I woke the other morning in a borrowed trailer parked by my son’s house in Hereford, Arizona, to the realization that, “we’ve actually done it!” I feel a myriad of emotions. The desert night was cold and clear and the propane was not yet hooked up so we slept bundled under several blankets. The sunrise colors that greeted us over the desert mountains were as lovely as their cousins who bid us a good sleep the night before. For all the stress of a rather abrupt leave-taking from our former life, my morning mood was remarkably calm and relaxed.
This step into the unknown has left me with somewhat of a disconnected feeling, as if I am no longer a part of what I used to call, “life.” I haven’t technically retired. I tried that and it didn’t stick. I am a writer, perhaps a teacher, and who knows what else. I must continue to do the work that is mine to do, whatever it may be. But I’m no longer doing it from familiar foundations and assumptions. It is a strange feeling, but one which I think will open new vistas.
So much of my culture appears to me as if seen through a window, out there somewhere but not really a thing of which I am a part. People are precious to me. The natural world of mountains, deserts, and oceans remains mysterious and magic for me. Love and compassion filter through my days as sunshine through forest leaves. But the noise of the machinery that drives economics, politics, media, and all the other illusions that are still trying to masquerade as life, seems to be fainter and has an unreal quality about it.
When this cultural cacophony does rise up and grab my attention I feel like a deer frozen in the headlights of a semi-truck, not sure which way to turn when confronted by this massive tonnage of power bearing down on me. As a result, I am learning to avoid the heavily traveled roadways, literal and metaphorical, and stay in the physical and emotional territory that is calling to me as Home: back roads rather than highways; outside rather than inside; silence rather than noise; direct rather than mediated; natural rather than artificial.
Yet I still find it difficult to think of living mainly out of doors in the company of the natural world. It is a beautiful day today, but the wind is picking up and the comfort of my son’s house beckons me inside. I’m forcing myself to remain on the porch – as if gazing at the blue sky and the shifting shadows on the Huachuca Mountain range is some sort of difficult discipline! Whether it is here in the winter beauty of the Sonoran Desert or the lush forests of northern California in the summer, remaining present with the land itself is an ability I have not been well-trained to master.
So many lessons lie ahead; some of which intimidate me, others of which I am eager to learn. Carving out a life that is counter to decades of conditioning remains a demanding task and I look for help from those who have preceded me on this path. Their number is much greater than you would anticipate. They populate the pages of history and they wander, often unseen, through today’s world. They live in cities and in the wilderness. They live in families, communities, tribes, and in solitude. They can’t be defined in any culturally conditioned way. Like me, they are strangers in a strange land, but when we find each other, we are no longer strangers, we are a tribe, we are at home with the Earth. If humanity is to have a future it will belong to such as these.