In the shadow of a mountain, I learned to respect what is plain to this world, the land, the weather and the wildlife. It’s hard to even believe as I sit here just 23 miles north of New York City that I was ever dug down in the canyon, work clothes and boots under the high sun. What I remember most vividly is the cattle coming down the road pretty fast and O flying across the pasture on his bay. My heart beat faster than I knew it could. It was the first time I had seen such a sight being just a transplanted city gal. I ran as fast as I could to get back to the house, over the fence without a care for my being, just wanting to get out of the way.
When I first went to that place, I didn’t really know what to expect. I didn’t know that I would have so much learning to do, about life, about myself. I thought I knew it all, after all I had been around the block a few times and finding myself in the high country of New Mexico was a choice. But learn I did and now I hold those lessons dear as I look back and wait for the moment when I can return.
I learned to wave at every truck that came down the road ‘cause that’s what you did and ‘cause your neighbors were important people. I learned it was too far to town to forget something at the market. I learned which wild weeds and herbs were valuable, what could be used in teas and cooking. Incredibly, I learned how to pull sap from a pinon tree. I learned it was called tremintina and that it had more uses than you could imagine. I learned how hard it could be to keep up with a quarter acre garden. Just wasn’t as easy or as pretty as Martha Stewart said it would be. But food grew and I learned how to put up for the winter and share with the ranch ladies nearby.
In giving, I did some receiving. I was taught how to make fresh tortillas from scratch and how to cook a pot of beans to perfection. I learned how to roast chili and preserve it till the next harvest.
I learned that you don’t mess around when the sky looks fierce, better to head on in or run the risk of being stuck in mud. I learned that chopping wood is back breaking work but worth it to heat your home. The warmth that a wood stove gives is like being wrapped in a security blanket.
I learned that some things in life are free, like the Christmas tree you cut from your property or the snack you have right from the apple tree down the road. The best thing that was free was the view, the beautiful mountains, the horses running in the pasture, the sunsets over the mountain, the way the dark just slipped down the canyon, the stars in a completely black sky and the song of the coyotes at night.
Being in that place was purposeful and even though I sometimes felt isolated and often longed for the lights and the doings in the city, it was good for me. I remember that place fondly and on most nights if I listen hard enough, I can hear the coyotes sing.