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.
August 22, 2018
Vera Cruz, New Mexico
Played the fool
And let this
Have I left here
With all intent
Only to be
Have I ignored
The very basis
Of my existence
And how often
Have I returned
I am leaving
Out of desire
Not because I
I have created
That I have to
As I continue
At the desired
That so often
Before it is done
Why is it
When the solutions
Are at my fingertips
And how often
Will I pause
To consider that.
I have realigned
For the umpteenth
But my focus
Than it was
In years past
And though I
The first one
And my word
Is as good
As it has ever been
And it is clearer
Than it was
In the past
And it has never
That I hold
To that promise
For how often
Have I not.
October 7, 2015
Bent, New Mexico
You Made Me Laugh
NOTE: Please note I wrote this piece a year ago today, so much has changed since then! Being a writer allows us to express our deepest feeling and emotions in a manner we might not otherwise be able to do, they would instead remain in our thoughts. Having a blog opens the door to share those things, even if some might be better off unsaid. The following is a soul baring piece but a wonderful lesson also and I hope that those who read it will see the humor, as well as the lesson. I for one am far better for having experienced it. No regrets!
You made me laugh today. Sadly you only do this when you are drinking, which makes me cry. All the same, I cannot resist your company when you are intoxicated, and it is the same for you. The sad part is that I spend the whole time you are drunk trying to get you sober. It always works in the end, though sometimes it takes a week or two. Then I don’t hardly see you again, until you start to drink. We have been doing this for almost four years, we both know the pattern.
You would think we would grow tired of this, me of your foolishness and you of the sickness, but we don’t. It seems it is always too much fun in the interim, even if it is painful for both of us. It breaks my heart to see you wasting your life and ruining your health. It breaks your spirit to shatter your routine and bring such illness to your body. You don’t get sick when you are drinking; it is the hangover that will kill you.
You made me laugh today, your candid humor and spontaneity is a joy and a pleasure. It betrays your serious side and the sober guy would cringe if he could witness it, but he cannot. Sadly it is the best of times which you will never recall, the laughter and the tears, the meals I cook and the warm hugs I receive in return. You are my best friend when you are drunk, and your own worst enemy, and it gets worse as time goes on. I am watching a gradual decline which frightens me because it is the very source of my own weakness.
You made me cry just yesterday. You rarely call me when you are sober and I have learned to gage your intoxication by the tone of your voice and the frequency of your calls. You will only call once when you are starting, as if to warn me and to comfort yourself, you are safe if I am here. You will call two or three times if you are already drunk and if you need a ride you won’t stop, I think you hit redial sometimes, at least in your head. I am the voice of sanity when there is no other sound to guide you. You called a lot yesterday, and you kept calling until I found you. You were so drunk you made me cry and when I came back later I cried again when you played that song for me, you started it over three times because you wanted me to hear it. You told me, this song is for you, and we both got teared up, such fools as we are. The song was, “You Can’t Say I Didn’t Cry.” You are always on target, when you are drinking.
My greatest fear is that I will someday weaken and lose the sharpness of my judgement. I am afraid I may sink into the oblivion which is my mothers’ mind, she who drifts along unguided but still occasionally comes back to shore. I asked myself the other day, ‘When did she start to fail?’ and realized she was always failing; it just took a while for her to complete the process. I am strong because of that and I don’t want to grow up to be like her. I want to instead preserve the tender innocence she graced me with, the same treasure reflected in my voice, which I also got from her, and the sense of humor, that I get from you. I think I have my fathers’ strength, though I am not always sure of that either and I don’t always like him very well. It is your failing which keeps me on task; you are the constant reminder of the alternative which I never want to take.
You ask me why I put up with your bullshit, because you call a spade a spade, and you know just who you are. I try to explain that to you, but as you always say when we ask why you don’t stop drinking, “It is hard.” I put up with you because for some foolish reason you are the only person I can put up with and I love you as I have few others in my life. It is as foolish an addiction as your drinking and the outcome is equally assured, it will be painful, as it always has been. I buried all of the other guys a long time ago and I do not want to do the same with you. That is also why I stay; I can prolong the agony for us both, though I doubt that I will win. There is another reason also, I am so afraid of failing myself that I force myself to be strong. You have made me better at that than I have ever been and as long as you are here I will never forget. It makes it hard to leave.
Here is the sad part. I am better off alone and we both know that. I have been trying very hard to pull away for that very reason and it is why I am writing again, I write a lot when you aren’t here. But I write because of you also and you inspire me with your own lack of the same. You point it out to me also, your desire for the richness I weave into my own life and it is what you love me for. I am the light in your darkness when you are drunk. If only you could learn to do the same when you were sober! If such were possible we could laugh all the time, and never cry again…..
October 7, 2016
We finally parted three months ago when I prepared to leave him and he kindly left me instead. I didn’t cry. There was more reason for joyfulness than sadness as I discovered that the crisis I had allowed into my life all revolved around his failures, not my own. I also learned something. Sometimes we convince ourselves we need to do certain things to maintain our stability only to discover we have succeeded in the process. I know now that I do not require adversity in my life to remain strong, because I am strong. Karl helped me see that lesson and I am grateful for that, and it was worth the tears it required to discover this. And the laughter made it worthwhile also, though I have laughed more in his absence than I have in a long time.
We all come into each others’ lives for a purpose and he drove home a lesson which is one of my favorites. “We are all teachers and we best teach what we most need to learn.” In trying to save him from himself I may well have saved myself in the process! I am as content with my life as I have ever been and he helped me to get there, I hope somehow I have done the same for him!
If innocence still lives it is in the eyes of a child named Meagan. She is a woman child, caught in that fragile instance between a young girl and a woman. She is an adolescent and naïve to what lies before her excepting the depth of wisdom in her mother’s eyes. They are so like her own, set in another face.
Meagan, she stands as a reminder for her mother and I, of all we have left behind us and all which lies ahead. She returns to us in her every breath all which we have treasured and tried to hold onto. Her searching gaze and her questions are a breath of fresh air, one to be savored and studied as our Zen teachers would tell us, to be felt as it comes and goes. She has strength where her mother is more fragile and she is blessed with the awareness of the necessity of that. She will be wiser for the wear, my own mother was fragile and I too became strong because of it.
She is a teacher even as she is still a student, the exchange of lessons will be of equal value to us both and nothing will be lost. She has already returned to me what life has tried to take away. I will give her other gifts which she can carry with her. Her mother will receive an equal share and the blessings are multiplied by three. Her mother and I were both in need of that feminine compassion which is so hard to find, and all young girls need mentors. We three can mentor each other for innocence reigns up that narrow canyon we all call home and I will bring with me adventure and experience in return.
We stood before an ancient cabin as the afternoon waned. We spoke of the history and the effort which went into the construction of the adobe and rock shelter, and of the life which had been lived there. Kelly spoke of the beauty and the mystery of the place and of how she stood inside before the roof fell in. I recounted my own experience far west of here in the San Augustin Plains and how upon deeper study of the homesteaders lives some of the romance had faded from my mind. It was a tough life, theirs. Kelly’s eyes widened a little; she had never thought of the hardships, such is the innocence she has maintained. Meagan listened to every word, their weight growing heavier in her learning.
If innocence still lives it is in the eyes of a child named Meagan. She has inherited it from her mother. One will never meet another with such a gentle spirit.
The young girls laugher
High pitched and joyful
Echoes off of the canyon walls
Like the chatter of coyotes
Exuberant and unrestrained
Free of the constrictions
Of society or domesticity
Still innocent and alive
I am so grateful
For the reminder
Of how life should be lived
Hah Hah Hah
January 4, 2014
185 Nogal Canyon Road
Bent, New Mexico
There is this book I have written, the monumental effort of a lifetime, the dream realized, the goal met, almost. It is complete in the sense that I have written it in its entirety, all four hundred pages of it. It took me the course of a year to do so, amassing the memories as I traveled the Plains even as I reflected back on the notes I made from the start. It is long and wonderful, rich with adventure and insight, a grand accomplishment at any level. It is also very good, and I have to believe saleable, even if it may not be the best seller my father would have me believe, though one can hope.
This book, I started it in 2010 and completed it in June of 2011, or thereabouts, the journey ended there and by then I was writing to the moment. That was two and a half years ago and I am only now in the final throes of completion, the last edits flowing under my hands as often as I can get to it. I might have done this sooner as I had every intention of, but life gets in the way. Working full-time and trying to secure a comfortable place to live, which required much physical effort to accomplish, took the lion’s share of my time. Beyond that I found some welcome distraction also and I would not trade the miles I walked through the mountains in search of love and elk horns for any of it. That my future dangles off the threads of my literary efforts will not alter the happiness and experience I have gained in the interim, it was a necessary exchange.
Now my book takes the forefront once again and I have set aside all my other earthly pursuits, aside from my job and my journals, to complete it. My dwelling is now secure and my desires for other things satisfied for the moment, my need to move forward dominates my thoughts. I want to finish the book for many reasons, the least being the financial possibilities though the fulfillment of that would thrill me also. It is more the need to see the effort through at this point as the process is a daunting one and has stilled my creative desires as I had always feared it would. This is an obstacle which I have created and the stumbling block of creativity, a different brand of writers block than I perceive in others and driven on fear rather than the lack of inspiration. I am always inspired! For me writing has been and always will be a joy and a pleasure, a release and a fulfillment such as only the freedom of my thoughts has been able to satisfy. It is the marketing of my work which stops me on a dime.
I have never been and never will be a commercial writer. My work comes from the heart. I write for the sheer joy of writing, for myself and for anyone who might care to hear what my words convey. It is my diary and my sounding board, my adventure through life and the hearts desires I speak of, the hopes and the dreams of one solitary person, bared upon the page. My words belong to me and everyone who might read them and profit is a sideline which, if I am so lucky, will allow me the time and the freedom to write even more. It is all I want to gain as that would be the key to my happiness. I want only to live a simple life and to have the means to do so. I have to wonder why it has been so hard to get there!
I am on the final read of my book and as it’s been from the start the insight and inspiration I draw from the adventure carries me through. I see now how precious the freedom is and what the struggle amounted to when I had to once again sacrifice that. From the moment I began the adventure which became the book I was living my dream, from the moment the adventure ended I reentered the struggle I was so trying to escape from. I have spent my entire life hoping I could write something which was worthy of publishing so as to allow me to do more of the same. I have now written it and within this coming year I will know if I have memoir or riches. Regardless of the outcome I will continue to write, and to dream, so nothing will really change. If the book can pay my way I will be thrilled, if not the effort will evolve of its own volition. Either way the book has affirmed many things. Not only am I capable of completing an effort such as it required, I also have a firm grasp on what I require for my happiness. I want to write, I want to live a life worthy of writing about, and I am doing just that.
This blog is part of the strategy I must pursue to market and publish my book. It will offer a collection of my essays and exerts for everyone to read and share. If you, my friends and friends of friends find them to be to your liking please say so, it will be your input and comments which will render the final outcome. Wish me luck!