The rural urbanite (or urban ruralite), and loving it.

city porchIn the last year I haven’t written on this blog very much. I have been collecting lots of images and stories to post, but my family and I have been gathering our strength (and our belongings) for new adventures that have taken much of our focus, spirit and strength. Transitions are time consuming endeavors. Often exhausting and scary in their unknown beauty. But also just in the sheer number of tasks to get to where we want to go, even under the best of circumstances.

And right now, our adventure is learning to live as a family in two places, in the city and in the country, in one place where we walk to the neighborhood grocery (or Target) and in another place where we “drive into town” to get our groceries. We are learning to live on our own in many ways, and be more independent. It means that I have to do the dishes all the time now, and that Ric has to cook sometimes. I am trying to fill the freezer full of food for him. And I have to do my own laundry too. But it also means other things too, like growing up and appreciating our roles. It means being flexible (oh my god!) and making due. And it means changing (even more OH MY GOD!).

And after a few months, the differences are quite remarkable, and beautiful to say the least. Urban living is glorious in its ease and convenience. A gallon of milk is across the street from me right now as I write, and so are a new pair of blue jeans. And I have bought a couple pair. And even a jog in the neighborhood park where there is no mud and lots of gorgeous grass and picnic tables is right there. People I’ve never seen before are picnicking, playing frisbee, and running their dogs. The sheer beauty and diversity of people everywhere at any point in time is simply lovely. And I am simply one. Beautiful and anonymous as well.

italianos snowAnd at home, in the mountains, I can also run. In the mud, and snow. With a background of magnificent sky, mountain and plains that most people really never imagine. And when I hiked with my husband last weekend, we were alone. Just us and our dog, hip deep in snow for miles, laughing and having the world to ourselves.

These two worlds seem opposing at times. In one I need quiet, and in the other I need diversity, sounds and sights varied and delightful. In one I need space, and in the other I need chaos and busy city noise. And lucky for me, I have both, and can grow full from them both. They seem oppositional, and often in politics they are, but in real life, I think we need them both. I need both. Alone and together.

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Cultivating presence in DIY

Fence. Completed.

We believe in DIY in our household. There is almost nothing that we can’t do on our own. If we don’t know how to do it, we ask someone for help. That person is usually our neighbor because we all believe that he knows how to do everything. Sometimes we just have to figure it out.

My husband has been known to watch YouTube videos to learn how to fix certain parts (complicated parts like the dashboard) of his car. And then, actually fix it! We have built bathrooms, fences, and chicken coops, dug French drains and re-landscaped every part of our house at one time or another. DIY builds self reliance.

DIY also builds something else, presence. This weekend my husband and I had a marathon work weekend in the yard. We pulled weeds, built two rock walls, spread landscape fabric and hauled gravel. We painted our deck. We pulled more weeds. When I see my husband DIY, I see him in his true element, open, singing, hard-working and happy. I see the stress from his finance industry day job fall away. When he’s enthralled in DIY projects, there is an ease with the process, moving rocks and dirt from one place to another, and trusting the outcome. It is his creative action. It is his art.

That is the beauty of DIY in our household.

Fence. In progress.

Each of us have our niche. My husband will take on any household or car related project he can get his hands on. Going to the dump is as fun as taking apart the BMW. He and my son, with my neighbor, will spend hours on projects. And he has a list long enough to keep them busy for several years to come. The list is constantly shifting and growing based on what breaks, or who finds something too cool to pass up. But there are projects, lots of them, to keep everyone thinking and ending the day with sore muscles, a bit too much sun and a smile.

And me, I bake. Anything I can buy tastes better homemade. Pastries or fig pudding, mayonnaise or marshmallows. The journey of making my own and then sharing it with family and friends is, I think anyway, what truly makes the world go round.

Recently, my neighbor made bacon jam. She has a thing for bacon (don’t we all!) and she’s constantly trying out bacon recipes. Even though the bacon milkshake was not high on our list, she and I love the process of experimenting and perfecting. Me, I’m always in search of the most perfect melt-in-your-mouth cake recipes. But I’ll settle for creating my own recipe for the perfect kale juice or lettuce wrap too. It is a standard joke in my house that we never eat the same thing twice. I always say, there is more deliciousness in eating my new food creations.

In some ways DIY can be brutal. My hamstrings were aching like crazy by Sunday night. And DIY takes time. Sometimes I find myself all tied up in anxiety about how much time a project will take. I have a list of chores and other work that won’t get done because of the project. But 45 minutes into DIY, that list disappears from my mind. There are always chores, and there is always work. And in the end, my aching hamstrings felt so good. It was evidence of my hard work. I felt stronger. I mean, who doesn’t feel strong when they fill wheelbarrows with gravel and haul them around the yard all day! My husband always says that all his body aches and pains feel loosened up after a long DIY weekend. He lets the stress out of his shoulders, and relaxes his gait. DIY helps him become firmly placed in his self again, through the physical work, and he experiences life as it is. That is the beauty of presence.

That presence, whether gained through bacon, pastries or rock walls, makes for a good weekend. A good life. We didn’t finish our project, and my husband noted that there is so much more to do, but we could see the progress. We sat and enjoyed how clean and fresh the deck looked. We also felt satisfied; we savored our work and how it gives us hope. That is all good.

 

Newest rock garden. In progress.
Newest rock garden. In progress.
Homemade Apple Tart
Homemade Apple Tart

 

Snow in a mountain town

WProcessed with Moldivhen it snows, I mean really snows, our little town totally changes. The atmosphere completely shifts. Our town often has an air of depression surrounding it, but when it snows, that lifts immediately and those snowflakes bring in a feeling of celebration that is palpable. For the last week, the snow has heralded a beautiful celebration in our town. People arrive ready to ski. Children and teens take off to the valley, boards and skis in hand ready to catch new powder. My son brags about the runs he and his friends will do before any tourists even get up the lift. I remember what it was like when I first moved here, before the drought really hit hard. I remember what it is like to live in a ski town. The community that happens when it arrives. I remember that I love snow.  The stories that arrive with the headline “massive snowstorm blankets Taos Ski Valley.”

I also remember that I love making soup, warming up my house and snuggling up with a novel. I prefer to ski after the crowds have gone. I finished two novels this week, and to me that is almost heaven. It is worth celebrating the powder in the ski valley — I get to read! I do a bit of celebrating in the snow too — shovel the drive, chase the dog around and build the snow fort, but I also like to take advantage of town closing down. I can truly hibernate for a bit and let myself sneak away into a good book. And that is a change for me.

However we enjoy the weather, inside or out, it is good to recognize the good. The ease at which we move into and through more than a foot of snow (more the three feet in the mountains). It is more deliberate, and joyful. It is more hopeful even. That certainly makes me hope for more snow!

 

Sunset Project at Daylight Savings

Over the weekend the time of the sunset shifted by an hour. I adjusted by alarm to remind me to take my photograph. But I laughed because “sunset photo!” is becoming a part of our family evening. . . a family activity as we think about our evening walk or run, or part of our walk to the mailbox.

While it is not quite spring yet, and we had a big snow over the weekend, and it is beginning to feel like spring, and the snow is melting almost as quickly as its coming in. The mud is arriving with the warmth. So it seems a good time, with the time change, and the warming days, to re-cap the first few months of the Sunset Project.

The compilation of photos is beautiful. It reminds me of how beautiful my days are everyday.  It is so lovely to encounter such grandiose beauty each day, and such simpleness. Lucky me.

Here’s a few below, and if you want to see them all, check them out at Sunset Project.

Sunsets over Taos
collage2
Sunsets over Taos

Light (and dark) side of small towns

334_28045180546_1656_nYou can’t have a light without a dark to stick it in. ~Arlo Guthrie

Believing only in light and in the sun that drenches us more than 300 days a year in an attempt to avoid the shadows of real life distorts the real life we lead. An integral view of darkness and light, understanding them as “dependable companions” is especially necessary in small towns. If one thinks that there are no darks forces in small towns, just a bunch of shiny happy people in beautiful little quaint shops, disillusion will quickly seep in. I have seen many folks move to our Town in hopes of some bucolic place. They leave shortly thereafter scarred and scared at the existence of the dark side of living in with rural life.

Rural towns are places with big skies. My place, high in the desert mesa at the base of the mountains, is a place where vertigo is a part of a day simply because of the sheer size and scope of the landscape. And when it’s light, it can be scorching, dry and brutal. But at night, the coldness can be -20, and without the moonlight it can be difficult to see your hand in front of your face. Either can kill you. The contrast is one to remember. The contrast is and integral part of life.

To live in a rural area is to remember the balance of things and to make very conscious choices to embrace the good and deal with the challenges. Nationally rural areas have the biggest burden of poverty and the lowest access of educational resources. We have difficulty accessing health care. And we are a diverse bunch of hardy folks who are not necessarily always happy. We live within a set of contrasts that become part of us, and change us. We integrate the extremes into our lives and those extremes become more normal. Good or not, if one cannot embrace extremes and find your way through the maze in the middle, the southwest can be a very disillusioning space. But embrace the spectrum and there is more fullness and experience then one can take in.

We each make that choice.

Fall Festivals: Enjoying the best of the sunshine and small town beauty

Once the harvest is mostly complete, we sure do know how to have fall festivals.  Before the snow sets in and we all head indoors for the winter, the weekends are full of arts and crafts, wool, films, funnel cakes, chile and music.  Fall festivals in northern New Mexico always remind me of how truly beautiful the landscape can be, and the hospitality of small town people.  It is a glorious 70 degrees everyday, and as the days get shorter and shorter, we all seem to enjoy seeing each other out and about for the last few weeks before the snow comes in.  (At least we’re all hoping the snow comes in.)   The last two weekends, my family has enjoyed a couple of the festivals, the Hot Air Balloon Rally and the Dixon Art Tour.

Quilts along the main road, Dixon, NM
Floralmania in Dixon, NM
Beautiful piece at the Rift Gallery in Riconanda, NM
Catching the moon
Morning launch over Taos Valley
Ed from Pueblo Balloon