least for now. It is as good to know that I can as it is to know I don’t have to. With all the times I have come and gone I have to wonder what my life might have been without that. I am happy not to know. Having had the options has averted many a crisis in my life and this is no exception, though I was far more prepared than I have ever been. If I have accomplished anything I am most thankful for that!
The wind will not abate and I wonder what to do. It is good to have the choice and no pressing commitments, I need a break from those. This will be my day to do as I choose, a simple requirement for my stability. If the serenity has yet to encompass me, it is closer, and the hillside offers much of the same. If there is work to do it can wait, there will be plenty of time for that, if I stay…………
June 22, 2017
Vera Cruz, NM
Those who don’t know me might laugh when I say I need to retreat. I am back in Nogal at my simple perch on the mountainside, the sweep of the valley pocked with but two houses for next many miles. They would ask how much further away I wish to get, and what else I am willing to live without. There is only the generator here for electricity and the windmill has failed so I carry water. I do have propane, though I looked longingly at the hearth this morning and I want to build a fire.
Still yet! I want to be where there are no houses and I could build a fire and not worry about smoke. Of course the wood here is dry and the fire is so small that even when there is a burn ban I can still heat water. The hearth is secure and the stove pipe has a 90 degree bend so there are no sparks, and the fire is quick and hot as I burn walnut there. That is not the concern though. If Fort Sumner has a 50 mile buffer against the crush of humanity and even here I feel safe, I want the wilderness. I need to forget for a moment that there is anything else except the trill of the wild bird and the sun and the sky. I want to kneel on the earth with no witness but God himself and thank the universe for this life. I need the reverence of such moments……….in utter solitude.
I know now why I love the wild places so much better. I can feel the freedom of the same and even here my step is a little longer and my muscles more taut. I want to restore all of that, and never again release it. If I am still bound by some measure of necessity to work and live as I have, I am also freer to retreat. Even as I mingle with those of my stocking trade and teach classes for the same I am seeking the counterbalance against it. Not in a negative way, but rather one which offers me both aspects of a life well lived. I can always return for a day or three, so long as I can leave for the same.
The drain leaks in the kitchen sink so I wash up outside, though I ought to fix it. I stood in the morning breeze as I brushed my teeth and listened to the sounds of the dawn. I splashed water on my face from the tin bowl and wet my hair carelessly. I let the rivulets drip down my neck before I dried my face and laughed at the pleasure of it. I looked out across the mountains and breathed in the stillness, yearning for more of the same. I felt the wildness start to course through my veins and wished I could walk up the hillside. I will return here soon enough and wander deep into the hills, it is what I love about this place. If I am careful to avoid the plowed roads and instead follow the arroyos and the rougher slopes, I see no signs of modern man. I could walk for days if I chose, and never cross a road. And then from there, I could retreat.
I return to Nogal, six years after I penned this and still filled with the same dreams and hopes for adventure, though I think I might take my camper……….
June 21, 2011
Indian Divide, NM
I woke up with a hangover this morning, having drank a huge dose of night sky before I went to sleep. It was so intoxicating I could barely draw myself away and nearly spread my blankets on the porch so as to savor its richness, but I did not. The wind and the sun discouraged me. I am selfish with my rest as it determines the quality of the day to follow. Instead, I slept well and awoke wrapped in the warmth of my own bed and my own happiness, speaking words of thanks before I arose to meet the dawn. I am, perhaps, back to the habit of greeting the day as it walks across the hills, first light. Still yet, the feel of the night sky remained, as pervasive as the feel of too much to drink but with the opposite effect. It stirred my blood as only such things will and left me restless and yearning for more.
The night sky, moonless and brilliant in the darkness, the stars standing out in utter clarity, the planets glowing in kind. The light was as crisp as the Muscatine wine I tasted a day ago, the aftertaste as rich as the fruit it was made from. The cool stillness that surrounded me encompassed my spirit and drew me beyond the mundane worries of the day. It set me free, opening my heart to the eternity of the universe, endless and ethereal, and I took flight. There is no other way to describe such moments for they are as the wings of the hawk or the eagle, setting sail on the thermals and making the long sweep on the wind, the effort forgotten in the thrill of the flight. I stood out there for a long moment, drinking in the feeling, filling my cup to the brim before I pulled myself away.
Then there is this hangover, pervasive and insistent, begging to be addressed in ways I cannot possibly accommodate. It begs me to follow its lead, to shelf anything and everything that stands in the way of bringing it to fruition. Yes, that fruit thing again, for it is like a wine that is fermented carefully to produce such a pleasing result, tempting for even one such as I who lives so easily without intoxicating beverages. I prefer the clarity of the purist, drinking a gallon of water a day in its stead. They joke and call me the ‘Water Lady’ at the bar as it is my trade and tradition! This is an addiction that goes beyond the usual, one that surpasses all of the habits and weaknesses I have overcome in the past, and one stays with me. In all truth it is the most wonderful and the most terrible of them all for I cannot purge it from my spirit, nor would I choose to even though the dangers are tenfold in comparison.
If I could do one thing this morning I would roll up my favorite sleeping bag and a small tarp and tie them onto the backpack frame that I still have stored away in the closet. I would choose two sturdy pairs of jeans, a few shirts and a jacket, my best undies, a light towel, soap and shampoo, a cup and a small pot, a new spiral notebook and a few pens to take along. I would pick out the best walking stick I have and make sure my knife was sharp, take the brass bell off of my rearview mirror in my truck and grab a few strings of leather from my stores. I would oil my good boots, check to be sure I packed a toothbrush, hair brush and a couple of lighters, grab a gallon of water and lock the gate as I left. I would walk back to the house to get my Rand McNally Road Atlas, the one of the whole United Sates, not just New Mexico, and I most likely head to Rapid City, South Dakota to surprise an old friend and to finally meet his wife. I would walk back once more to get my phone charger and on the way out call someone to let them know where I was headed, and then lie to my son and say I left with a friend. I could tell him about the venture when I returned.
What keeps me from going? This is why I have a horse and grow a garden. I have a ranch to look after with irrigation which requires a constant presence and I should have already moved the water this morning. I am writing a book and it begs to be finished before I start another adventure for it will be noteworthy as well, when I do go and I have already started to plan. I have even thought about getting a sponsor, as someone else did years ago when he ‘Walked Across America’ and it is completely feasible that I might do so! They paid someone to ‘Eat, Pray and Love’ and she has nothing on me except that she has already been published. I am a truly seasoned adventurer, the American spirit at her best, my mentors being Jack Kerouac and Sissy from ‘Even Cowgirls get the Blues’. I was weaned on that stuff! I am the girl who read James Baldwin’s, ‘Another Country,’ when she was thirteen years old and understood it even if I had not yet experienced any of it. I knew his pain and his restlessness and I left home at seventeen to hitchhike to California. I never got over it!
Before this summer is over I will take another long awaited trip. It has been too long since I hitchhiked any further than from here to Ruidoso or Capitan. The last journey I can recall I hitchhiked back to Tucumcari from Nogal in 2008 and made almost as good a time as if I had driven it, and had even more fun. I caught a ride on a tractor trailer and flew up the highway as I had for so many years, it was a pleasure. Before that I think back to 2005 when I returned home from Oklahoma, hitchhiking back to Stillwater from Ruidoso Downs, New Mexico to bring back the last of my trucks and belongings. That trip took three rides and went smoothly as well. This time I will do what I have yearned to do for years, in spite of the risk and the hardship, and go as far as I can possibly go. I want to see my friend in South Dakota and if I am still game will head north from there, over to Montana and Wyoming. I will go back to the Snake River and look for jade, and then maybe Idaho if I am so inclined. If I am still up to the effort I will thumb my way back also, drop down through Utah if I dare and back through Arizona if it hasn’t all burned by then. I will return fit and well weathered and brimming with adventure. Will I then be satisfied? Likely not, if anything I will find myself yearning for more of the same, but then there will also be another book to write and maybe I will do that first.
Just think, all of that fell from the dark night sky last night and it is no wonder that I got drunk! I guess I will just have to live with the hangover.
June 17, 2017
Fort Sumner, New Mexico
Some Semblance Of Order
If there is some semblance of order in my life there is also the unknown. I have busied myself with the completion of the camper, an in depth effort if it is to be done nicely. If I wish I could finish the side walls today and call it good, I want something more than that. The possibility that I might end up living in it for a time makes this more crucial. Though I require few comforts it is nice to have a comfortable space. There is also a measure of vanity I suppose, coupled with practicality. If I am to fall back on the uniqueness of my lifestyle as a possible source of income it should have a good flare to it also. If I am to illustrate to the rest of the world the wonders of such freedom and mobility, so it should shine. Many years ago I lived in a 1959 Ford Pickup with a homemade camper and even then I lived quite well. It only makes sense that I do justice to the latter version of the same.
That said, it is hot here! The temperature went well up into the 90’s yesterday and when I made my way to Clovis the sign at the bank still said 101 at sunset. How lucky I am that I am heading for the mountains, though it is wicked dry there. I have grown to love the river valley here and I am endeared to the Village as well. Even with my freedom in hand I have yet to hurry off and instead busied myself with many other things. In fact, I need to prepare to move my camp, as important as the effort of the camper. I seem to not be in a hurry, ducking the effort I suppose, but I am moving forward. I might well make a list of things I need to do, I’m just not there yet! The must do’s and wanna do’s are all tangled up for the moment. If there is some semblance of order it will have to ‘do’ for the moment.
What I need to do is to call Jeff Daily and make a commitment to the ranch work. If I am aching to escape to the road I also need to work and that place offers the same. It is hard work, but I love it and with David close by I will be ok. He has a lot of work lined up but I can pay him to help me also. I even just now called Jeff and left him a message, I need to return there for financial and spiritual reasons. The work will be restorative for mind, body and spirit. A return there is not a measure of failure but rather one of success. I have spent some of my best years working there! If going back to Nogal brings some sense of concern there is endless potential. If I have yet to fulfill the grandest of my goals the opportunity to meet them is also close at hand.
If there is a conundrum it is this, a lament I have expressed far too often in my musings! If I have come so close to the ideal right there in my Nogal House on the Vera Cruz, neither have I found true happiness. At times yes!!! There and in the Capitan Gap I have kissed the dream and lived it to full measure. Ronnie and I had it all, we just failed miserably to maintain it! I look back and wonder what it was that made us miss the glory of our holdings, though I begged him to recognize that. He was never content, never satisfied with his lot, and in the end it killed him. That I saw the potential of that 140 acres in the mountains and tried to honor it with my efforts was never quite enough and the drugs and the alcohol robbed us of the rest. Not that we didn’t have our glory days, our children, the garden, the horses, the cabin and the cows, because we did, it just never was enough. Now that I am older and wiser I might have done better, but he is gone, and we will never know what might have been………..
I have lived the same dream at Nogal, though I have done so alone. In all of the fourteen years I have lived there I have only once, briefly, shared the house with a partner. He was a partner, but his bitterness and anger defeated the potential. Otherwise I have always been with someone somewhere else. If I have been happy to be alone most of the other times, the house has some high lonesome to it also. I have touched the dream many times from that very spot, with my garden, my art, my writing and many an adventure. I have never been lonely, though at times I felt alone. I have come to believe that if I am to live the life I truly wish to live, I need to seek it somewhere else. That has been as much of the reason I have left as any other, though finances have come in to play as well. I can make a living there but I can do better elsewhere if I want a full time job. Now I return hoping I can do so while maintaining my freedom. It is, as I well know, as much a mindset as it is location and if I am happy with myself everything else follows suit!
As always my freedom is hinged on my finances, and the same will guide my plans. For the moment I am set, there is money on its way from several sources and I can hold my own for a while. If I play it smart and no great jobs present themselves I will have the summer for myself. If I am truly innovative, by the end of the summer I will not need a job but will instead have an income from my own efforts. I have dreamed and spoke of this for years and if this wasn’t a planned event it is certainly a timely one.
The sun climbs higher in the sky and there is a load of materials in my truck, waiting for me to use them. The camper, while not a necessity, is also a key factor in my plan. It opens the door to freedom, opportunity and adventure, a wonderful mix! If I want to retreat to the wilderness for a few days I will be free to go. If I want to do a walk about and sell some artwork, the wheels will turn. If I want to wander the highways and sell my art on the roadside while I sit and make more, explore festivals and flea markets, there I am. If I decide to go back to work, I have a sound shelter. The possibilities are endless. Somewhere in the mix I will have more time to write also! I had best put things in order!!!
June 11, 2017
Fort, Sumner, New Mexico
Day One Hundred Sixty One 2017 Threshold
I am now standing on the threshold of my next adventure. I woke to the familiar comforts of my current camp, the electricity the most appreciated element for the moment. I will retreat to Nogal soon enough and the generator will suffice, though I will forfeit refrigeration. If I am contemplating a solar charger for the camper it will serve me well in both respects as I can have it at home as well. If not there is always ice but in the end it becomes costly. Where we once bought block ice for $1.00 a block (Or less? It was in the 1990’s) and had a 100 gallon Coleman cooler in which it would last for days, now it would be an almost daily purchase of cubes for $2.00. When I add that to fuel for the generator, roughly a ½ gallon per day if I am writing and home for the evening, I am looking at around $100.00 a month. I am paying around $50.00 for power now so not so bad, but to invest $300.00 or $400.00 (I am guessing) into a dependable power source which I can carry with me is ideal. Of course I still need a refrigerator but perhaps the small ones would work?? I will find out soon enough.
Mine will now be a lesson in simplicity, taken to another level of practice. If I have been wishing for this opportunity for years and have been preparing for the same, I have now arrived. As with so much in life “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” What that the origin of the phrase was from a Robert Burns poem “To A Mouse On Turning Her Up In Her Nest With The Plough ” from 1786, which he penned as an apology (How little we know of history these days before we look for the answers. Here is but a part of the poem, well worth reading its entirety! See Wikipedia for a lovely story.)
But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane (you aren’t alone),
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft a-gley (often go awry)
An lea’e us naught but grief an’ pain,
For promised joy.
The parallel with John Steinbeck’s, “Of Mice and Men” is also obvious, and ties back to “Travels With Charlie”, which so inspired my original adventure. That I will name my new camper ‘Rocinante II’ is no coincidence either! Somewhere between Steinbeck’s adventures and those of Don Quixote’s, coupled with his ‘tilting at windmills’ brings it all into perspective! That I may venture forth with a goal, yet somewhat aimless also, and could well fall back on my water measuring skills to sustain myself, tightens the ties. I hope to write of the adventure with enough skill as to make it pay and if I was wise would become my own reality show, though I cringe at the prospect! Better others live vicariously through my stories rather than observing my life!
Still yet I will follow in Steinbeck’s footsteps once again and if his camper must have been a magnet of curiosity back in the 1960’s so my camo colored bus is much the same today. Though Winnebago’s might be a dime a dozen and you can rent a Cruise America camper also, my basic living is still, and will always be, a novelty. Though I have never capitalized on my lifestyle beyond sharing it on my blog, now I may decide to get creative, and share my message as well. If it has always been possible to kick over the traces and go our own way there are so few of us who put it to practice. It comes at a cost of course but at this moment it could prove beneficial! What that I could sell my wares as I travel about and share my story also. What better time to publish my books and sell my stories to passersby……….Just a thought!
I met a young Amish man in the desert of Arizona many years ago. He had a horse and buggy, the latter which served as residence and photo booth. He posed people on the buggy, took their pictures and sold them back to them after he had developed them. I wish I would have had the money to purchase one but I was penniless, stranded in my camper working for someone who cared little to share his wealth in spite of my efforts to please him. The point being is if I hate to make a spectacle of myself I have so much to offer by doing so, and much to learn in the process. If my hitchhiking days are well behind me (thank you son David for insisting on that, LOL) I could have much the same interaction by simply stopping along the way! Everyone wants to hear the others story and contribute to a freedom they wish they had themselves, and to share their dreams as well. Having a product to share, along with my story, makes it even better! Not a bad thought! Couple that with my water/wastewater skills which every small town would welcome in passing???? Maybe I should finish my handbook!
If I teetered on the threshold as I sat to write now I am standing more firmly. I was not prepared for the transition but it arrived in perfect time. If I had other plans, well, we know how that goes! If I have always have faith in divine intervention I have never seen it full scope as this, and will invest my faith in the same. I have always felt I had a purpose in life and have done my best to fulfill it. If so many people have touched my life I have tried to do the same and the time I have spent here was no exception. If not for the financial gain I had by contracting here, and the subsequent transition away from Mescalero I might still be trapped in that place, and a pattern I needed to break. If I hadn’t have received repayment from my son (thank you!!!) and sold my horse, bought the head start bus and cashed in my retirement I might well be stranded here after being dismissed from my job. Instead I have been vindicated and by standing up for what I knew to be right I gained the respect of my friends and the community and have been granted a rare freedom I desired for so long.
I don’t know what I will do, but my plans are better than they were! If I needed a respite it has been granted. If I have ached to pursue my dreams in more rapid fashion, here is my chance. If I needed only to be reminded of the things I want the most, wish fulfilled. If the Mayor thought he was going to hurt me, he only hurt himself. If I cannot forgive his foolishness I can leave him to his lessons with few if any regrets. If I want to return here I may well be able to do so but in the meantime the choice is mine. Summer is in full swing and what better time for adventure than this? I have ranch work if I want it, mobility when I don’t, a craft I can sell in reasonable quantities and the materials to create more as I go. I have enough inventory to get started and a ready market at wholesale as well. In fact, my greatest concern would be my ability to maintain enough product to perpetuate the effort, not a bad thing at all.
What I need to do is to print some books, my handbook and my poetry to start, my memoir as well, and soon! I have money in the bank and more on the way and if I qualify for unemployment which, if not a sure thing, is a good possibility, I have enough income to pay my bills and survive for now. Without any immediate commitments!!!! other than my own self, there is opportunity for everything, a rare and wonderful moment in any life as mine. I feel the need to be worthy of the same, for such gifts are priceless in more ways than one and meant to be fulfilled to their fullest. What can I best do for myself and others that I may fulfill such a promise? Where I was once what I felt to be an “Angel of the Highway” perhaps I am again being called to the same. Such a threshold I stand upon today!~