A white horse stood in the middle of the circuitous dirt road by the old railroad tunnels. I jumped out to “say hello” and direct it off the highway. It felt as though we had to stop. As the horse and I stood looking into each others’ faces, a black dog came running and barking from a trailer and a man in blue jeans and a cowboy hat following after him.
“I don’t know where that horse belongs”, he said, “He might a got out from up the road. You can go head and bring him on inside the gate, jus so he don’t get hit”.
His name was Daniel. Daniel of the Jemez valley. Daniel of the red-rock full-moon hot-spring I-get-to-live-this-everyday of-my-life, Daniel. It would cost someone millions of dollars to buy land in the heart of Jemez, New Mexico—let alone to also have horses. I envied him.
After the usual small talk about our travels, Daniel demonstrated himself as a generous, sociable person.
“Y’all wanna see the sweat lodge I built?”
How could I possibly say no to this? We took the grand tour of Daniel’s domain as the white horse wandered around the dusty property, safe from harm’s way. There was an old yellow school bus with handmade blue tarp porch makings, and a white trailer with busted-out windows.
“That’s the guest-house. There’s a problem with the electricity and fire hazard. I don’t sleep there. Whenever my niece comes she sleeps there”.
We walked toward a chest-high, dome-like structure covered with blankets. Daniel and his blue jeans ducked in first. The blankets were held up with bamboo sticks bent so that the sky shone through arcs of blanket segment. Rocks, thermostat and metal vent-tube crowded together with three men and a dog. Daniel built this because he wasn’t walking fifteen miles everyday. Daniel was able to create this warm, comforting, useful place because he could come back to it at the end of every day, and not have to pack it up every morning.
This is when I accepted my humanness, if that is even a word. This is when I realized that making a home, building walls is one of the most natural things a human animal can do. This is when I had the idea that although we are alienated from nature by the walls we construct, in denying these walls we can learn that constructing walls is one of the most natural things a human can do. Talk about circular logic! So, would it be correct to say that humans are naturally separated from the natural world? Great. I guess this is what is meant by the story of Adam and Eve.
Why, then, do I feel the urge to journey? Though I now have my four walls securely built, why do I long to escape them? What is the relationship between identity and migration?
We were cast out. We hit the ground running. Before we stayed in one place, we moved. It has been only twelve thousand years out of hundreds and thousands of years that we have been homebuilders. Both of these furrows run deep within our minds; we are both nomad and non-nomad. I guess teaching global history for three years 2,000 miles from home wasn’t enough to make me appreciate this fully.
Walls or none, in our minds we are limitless. In our minds we can sell all our furniture, forsake our comforts and venture into the unknown. In our minds we are at the center and everything will always be o.k. How funny to think that one human being would ever challenge the forces of nature. How can this be? Confronted with true blackness and silence and total living stillness, I felt always on the brink of being consumed. How had I even brought myself to this point if not for there being within me somewhere true blackness and silence and total living stillness? This is the essence of [our] nature: that which consumes. It’s no wonder everyone doesn’t venture into the wilderness more often.
If Plato is right, then there is no need to worry, entropy will take care of everything. The wilderness within us will find the wilderness without us, even if a few walls may be necessary.
I’ll take the master bedroom, thanks.
It would be hard to climb this after a few drinks. yikes. how did they do it?
But it was definitely worth it once you got up there.
It was a long day. Now it’s time to rest in my cave. I hooked up said cave to electricity source. The perfect dwelling.
insert picture of full moon here.