I have taken myself into exile to Northern New Mexico. A small house in the mountains. A wilder place than my city life. Existence is closer to the bone. It is time to write.
Only when I am far from the comforts of my daily life can I begin to explore the terrain of my interior landscape which has laid dormant for too long. I take a candle and begin to explore my soul. I run my fingers and hands over the surfaces I have forgotten about. I touch what is surprising and unexpected.
Soon the reality sets in as I face the void. A house empty, but for me. No cheer of a shared daily life with my spouse and friends nearby. No wine by the fire at night. Netflix movies. Long conversations. Kitty coziness. Bees in the backyard. Walks in the Bosque. My piano and music at my fingertips. The amenities of my favorite things whenever I want them— including a thermostat to crank the heat when the chill sets in. Life as I know it, in effect, has been erased.
Here everyday is a new adventure. I must feed the yawning mouth of the small wood stove in order to stay warm. I must gather wood and stoke the fire, which is really a dance with the flue. My body instinctively becomes attuned to the waxing and waning heat from this tiny stove.
I rummage through the pots and pans, missing all the special sizes and weightiness of our French Le Creuset set in the city. I long for my juicer, bouillon, matches, tape, fire poker and leather gloves for the fire. I miss my back roller, my special warm afghans and down comforter.
But here I am. Splinters in my hands. My body feeling the uneasy undertow of loneliness each night as darkness creeps around this small house. I’ve never felt the visceral longing for light so acutely. As our Northern Hemisphere slips into the darkness of Winter Solstice, I feel it in all my bones and tissue. The city is so full of lights and color, it mutes the experience.
I am here to learn to live differently for a season. To pry open my soul’s treasures and unseen contents. To come close to the holy on this land where the trees hold constant silent vigil, the birds dance in the sky and twitter in the bushes, and the water bubbles under the icy lid of winter.
Yesterday I saw a red tailed hawk. A massive bird that can blot out the sun as it flies. It perched in the very top of a tall conifer. I bowed. My Animal Speak book by Ted Andrews (St Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 1996) notes that the hawk may pop up when you begin to move towards your soul purpose more dynamically.
The horses came to the fence to greet me. One boy in particular kept me under his gaze, his long seductive eyelashes blinking.
This land is a place of raw vitality. Perhaps what is happening is a re-alignment of my body, soul, mind and emotions as the pure essence of this vital energy is poured into me day by day.
I relax, shift and release. I do not need to worry about finding my rhythm. It will find me.
COVID 19 has spent our time in strange ways that we couldn’t have imagined in 2020. Choosing to exile myself from COVID life in the city, and cut the final comfort ties, was about seizing the moment to go deeper in this time. To capitalize on an opening, a portal into a new way of being. I am not someone who is on the front lines, or an essential worker. Being “sheltered at home” has its own dread. I long to find some meaning in this long winter of despair as people face a rocketing pandemic. It is my way to be in prayerful solidarity and awareness with a suffering world.
I want to learn to live differently so when life returns to its cheerful, distracted fullness, I will be ready. When panic rises, how to quickly find that rooted place of calm? When cruelty and suffering are as endemic as the virus, how to drop into one’s heartspace? When it comes time to rebuild amidst the rubble of death and loss, what will be mine, or yours, to do? Who knows? Maybe we all are midwifing something we cannot yet know or see. Only feel. If we are willing to go into our interior virgin wildernesses during this Advent/Solstice season, perhaps what is being birthed there will be something of soul value for a hungry, broken public square in 2021? I can only hope.
Meanwhile, new habits are forming. I realize that I will not emotionally and spiritually survive if I do not begin to seed my days with new ways of being. We are such creatures of habit. I go to bed with the birds, as the veil of darkness falls. I awaken while it is still dark. I stoke the fire. I put on the hot water for tea and begin my day by writing. Then I must move my body. Dancing, yoga, walking in the bright morning sunshine. Saying hello to the land is like daily prayer. I sing to the new day. I feel the sap of this land rise in me. I am in love with this place, this time, this small adobe home. It was once a shepherds cabin—built maybe a hundred years ago, with 3 foot thick insulating dirt walls and giant windows. I am enchanted by the glow of the sun and the quietude in the early morning. The eclectic warmth of the owner’s taste. Antiques and textiles from around the world. Vibrant rugs and pillows. Art and light fill the walls and spaces.
There is no external measurement for success up here. I measure my days by a certain contentment with my life and ability to adapt and flow with all this newness. I lean into resilience and a deepening peace —even in the face of little that makes sense in the larger world and the uprooting of my small world.
I huddle near the fire for warmth and light. I form these words.
It is time to begin my day.