You haven't heard form me in a while. It's been a busy year. Brief synopsis- the house in Rhinebeck sold 30 days after my friend Judith Feng Shuie-ed it after it had been on the market for over a year. The right family bought it, too. Children, a dog, the works. The house I had fallen in love with in Santa Fe had been bought by someone last winter- but no! The deal had fallen thru- and so here I am sitting on the porch, dog sprawled at my feet (still wet from the river,) looking at the garden and writing to you.
It was a good move, coming here. There are 2 places I feel at home; the southwest and the Adirondacks of NY. 2 hard, scrappy, difficult places. Both also essentially beautiful. While New Mexico has little water, The Adirondacks often get more than their share- as witnessed by Hurricane Irene last summer, which followed bad spring flooding when the snow melted. My little valley up there was one of the hardest hit places by Irene. Fema and all. Here in Santa Fe you'd be shot if you used a sprinkler on a lawn.....and no one has lawns. You have stones, or dirt, or cement, and rain barrels under your down spouts from the roof to water what plants you do have. Santa Fe is 2 miles up- so we have snow and skiing in winter, but in town by early afternoon most of it's gone. The Adirondacks are often 20-30 below, with mountains of snow and ice. You pay serious attention to weather in both places.
I read this book called The Wind in a Jar, by an anthropologist named Farella. It's a slim volume about the problems of trying to capture a culture- how impossible it is to say "The Navajo believe X" when in fact some don't. In any case, he describes a fellow anthropologist's interview with an old Hopi man, and their discussion of the Hopi creation story. According to the story, the Hopi lived in the rough, difficult high mesas of the desert for a long time, and then migrated north- perhaps into what is now Colorado- where there was water, lots of game, and good soil for crops. Eventually the Hopi returned to their original home in the mesas and high desert. The anthropologist asked the old man why his people had returned to this hard, difficult place when they had been in greener, less arid climes, where hunting was good, and water plentiful? The old Hopi told him that "In those easy places our religion, our way of life, would not survive." Farella goes on to say "Their religion, their way of life requires close attention to things. They need to watch closely that world around them, look for order in it that allows them to life there. .... Their ceremonies make note of that pattern. They mark the moments in it that matter. They punctuate time and are a celebration of it." He goes on to talk about how we perhaps have misinterpreted the importance of their ceremonies. It isn't that the rain won't come if the ceremony is late, or not done properly. The wrong is in forgetting the tempo of their world. The wrong comes from not having paid attention to- or not knowing what matters.
This struck me like quiet lightening.
I need to be where people naturally pay attention, where the organic rhythms of our planet are considered, and contemplated, noted and acted upon. In difficult environments you have to pay attention- to the birds, the bugs, the clouds, the rain, the seasons. I'm hardly a "nature girl"in the sense of running barefoot up mountains, camping on rocky ground, eating freeze dried food and feeling neutral about being eaten by bugs while I try to sleep on those rocks. But I do need to feel connected to the balance of the natural world. I get queasy when I am not aware of what the sky is doing. I get cranky when I'm in shoes all the time and haven't felt the earth with my soles for too long. Santa Fe and my Adirondack home town both require that attention to the natural world. People are in partnership with it. Periodically it beats us up- yup- and we bow before it, humbled and wide awake.
Wide awake. That's the part the buddhist in me responds to. I don't want to control nature- neither do the native tribes. I just want to notice what is happening, and I don't want to inflict harm. I don't really like the idea of water only coming down the river bed when men open the dam a bit-to celebrate Earth Day... but damn it was beautiful down there. It was a celebration of water, the lifeblood of the planet. The new plantings have taken and are leafing out, the children and dogs were running and gleeful, the bright green of the new tree leaves against that deep blue sky practically hurt my eyes. The rolled up cuffs of my jeans are still cool and damp and I bet there is sand in them when I unroll them. Bliss.