Saturday, August 27, 2011

Where the Wild Things Are!

Its gorgeous today, after 2 days of much needed rain, in a season of record breaking heat and very, very little moisture. Coyotes have recently snatched at least 2 small dogs, there is barely a rabbit to be seen and a female bear and her 2 cubs have been spotted on the mesa, moving away - in the ways bears do- from humans and dogs. They are headed to the river,  probably hoping for a nice compost pile or two to tide them over on their journey.
   The mountains appear to be close to my home but they are really miles away. These bears have had many homes and dogs to avoid and miles of arroyos and open land to navigate. Staying alive is a fierce inspiration.
   Many homes have been built over the 30 years that i have lived on this mesa and we now have 1 mile of pavement. But this area remains a spacious landscape where wild and domestic life co-exist and nature makes her wild self well known, whether or not we care to know her! 
      The dictionary defines Wild as: "Living or growing in the natural environment; not domesticated or cultivated."  
    Nature is wild; and living in a place where we have to engage with that wildness is a blessing and a challenge.
       I now have a very different relationship to the elements that I did as a kid in Brooklyn. At that time a good snowstorm meant a day off school, and the opportunity to play in snow drifts. Rain was a source of entertainment when i could trace raindrops on the windows, but it "ruined" picnics and it was awful to be on the subway, packed in with dozens of wet people.  I never considered where my drinking water came from and the tap never ran dry. Water was something to cook with, bathe in, or use to wash dishes, but never offered as a drink!  Its common to offer a glass of water to guests in Taos!
    When i was in grade school I realized that the earth had been covered with cement by human beings - that without that cement I would be walking on the same earth that lay untended in the lot that i passed by on my way to school.  I was stunned. Who did that and when! and why?
      I was reading The Secret Garden at the time and wanted a secret garden of my own quite desperately. Since then I have discovered a secret garden, the one that grows inside me and can be expressed outside myself.  
    The garden inside me is wild.
     The icy winter winds in NYC made walking to work in Manhattan a bitter journey. It could be exhilerating i never considered the purpose of wind in the great scheme of things. I never saw wind at work, connecting us to all parts of the world, till I moved to New Mexico 42 years ago.
     Earth, water, fire, air and space are unescapable, active and welcome elements in my life on the mesa. They are WILD and their wildness teaches me and rejuvenates me and inspires me in simple and profound ways.
      I drink my well water, its delicious, and during seasons of little rain we conserve it, saving the dish water and using it to water plants. The wind blows quite fiercely in the Spring and when fires happen hundreds of miles away we are reminded that we live on the same globe, all of us in it together. Its an important reminder.
       It was 24 below zero this winter, with very little snow.  These cold days made me acutely aware of the blessing of a sun rise! Our ancestors knew that, and sang to the sun at dawn.
       I have learned to appreciate the necessity of snow here, not just as something beautiful on the mountains but as a crucial element for life on the mesa. Our slow growing, beautiful pinon trees need snow. Without snow they are vulnerable to insects and many acres of forest land has dead and dying trees. We and all living things here depend on snow and the precious insulation and water it provides.  And its "Wild water" that we need, there is no way a well can keep this 8 acres alive! 
     There is other wild life that journeys across the mesa. Deer come by when they can, night hawks make their nests on the ground among the sagebrush, flickers and finches and hummingbirds, titmouse and chickadees, raucous pinon jays and of course the sky-grazing ravens, who are a source of wonder as they swoop across the sky, riding the currents.
     An occasional hawk is here, and now and then owls, and songbirds i never quite manage to see. There are fewer snakes, because the dogs discourage those, but large, slow moving tarantulas make their way to and from their underground nests, depending on the season.  I could go on and on naming "smaller and smaller wildlife."
    I am reminded of a morning prayer at Zuni, during Shalako. I was told that the prayer, which is sung while stars are still in the sky, is praying to/for and naming every part of life, starting with the small unseen molecules that we evolved from.  I remembered that yesterday, and then picked up a book called Thinking Like a Mountain, Towards a Council of All Beings, which encourages us to remember those humble molecular beginnings.
     I think that the Council of All Beings has always been in session. Our interconnectedness with the elements that sustain us is inescapable, but our appreciation of that connection and our active participation has been lacking.
    Regardless,WE ARE, like it or not, relatives of the Wild Things, and if we listen carefully and move just a little slower we can feel it, that wildness that still lives in us and all around us.    

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Sitting on the Ledge

  I often learn about myself and human nature in general, observing the creatures that i share the planet with.  Just the other day i heard a rattling sound that seemed to be coming from my woodstove. This usually indicates that a bird has somehow flown down the chimney pipe and is struggling in an inch or two of (luckily) cold ash. I have never figured out how or why they do that.
     I carefully opened the stove lid. Yup. There it was, a small grey bird, a little finch of some kind almost the same color as the ashes. I closed the lid, got a small towel and tried to gently capture him so i could release him/her out into the blue sky from which she came.   
    No such luck. She flew past me, hit the wall, fell to the floor, stumbled for a few minutes and then flew up onto the ledge of the clerestory that runs the southern length of my home.The clerestory is a 50 ft expanse of glass, made up of 7 separate windows, that provides solar heat for the house in the winter.
    Our cat, startled by the commotion and my involvement in it, decided not to chase the bird, and ran and hid in the bedroom! A decision I very much approved.
   Now I had a small bird throwing herself repeatedly against the glass.
   i tried to coax her off the ledge with a straw broom, but only succeeded in displacing quite a bit of dust onto the floor. I talked to her, "showing" her the open door just a few feet from where she sat on the ledge.  That did not seem to work either.
   I hoped she'd eventually get tired enough that i could use a ladder, pick her up with a cloth and take her outside.Then I gave the broom, and the bird, another chance. "Come on," I said with enthusiasm, whisking the broom along the ledge, "there's the open door, liberation awaits you!"
  Lo and behold, she hopped from one window ledge to another, flew to the open screen door, clung to it for a moment and then, when my back was turned, flew away.
   I've been seeing her since then, in the branches of a tree beside my house.
   I was reminded of a Mayan healer saying to me, "Rose, you bang your head against the wall, instead of walking through the door!" My response at the time was that I didn't see the door, otherwise I'd use it!
   I have many doors in my home, several of them lead outside.
   So i wonder, am I still inclined to throw myself against the glass, seeking the sky, but somehow not seeing the door that stands open, the way to life,  liberation and the spaciousness sky I seek?
   Are you?