A story with no words needed…
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A quick note to Gin Getz readers: I am Karen Bailey, a friend of Gin. You may have seen my comments from time to time on this blog. Gin has very limited internet connectivity and has asked me to help post her blogs: Basically she is just sending me post and photos via email and then I put them on the blog for her. Just wanted all the readers to know this in case you post a comment and wonder why you don’t hear back from her. Please do continue to post comments because she is able to read them! –Karen
Sometime in the middle of Nowhere, you may find there is no place you would rather be.
Five pens used up, one pencil, and I’m not sure how many trips Bob has made back and forth with my computer in his saddle bag, horseback across river to the Estancia Ranquilco to charge the batteries on my laptop. Writing progresses. But some days, progress is slow. Frustrating. There must be something wrong. That something must be… me. My writing. The direction I’m going. My method. My abilities. You know. Those evil thoughts of insecurities. Demons! Be gone!
The last two days were like that. More than likely, a case of The Middles. As a friend pointed out in her last letter to me, we’re half way through our time in Argentina. I’m half way through the roughest of rough drafts (though there will be many more stages following to refine this to a final product I am proud to put my name on, and Ginny so deserves). Summer here is half way over. Already a difference in light, rising later in the morning, and the start of a shadow now at noon.
And some days I feel it’s just beginning. Maybe I’m slow to get going. Maybe I just know I won’t want to leave. But I do want to complete this book. For myself. But mostly for Ginny. She has trusted me. I have promised her.
Today I wanted to be with her, talk with her, and ask for her help. Funny how she is always quick to help others heal. Holding my cold hands in her warm ones on a chilly morning back in El Huecu when I went to work on Morning Pages. Knowing a note from her would cheer me up, as she has so many times. Lift my insecurities and help me get back on track.
I didn’t want her to see my weakness. To know I too can falter. That, yes, there are times I doubt myself that I can do it and question my sanity for trying. But I wanted to have her tell me I can do this. And that I can do it well. To tell me that I am the right one to finally complete this project that she had wanted for so many years to complete. The story so many have told her needs to be told. I wanted to talk with her and hear these words because I knew hearing them from her, I would believe, and I would get back to work newly inspired, leaving this bout of The Middles behind. (Don’t get too comfortable, of course, for there will be more).
It’s just a thought, and thoughts can change. We can change them. We can heal. Ourselves. Others. Sharing wisdom, stories, parts of our self. When we think we have nothing more to give. We have words. Yes, Ginny, you are healing. Yourself and others. This book is indeed a part of it.
Otherwise, I remind you, my friend, of your formula for healing. It has worked for you before. Let us work on this now.
- Reduce stress. This might mean stop doing what you’re doing, living where you’re living, dealing with that who or what that’s dragging you down and draining you.
- Increase love. Be around and/or reach out to people who love you. And there are so many! You are never truly alone.
- Include horses, some part of them, some where, some way, some how in this equation.
- Include art. For as you know so well, Creativity Heals!
My time on this side note must be cut short. Get back to work. Use my precious computer battery time to move forward on this book. Adelante!
I leave you then with this. Written a day or two ago, and ripe now for sharing, for who knows when I will be able to do so again, and by that time, you know I’ll have plenty more to share…
Another beautiful day in Patagonia…
Today at the Estancia Trocoman. Today as yesterday, as tomorrow. Except for missing my son, I don’t know when and if I have ever been happier.
Every day based upon writing. It helps that it is a good story, and my “office” cannot be beat. A point and a purpose – to get this story done, to share Ginny’s story, to find the words to make it sing, the tune to inspire the reader, and choose the stories to make it dance. Dancing in the wind!
Side notes and fun stories, in the writing, in my time off. Balanced by daily rituals. Discipline. If it were not for discipline, I would not be here. Would not be able to promise a completion. No schedules, no hours to keep track of, no one looking over my shoulder as I write (now wouldn’t that be a killer for creativity?). Only my own sense of responsibility, my love of self discipline (yes, I know, that’s been considered a bit strange by some), and my driving desire to complete this project, and complete it well.
Morning matέ, followed by a brief hike or ride, and sit down to write until lunch. Leftover goat stew from the night before warmed again on the open fire, and bread dough fried in goat lard stored under a dirty towel to keep off the flies. Otherwise, the pantry is close to empty, and here there is no fridge. No more fruits or veggies or eggs or cheese. But there are fish in the river and meat hanging in the screen box under the pear tree, and flour, salt, sugar, spices, rice and beans on shelves that seem so rich. We sure won’t starve and eating simply suits us fine. Truly, we are wanting for little more and feel grateful to have all we do. Which seems so much. Plenty. Without the sticky dripping sweet abundance we left behind in the States.
With cooling air and a stone floor in the studio, mornings are now out in the sun, papers spread across a rough cut table put together with scraps and findings by Bob and Alcides, allowing me to be there, warm, in the elements, of the land, with my dog by my side and the guys working nearby. There I overlook the Rio Trocoman, across river to the herd of goats passing on their morning rounds, up river to the Estancia Ranquilco, and beyond to the endless waft of wind and weather that comes from I know not yet where. Not a bad place to work.
Still, writing takes a slow turn like a wide spot in the river. Quiet, unhurried progression. Time to linger languidly. Try not to be frustrated but rather lie on your back in composed deep waters and stare up at the unruffled clouds. I remind myself it is progress, though seemingly sluggish at times. Rivers don’t stand still. Now just without the drama of white waters. Not the thrilling rush over rounded rocks louder than the wind when all of it takes your breath away.
Now is time to breathe.
So much to cover. Some days it overwhelms. Words, only words. Trying to create a world of words. Paint a picture with pen on ink, or fingers nimbly dancing across the keyboard on my lap. Swirling words like colors in the clouds in evening. Papers spread out, binders open, journals turning pages faster than I can write with wind from the open French doors beside me. Put one word in front of the next. And a story unfolds. The rose does not bloom any faster if we ask it to.
As adobe bricks are stacked. Though words are light, easier to move, far less arduous to put in place, and hopefully remain as solid as the old walls around me.
And so, this is how I spend my time off. Hauling adobe bricks from the stack that’s been there for years. Covered with cob webs. Brushing off the meat bees and the occasional giant spider moved in under the black plastic probably years ago. Bob says my face is smeared with dust. I look down at my flip flops. My toes are the color of the sand. My shirt is not much cleaner. A past time for me, a break from the world of words surrounding and absorbing me. A dirty but fun distraction.
For Bob, a point and purpose. A small chance to share his talents. And for Alcides, finally a bathroom after how many years?!?! A silent work crew. Neither speaks the language of the other. A silent understanding. Based on hand signals, gestures, pointing, an understanding of what needs to be done, and the resources they have to make it happen. Everything they need is here, already hauled in by mule or made right here on the land, like chainsaw milled lumber and the adobe bricks that have become my part of the program, carrying them from here to there in the little old square metal wheel barrow with the chipped orange paint.
Now I must return to writing. Writing long hand on days my battery is charging, a horseback ride for Bob across river away where there is an off grid system already in place. I’m thinking… next job for my sweetie… how about one here? Already the ink of five pens has been spent, turning off white pages into black lines and scribbles into tales. Now I sharpen my pencil with my pocket knife, tossing the small wooden curls laced with bright yellow paint the color of a school bus into the wind and becoming a part of the land. Land from where these stories were born.
Until the next time, my dear friends and family and those who are just passing by and curious enough to stick around and read… I send light and love from alongside the Rio Trocomon in Patagonia. My apologies for lack of responses and additional communication. I shall try to send off a post on the computer with Bob once a week or so when he rides to the power/plug in source for which we are most grateful. He in turn sends out messages already composed, including these posts which I am sending to Karen, who most kindly posts in my absence. (Many thanks to you, dear woman, friend, office manager and business operator extraordinaire.)
Take nothing for granted… Every person, every experience, every meal, every day… is a celebration. If we choose to make it so. Cheers, my friends. I’m celebrating life!
Three months ago we met, though still not face to face. A strange coincidence. Those seem to be the best kind of meetings, have you noticed? Something about the things we cannot explain. She told me there are no coincidences. I don’t know what I believe, but I do believe getting to know Ginny has been somehow magical. I wonder how much more so when we finally meet. In a way she’s turned my world upside down already. Because of her, Bob, Gunnar and I are heading to the other side of the world. Patagonia.
Let me tell you a little bit about Ginny. Oddly enough, I know a lot. I have spent these three months pouring through notes, writings and information on websites that she compiled over the past several years covering her life stories, from birth to present. What a life it is!
Gin and Ginny. You might just get confused. Don’t worry. You’ll get used to it if you stick around a while.
I am Gin, and just the writer. Working to put the pieces of the puzzle together into hopefully one beautiful picture. A memoir manuscript with consistency, interest and intrigue, capturing the essence of this remarkable woman.
The story is Ginny’s.
The adventure, well, that’s all of ours. Even yours if you’re ready to go for the ride.
Tomorrow, we leave our mountain and begin the journey south.
The fun begins.
And so, now.
Finally, an introduction.
For those who have been wondering where I am going and why.
For those who would like to “meet” a truly remarkable woman.
Tonight, I share this treat. An introduction to Ginny Carrithers.
Following is a rough draft, a condensed bio of Ginny Carrithers, and an introduction to her memoirs.
For now, we shall call this “Dancing in the Winds of Patagonia”
One remarkable woman’s inspiring adventures of living life fully with MS.
Welcome to the world of Virginia Tice Neary Carrithers. Welcome to a world that covers two hemispheres and spreads wide across the worlds of the Aspen art scene, Thoroughbred horseracing, jet setting and a fairy tale world where Prince Charming still sits at the head of the table. This is the story of life as wild as the land she chose to settle in, and as fast the winds that now embrace her. Ginny’s is story of extremes and challenges. Beginning with a childhood laced with trauma, Ginny has confronted, overcome and learned to live with physical and emotional obstacles throughout her life, and managed to come out laughing. Her drive and passion led her to the highs that are hard to keep up with, and lows that would be devastating to so many of us. Hers is a story of living the high life and ultimately choosing the simple life.
On the surface, this is a fun, fast and racy story of one woman’s wild journey generated by her own strength, positive outlook, and brilliant, shining character. It is a story of the power of creativity and nature. Deeper down, this story is one of personal growth, healing, and inspiration that the reader (viewer) will want to cheer, cry, scream and ultimately hug and rejoice for the celebration of character that Ginny Carrithers is.
Her story begins in 1949 in New Orleans, Louisiana. From the beginning, her strength and resolve are challenged with life threatening bouts of the croup. Hers was an odd and lonely childhood on private island with a psychiatrist father, and mother that had her first nervous breakdown and was institutionalized when Ginny was only nine. From her earliest days, art, horses, and nature where her consolation and inspiration.
Life begins to bloom at age 15 as her body blossoms. Her world widens and begins to speed up with boys, cars, and wild rides to Aspen with her best friend, Janice. Yet again, Ginny’s world is severely shaken by her brother’s car crash which left him forever in a wheelchair, her father’s suicide, and her mother again institutionalized.
With her great resolve and joy of living, Ginny continues to create her place in the brilliant world filled with wealthy and powerful men, painting, and horse racing in New Orleans where she lived the young beautiful life. Her notable accomplishments include becoming the first licensed woman in Louisiana to train Thoroughbred racehorses, commissions for her equestrian art, modeling and acting and being a body double/stunt woman in a James bond movie. This woman was indeed living the “racy” life, with a whirlwind of travel, power, passion, and fame.
In 1976 at the age of 27, Ginny has become paralyzed and is given the diagnosis of MS. A chronic, progressive, disabling disease. And still this woman is not slowed down, does not back down. For Ginny, it opened new doors. After a year and half of paralysis, Ginny goes into remission and begins her work for the National MS Society, becoming a world-wide spokes person, creating and donating her own artwork, raising millions of dollars over the years, creating promotion and awareness with her talents of horse racing and art, and inspiring so many, not only those affected by the disease, but so many touched by and finding themselves in the embrace of this exciting woman.
It is during this time that Ginny meets Ashley Carrithers. The year is 1986. Another one charmed by this lovely and vivacious woman! It is because of this connection that two new worlds are opened up for Ginny. The first is Patagonia. The second is motherhood. Ultimately, it is the combination of these two that transform Ginny to the next stage of her life.
As their relationship begins, Ginny is living the Princess Dream come true, continuing the jet set lifestyle though now between hemispheres. There she is on the Estancia, riding her white Arabian, continuing to evolve with her artistic endeavors. playing polo, flying out on their private airstrip. She is on one hand the wealthy Patrona, juggling baby, paintbrush, estancias, a challenging marriage, building airstrips, buying land, travel, travel, travel… Yet all the while the darkness of MS follows her about like an uncomfortable shadow. A shadow that at times can be fierce and cruel and painful and all consuming. And somewhere between those two extremes, she is learning about healing. She sleeps outside alone on the ground. Builds her fire, drinks her mate. She finds a deeper, stronger place of visions and medicine cards and animal guides.
After the divorce, Ginny continues the back and forth between North and South America, and ultimately chooses to remain in Patagonia. She is drawn to remain because of her daughter. Because of the simpler life. The grounding. Nature. What matters most. She finds her own strength, learning to live without the Prince Charming fairytale and become her own woman. Still the artist. The artist of life. She is continually challenged as she deals with the progression of her disease, her broken back, her independence and loneliness, her desire to continue to give and reach out to and share with others, her connection to the earth, her creativity, her horses, her limitations, and her broad and beautiful spirit shining possibly stronger than ever.
This brings us to The Present. This brings us to Ginny, today, dealing with a debilitating disease while living in the dramatic setting of Patagonia. And still finding ways to give, motivate, inspire. New ways to share beauty and life. This is her spirit. Brilliant and warm as we all have seen or are seeing.
This is Ginny Carrithers.
On the surface one sees a beautiful woman and talented artist living a dream come true complete with fairytale lifestyle, world travel, wild adventures, fast horses, and elite connections. The high life. Look again and see the lows of trauma, drama, loss, and the side of the same passionate, vivacious, driven woman learning to live with MS. Multiple Sclerosis for some. Messenger of Sprit for Ginny. MS became her call for transformation and inner growth, for waking up and living her life real, strong, self guided, empowered.
The greatest element of this story is still just beyond my reach. It is within Ginny. Her true essence, her spirit if you will, which you can read so much about on paper or the computer, but no doubt will change me and complete this story. After months of becoming relatively obsessed with the life of this remarkable woman, we will finally be meeting. And there, my friends, lies the missing link to this story.
And so it is that the rest of the story, in fact the part we will begin with, starts there. Next week in Patagonia.
In the meanwhile, I can promise you this. Ginny’s story is a wild ride. Hold onto your hats, sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride. Ginny’s story will take you first to places you’ve only dreamed of, and then to a place and space within that you secretly long to be.
(for more information, please see Ginny’s web site at CreativityHeals.org)
Well, sorry to leave you hanging. You’ll have to read the book to find out all the juicy details. In the meanwhile, stick around and enjoy the adventure as Gin meets Ginny, the Mountain Man leaves his mountain again because of his woman’s crazy whims, and the Pup heads to Patagonia.
So plug your ears, or you might just hear me cry.
(Picture of me and Flying Crow in the High Country in warmer days. Photo taken by Kate Seely)
Decisions are not random here. More often than not, they are based on nature. The high country, the rainy season, dropping temperatures, wind, drought, glaring sun, the road closed by snow. Things like that. Pretty simple, except we tend to complicate things with… emotion.
Our attempts at living where no one has before. A balancing act between human needs and nature. Complicated more by our decisions than what the weather does. Why can’t things be simple? As they are for the family of coyotes, loving the late-to-come winter, still out there pouncing voles in the dried brown grasses just out of Gunnar’s radar. Or the four elk still up high on Pole Mountain, grazing at an elevation of 13,000 feet. They say the Big One is rolling in tonight. These guys have not followed the forecast as intently as I have. I can only hope as the snows begin, they will turn to the timber and find their way to lower ground.
Now I’m looking through old photos. Warmer days. Sunshine, green grass, leaves on trees, solid ground to walk on, run on, kick up your heels on.
As I lay in bed last night, I cried. My husband unable to comfort me. And I am sorry I refused to let him try, for try he did. I know his warm touch would have soothed me, his gentle words a peaceful balm. Instead, I pushed him away, turned my back and cried myself to sleep.
I think you should know this. I don’t know why I share it any more than why I feel it. Sometimes I am tired of feeling and would rather find the perfect pill that washes it all away. Only not really, because I want to feel it all. I don’t want an unnatural solace, a potion that would make living less. I guess you have to take the good with the bad and there is always at least a bit of both if you’re really living.
This is ridiculous. I need to be stronger.
What do I really want?
Home. One. Seems pretty simple but it’s a constant theme. Here I have a love/hate relationship with the land. Yes, more love than hate. The best of relationships are that way. So why am I leaving again?
This is the last time I look elsewhere. If I find it there, I will move there. If I don’t, my search ends. That’s it. This place is not perfect, but it is mine, it is home. Complete with horses, chickens, cats and dog, a little family and a big mountain, and a healthy dose of normal problems to keep us all in line.
And there I am, loading the last four of my horses into the trailer to send them down to lower ground. Winter pasture. Before the road is closed. I wait until the last day. The last safe chance. My husband allows this of me. He knows how much it matters. He understands.
The hawk flies above me in the clear blue sky as my tears fall down into the snow. He is mine. There for me now when I am losing so much else. By choice. Damn it, what is wrong with me?
Winter will hit hard. Stinging against your cheeks like small stones as horizontal snow feels in the sub zero temperatures of early morning.
I won’t have to go out as early now. Tres will not be on back porch pulling down the snowshoes and ski poles to get my attention. I can wait for the sun to scale the mountain to the east and flood this little valley with sun on snow. But I won’t. I have been up early for years caring for those who need me, and really, I wouldn’t want it any other way. I will find something. The Steller’s Jays in the blue spruce, the pair of raven in the naked aspen, maybe even the magpie that shy from the coyote fence as I take the slop bucket down to the chicken coop each morning.
These will remain, a part of my morning ritual.
I frighten myself with my own decisions. Repercussions of creating life. It is not meant to be smooth, but we long for those still moments. They do not last.
And sometimes they die. A sorrow I care not touch on today.
The losses we have shared. Five foals in as many years. The scars are deep within me. I have carried each loss in my arms, bathed him or her with tears as he or she poured forth life that could not be contained.
No. Now I would rather focus on joy.
It is not always easy. But it is there if we look deep enough.
Horses have become me. A part of me. Chosen. Created. Not given, assumed or taken. I’m no lucky horsey girl grown up. I’m a horse woman, self made. An adult decision I like to say. Painted my own picture. And now I watch the last of them drive away…
Only for a few months. I remind myself and hold onto these words. Only words. But I can close my eyes and picture this. Some time in spring, long before leaves on the trees, streaks of snow patch cleared from pasture, brown waters in the Rio Grande, and tourists considering this a destination, we’ll be driving back with them in tow. And I know the feeling I will have, almost uncontained, bursting, just to have them again out of every window, following us about like bored children as we work about the ranch, the point and purpose to first light of day, ready to allow me at any given whim to wrap my arms about their neck and bury my nose in their warm hair.
It’s hard enough bringing Gunnar to Patagonia. I cannot bring all of them too.
How redundant to say “I will miss them.” These words are already assumed. You already know.
It’s not just about riding, is it? Maybe it was. Maybe that is how it started. But the deeper you go, the more there is.
They are now partners. We work with them, live with them, depend on them as they on us. Unlike pleasure horses, lawn ornaments, hobby horses, or toys. We are out there together and you hear me reading at night to the boys in our tent, while I hear you shuffling and stomping in the nearby trees. And some days we are both grouchy and other times both tired and short of patience, but you remind me to breathe deep and I do, and I smell you, your sweet musky sweat. And we get over it and get to work, and it’s not so bad, you know and I know so we get through it together. And then sometimes, just for the fun of it, we ride off to who knows where. Just because we can. We did more of that this year. And I thank you for trusting me to go where most wouldn’t dare and some places maybe that no horse has been before. You trust me. I tell you you can. And then I see your confidence grow stronger with each wild ride, like my child evolving into his own person. Maybe with a little bit of my help, but mostly because of you. Or maybe it’s a team. You grow, and I trust you more because of it, and really, it’s a very beautiful relationship changing all the time. It does not stop with what we did yesterday. Tomorrow will bring something new. Maybe subtle, like eye contact, little signals with a flick of my wrist, body language that we humans usually don’t quite get. We can learn to dance together. Not for ribbons or sport, not for some game or to show off. Just for each other.
And in that very moment, you grow and I grow. Perhaps not together. But maybe side by side.
(Here, Norman pulling a big rock and about as proud of himself as I am of him. This photo from “The Ditch Diaries”)
Yes, this is about home. It always is for me. The love of place and space. Balancing my love of home, mountain, horses, dog, husband and son. May be simple. But this is what matters most. To me.
And words. Though more than words. The spirit that words represent. The sharing of it all.
Now, something deeper than the pleasure of company which I will have again. Get over it. Be strong. Look what awaits me!
This is what is meant to be. Call me hokey but I believe that. I believe in the openings that presented themselves. The choices I have made. I will not let her down, let myself down, my husband down, who has believed in me through all the crazy stuff I have got him into.
At the end of the day this is my choice, what I want to do. This is what I wish I’d be the one doing if I heard someone else was doing this. Really, this is beyond a dream come true. I never could have dreamed this one up. This is no vacation. I wouldn’t want that, you know. “Vacation” is not my thing. Because even though I’ve made a living providing vacations, I have no interest in taking one myself. It’s got to have that point and purpose thing. And this does. See?
So, what I will take is this. Life. As full and rich as I can live it. And try to understand it’s just not always easy.
And then again remember this. I never ever would have dreamed up a place like this. Right here, right now. And this wonderful life we built here together.
But can I not want more?
How can something so simple become so complex?
Would I change this sadness and stay safe and warm in yesterday?
(The beautiful life of Bayjura)
You await your god to give you his blood
while we bleed ours onto the earth
and pour four tears
In times of drought
The blindness of being
of choosing to see only
the last green tree
In forest of falling needles
Like the mother who has two children
and after the first one dies
Because the other lives
If I choose hope
I am off the hook
As if optimism were a fair replacement
Still fat and bright flooding the kitchen sink is the waning moon
as I run water to fill the percolator in the otherwise dark kitchen.
You can hear the rooster up early and footfall of the horses by the back door
stepping on the dry packed snow like crunching bags of chips.
They’ll wait there for me as if their presence might urge me to hurry up
and feed them sooner and I suppose in a way it does.
Another empty promise.
The cloud cover cleared and if I look up and away from where the moon is nearly blinding
I can see stars brilliant in their assumed mystery penetrating through what may be infinity.
Another hope of storm comes and goes and leaves us with nothing.
The coffee pot now heating over the pale blue flame of the propane burner
as I feel my way across the room to the wood stove
no frills model
just a big iron box to fill with wood and heat this cabin we built of logs and love.
I bend and stack and light and wait as I have so many mornings before
this ritual primal and grounding and simple yet sings with such wild mystery
like stars in the dark sky.
What matters? What matters most to me? I tell myself to stop being so selfish. How hard not to think of “me.”
What matters most? Look at the big picture. Step outside. Not just the door. The comfort zone.
Do I dare stand alone naked on the mountain top and let the wind whip my flesh?
And wonder if my eyes are really open or am I dreaming, only to wake and find myself back where I was yesterday. Nothing changed. Like most of the lives I see.
So hard to see, to know, to understand. Something about compassion. Seeing beyond this view that could be a fairy tale of sorts except I never read one with characters living like us before.
I guess it started with my dog. At least that was the first sign I clearly saw. When I heard maybe it would be best to leave him behind. Best for whom? Of course the first thought through a mother’s mind. And then… what’s wrong with having him a part of the picture you painted? And therein lies the problem because the picture is not quite as it was painted. OK, so it’s going to be rather different. But the dog will still be a part of it.
Lets go back to talking about my dog. Gunnar. He is not easy. That’s a good way to put it. And yet, consider this: who ever said “easy” was “good” probably never learned a whole lot. About dog training, horse training, relationships, cooking, dancing and love…
On one hand, he is independent, confident and mighty strong of will. My mother while visiting us recently watched him and laughed at me. She said something about “what goes around, comes around.” Was this what I was like as a child?
On the other hand he lives life full. With gusto. Nothing half way. He loves with abandon, plays with such zeal, and when he gets a whiff of a coyote, becomes the epitome of Big and Bad.
He has an agenda all his own which has drawn me to resort to tricks, treats and leashes where I used to just trust my dog would be right here, and he was. Those were the other dogs. Not Gunnar. He who does not see the point in sticking to the trail when he’s already been that way. He may have a point there. Though perhaps I am more like my horses and find comfort staying on familiar trails. And then again, maybe I am not.
On this journey we’re preparing for, he has a role. I’m not sure what, besides complicating things for everyone on one hand. And on the other, I’m there keeping my promise and caring for him as I know no one else can. They might think they could, but I swear I wouldn’t do that to a friend.
Perhaps he is with us to be grounding. To slow us down, because I’m not good at sitting still, but know I need to learn. And really, he can do that too.
Slow me down. Side track. What’s the rush? Stop to walk the dog. Run with him or wrestle, because no dog I’ve ever known is willing to take you on like this guy will happily do. And he does make me happy. Lets me be happy. I wish I was wiser and allowed myself to be so silly when Forrest was still a child. I was Mama Bear and Papa Bear all by myself, all rolled into one, during what could have been the playful years. It was all I knew. Balance and letting go from time to time were things I could not do. I think he forgives me and knows I tried.
Ah, one of those born wiser than the generation before. I’ve met a few like that. I was forewarned when he was still within me. My pregnancy was spent working in a wood shop with a bunch of guys that were so clueless about women, all of them single and for good reasons. And then here is this skinny hippy chick with the growing belly. Quite the odd man out. They were good to me in their own way. Which was the way lots of guys are good in the “stand back and give her some space” kind of way. “Just don’t make her mad…” You know the sort.
Well, one of them, Justin, was waiting for the aliens to take him away to a better place, and in the meanwhile, he lived in a communal earthship just outside of Santa Fe along with a few others, waiting. He smoked his beedies and smelled of clove and did yoga and drank pureed grass. He painted, and he’s the one who told me Forrest was way beyond me, and I did then and still do believe him, though of course at that point Forrest was still months away from seeing daylight, tucked safe and warm in that beast of a belly growing behind my overalls.
And he, this one born wiser than me, writes me this morning with the greatest wisdom I could want to hear. “…intentions are good, but health may definitely affect the direction of everything … So maybe your job will be a little different, but still… it seems amazing for all involved.” Really, who needs to hear more? He is right, you know. If you’re brave enough to give it a try. I think I am.
You’re probably wondering what the job will be, our plans are, where we’re going and what we’re doing. Trust me, I’m wondering too, but I know a little more than you, so I suppose I should share some of that.
It started on a feeling. Those can be the things that get you in trouble, I know. But they can also be the things that change everything. I am ready for change.
For two months I had this ad on my desk beside my computer. A job in Patagonia. But nothing about it was right for me, for us. Sounded great for a young, weathy, carefree thing. I am none of the above. Finally I write, saying I am not the right person, but for some reason, I couldn’t get this off my mind. And there the connection blooms quick like if you plugged in a light and the power just spread… She was looking for a writer… to write her memoirs. Sound like anyone you might know? That would be me! And what a story she has for me to put into words!
You know what I love to say: Leap and the net appears!
So we agree, make plans to be there for four months, hubby and dog and me, room and board for my writing. It’s all falling into place perfectly. Oh my, a remote, off grid, beautiful place with horses. Sound like any other place you know? Right. Here. Weird, eh?
Sounds too good to be true and maybe it is or was but it’s not going to be like that. Maybe, just maybe, it is going to be even better. Better for us. Maybe not you, because maybe you’re still looking for a pretty place and that’s enough for you. But I’m looking for more. Something deeper, richer, more meaningful than a pretty view or a pretty face. I’ve got all that here! And I am finding it all. There. Topping the list: point and purpose. Then there is a brilliant person to learn from, live with, help out. An adventure unlike anything I have ever done. And a darned good story to boot.
I’ll explain it all more clearly in time. I know this is already far too much for one sitting. But I have to share this with you first, and then I’ll let you be. This from a letter I sent to a friend:
For two weeks, I’ve had this odd feeling in my stomach. I could not tell if it was strictly physical, or if it was emotional/spiritual taking a physical manifestation. Since it was just a nagging feeling, not pain, I kept assuming the latter, but could not “get” the message. Seems like things were/are going so well.
It got so strong. Again, not painful, just would not go away to the point that I was constantly aware of it, could not ignore it, and it seemed to affect my breathing as if I needed to breath stronger and deeper, which up here at almost 10,000 feet elevation is going to be a challenge no matter.
Well, last night I got a letter telling me we’ll be living on the outskirts of town and travelling around and acting in a position of caretaker/caregiver I did not feel either capable of, nor what I signed up for. And we won’t be out at the ranch. And I’m thinking, wait, we’re really quiet folks used to very remote, I’ve not lived near town in twenty years, and I have Gunnar, I just don’t know, this is a big change from what we originally planned. And what about the writing? Writing this book – is that still the focus? I thought that was my calling and the greatest gift I could give.
Bob and I talked it over while we lay in bed at night and decided. We would do it no matter. There are many reasons, but one of the most basic is something to do with trust and love. That got us into this situation. We have to continue based on that.
Besides, if we were to remain, we would be bored. Yes, bored. Even here. Think of it this way: we’ve been here, done that. Same old/same old. We’re too comfortable now, and we’re too young still to be ok with comfortable. You might think it’s neat, but we’ve done this. Yesterday. Many yesterdays. We built it, dug it, cut it down, birthed it, trained it and /or dreamed it. Sure, we’re proud of it. But we need not be so attached to it that we can not see beyond, and find a little more depth and meaning. It’s that point and purpose thing. That matters. What’s the point and purpose of holding onto the shallow surface? Dive in!
Anyway, that’s what we decided. And this morning when I woke, there was another letter explaining the situation further. It was beautiful. And the crazy thing is, through all of her explaining all of her problems, she is the most brilliant, bright being. As she said, “I might be losing my eyesight, but not my vision.”
The journey may be taking on a slightly different path than we expected. But maybe, just maybe, it is a greater one.
Oh, and that feeling in my gut?
You get an appreciation for life when you’re surrounded by death, you know? Trees are that way for me.
Although decorating for and celebrating Christmas is something I love, the Christmas tree part just had never worked out well for me. First, Forrest was raised in the far north of California where in winter the only action on the one-lane hair-pin turn road beside the rare sighting of one of the reportedly two hundred people who lived scattered in those hills and you hope on those rare times the driver was not drunk and remained on the road which of course was not always the case, was the logging trucks on days they could make it through mud slides, the occasional snow storm, and ice slick like a buttered pan in the sharp curves of the dark draws. Clear cuts like patchwork quilts secretly surrounded us. We would walk through fields that were once forest. It was a way of life there, a steady source of income for as long as the trees were there and then they would move on.
Now we live amongst Beetle kill. Hundreds of thousands of acres dying around my home. The tip of the iceberg visible from the window I look out right now. A hillside more brown and grey than green. And I know next year will even be worse. These little beetles leave a mighty large wake behind them.
The idea of cutting a tree for pleasure is not very pleasurable right now. For years, we cut Christmas branches. Big boughs off of the underside of the giant trees from the Pacific Northwest. Asked the tree for forgiveness, dragged it home through the mud and rain, then hung it up with bailing wire attached to the uninsulated wall you could see right through to sunlight if there ever was, which was not too often in winter.
Here, even before the trees started dying, we set up a fake tree. Saved from the landfill. No one ever seemed to notice. Who would guess, these folks living so far away on the mountain wouldn’t even take one tree? We couldn’t. I guess that’s why we live here, and those that only think about taking… leave. (Ahhhhh… the mountain heaves a huge sigh of relief….)
The trees up here don’t need thinning. Man’s intervention, from what I see from this window, and any other window I’ve looked out of, has been more than plenty. Maybe leave the forest alone for a while. Though now you know it’s too late for that. We’ve got a half a million acres of matchsticks curing out there now.
But… if I may for a moment try to justify my actions… Forrest is coming home for Christmas. I want the house to be festive. You’ve got to have a Christmas tree. The big old trees I could normally poach a lower branch from are mostly already dead. Bob and I discuss bringing home a Beetle kill tree. A tree skeleton, brown and dried and stripped of needles. A sign of the times. Maybe start something new. Kind of misses the holiday cheer, we decide.
Let’s get a tree that needs to be gone, we say. You know, find one too close to the road. Nope. Nothing. OK, one too close to the trail? We walk for over a mile. This one is too big. This one too sparse. This one has enough room, see, you could ride a horse around it. Leave it. It’s hard to kill when you care so much. We keep walking.
We find a tree that I know from personal experience is one you have to kick your boots from the stirrups and lift up your legs to ride through. And that’s even riding my little Arabian. What if I ride Big Fat Mamma Tres, or heaven forbid, the draft horse Norman? Really, it should go. We’re convinced. This isn’t murder. It’s necessary. It has a purpose.
We took it. Dragged it home well over a mile from the horse trail across river. It’s here now dressed up with colored lights that we can’t plug in because it is cloudy today. The downfall of solar electricity. A bit of a bummer after nothing but blue skies for what seemed like months. Grey skies today, and not even the reward of snow.
It is dry. Too dry. Remember, I live at an elevation of almost 10,000 feet. It’s supposed to be winter here by now, big time, and this snow which is not here is what should feed the river next year. The headwaters of the Rio Grande, wild and free above and around me. The drought continues. Ten years and counting. This year appears to be the worst yet. Warmest, driest.
Mid day and the horses are out grazing on last seasons grasses now dried and brown. The hawks sweep low and are rewarded with moles and voles still above ground finding no solace beneath the leafless cinquefoil.
Farewell to open waters
Still I trust the process
as longer nights will
shed more darkness that
turns the river solid
or so it should
these things must
but have not yet
I am waiting to walk
on frozen waters
that now melt in the heat of
day passionless grey
skies skim over
Meaning nothing more
than the promise of returning
Which where I find myself
now unable to escape
the slow process of
silencing the river
Fall between open fingers
That try to hold onto
What will not remain
the mountain turns
soundless as the river
freezes over and my
future lies before somewhere
in the twisted silver path thick
I think of mercury from a broken
thermometer dropped on a hard
wood floor and
Holding no more weight than
a leaf from last season
scattered in the wind
I watch hillsides
fade to grass pale as snow
Something about expectation. They made this one up to be so profound. I was hoping, of course.
They said it was life changing. Those were their words. What they told us when they came back from “the elusive waterfall.” So we went looking for it. Twice. The three of us. Bob, Gunnar and me. It used to be four. And every day like yesterday, I still wish to share these special places on the mountain, our mountain, his mountain, with Forrest.
I’m going through yesterday’s pictures, sharing a few but wish you could see them all though you might get as bored as Bob and think maybe a few hundred is more than enough.
I’ll start with this. I’m no cinematographer, but Bob suggested I try to capture the sound of water flowing beneath frozen surface of the creek in a hidden draw along the mountain. An intimate sound. Not very “visual” but I think you might get the point: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ClLSFqAdN0E&feature=youtu.be
Seeking the obscure destination, the life changing waterfall. Not the words I came up with, but ones I held onto. Ready to have my life changed. Maybe I say it wasn’t a big deal after all. Yet take a few minutes to reflect and maybe you’ll see it was. That’s how it happens sometimes. Not all at once. Not obvious. Slow like water cutting rock.
that was their
thing not mine
though I confess I
and what I found was
and the love
of my husband
of getting my partner
off a mountain
with a blown out
knee and funny if you
knew this was not
the first time
the dog and
I scrambling this precarious
incline on all fours
and I was scared as
we slipped down a slope which
doesn’t seem like
much unless you were there
because we had to see
more and it was
I guess I was expecting something else. I thought we’d get there and be bowled over and everything would be new and different and wonderful. My manuscript sold, my dog behaving perfectly, my son finding his chosen path, my grey hair turned brown and my wrinkles smoothed over, our property sold, our debt gone and all these ideas for the next book I’m working on just flowing like water from my mind onto paper…
After getting over the initial shock that this was cool, but that’s about it, I started to see.
Life changing experiences. Are what we make them. Do we allow ourselves to be affected, and grow and change or do we hold on to what we were yesterday and think we want tomorrow without seeing what is in front of us today?
My life is the same today as it was yesterday, only my legs are more sore, and nose a bit sunburned, both of which are fairly regular. But me, I am different. Not just today, but every day. Some things in life I don’t want to change. That’s a tough one. Figuring out what we can carry with us into tomorrow. For starters, I’ll carry my husband, if need be. Especially if those knees quit him again.
Down by the
Where hoar frost grows thick
In frozen embrace under
And you and I
In so many layers
Though our hands touch
Through thick mittens
We pause over frozen waters
As the raven flies above
And the snow around us is
Marred by the last tracks of elk
Only there can we hear
The cry of moving waters
With depth greater than
Words we share
That shatter the silence
I read somewhere recently of the horse being the dolphin of the land
Then may I call this heavy frost the fish scales of winter
If you walked with me now along the north facing slope, perhaps you’d never notice.
The snow from a few weeks ago has held, now dry and packed, we walk on top with our boots and take twenty steps before falling in. This aged snow now turning to these fascinating crystalline fields of frost. In the trees you might think it odd that the snow is dappled with pine needles. Scattered randomly like in a childs drawing of cows in a field. Do you know what that means? The trees above are dying. Beetle kills. Needles fall like rain drops in the wind.
Perhaps we stop by a live Blue Spruce. It would be a small one. The little ones have not all been taken. At least, not yet. We notice the aroma.
Sap. Sweet life. A smell I have almost forgotten. For now it is rare.
We stop and close our eyes and soak it in, the sweet breath of the tree, inhaling to the depth of our soul. And we smile.
Some days I’m out there alone (and I mean really alone – miles and miles from another human being) and I’m blown away. I’d like to come up with a more eloquent term, but it’s raw and it’s real and simple as it seems, it feels right. Blown away. By her beauty. Her silent strength. Her still power. Arms of wind that enwrap me as I stand on the breast of her mountain and listen to the last cry of open waters.
Trying to keep up with my imagination. The songs and sounds I want to share. She soars alone with wings silver and delicate as the frost forming on the north facing slope. I remain grounded. I run to catch up with her but am never quite there. Ideas brimming and bubbling. The lid rattles, ready to explode.
And there I am, doing no more than stirring a pot of green chili, tossing out hay to my horses, washing dishes and hanging clothes on the line we strung up stairs beside the bed, for frozen jeans take too long to dry.
As Julian mentioned recently, “In a busy world where true literacy is so rare, many people (I think) prefer to look at pictures…”
I hope then, this will do for now. And even then, there is so much more I wish you could see, wish I could share with you…