Jun 252008

Every afternoon the clouds roll in, and every evening the smoke fills the air. It’s a thick haze that smells like charred Juniper and melted Pine sap, and turns the sunset a rusty gold. There are fires burning fiercely a hundred miles away in several different directions, and the late afternoon winds bring us a visceral reminder of how close one hundred miles really is. The rains may come any day, and the old people in the village anxiously scan the skies every so often, praying the clouds thicker and darker. Willing rain to wet the dusty ground.

Welcome to New Mexico: land of enchantment and wellspring of both fire and flood. There’s no gentle in between here, no “it’s all good” drone of mediocrity or absent minded mercy from place or people. The SW is renowned for its magic and spirit, and with all that personality comes a harsh intensity. The rural inhabitants of the area reflect this in their way and manner, often being both crusty and sweet, deeply private and hugely giving. To live here in this place and with these people requires a certain stubbornness, a good wild streak and a whole lot of perseverance.

To keep my little weedpatch going in the dry, windy weather I haul several buckets of water each morning to the garden. To get the dishes washed I haul another couple of buckets to the kitchen, and then back to chiseling out caulk out of the large broken window. Loba chops wood, getting a good store of wood built up in the shed before the rains come and drench every broken stick so wet they’ll never light. Wolf uses the small chainsaw to cut the wood down to a splittable size. Rain barrels get washed out and re-arranged beneath the roof spouts in preparation for the coming water. With no refrigeration, food has to be watched and processed carefully in this heat. Fresh killed meat must be dealt with immediately and cooked right away while veggies have to be wrapped and stored in the coolest possible place where critters won’t get at them (hopefully).

Homesteading is both idyllic and hard, time consuming and ultimately freeing. Visitors sometimes wonder what we do all day, since we don’t go to typical 8-5 jobs and some even imagine we spend much of our time just hanging out in the shade or idling by the river. This always gives us a good hearty laugh, since our work hours are more like 7-11, with Loba often getting up at about 5:30 to get the wood stove going and breakfast started and with Wolf and I sometimes working till midnight on projects, student curriculum and emails. Even Rhiannon works much of the day, dividing her time between outdoor work, kitchen help, school (year round) and exuberant bouts of playing in between. And when we grownups do take time out to play, it’s still intense and focused on concentrated nourishment. Of course, because our work is what we love, it all feels rewarding and fun even when we’re exhausted at the end of the day. Indoor work is accompanied by great music and outdoor music is accompanied by birdsong and wind.

It’s the balance to it all — the hard and the fun, the intensity and the bliss, the work and the play, the smoke in the air and the river washing its scent from our skin. One doesn’t come without the other, as life never comes without death, and it’s up to us to notice and take it in. To give each aspect its due respect and ceremony while integrating the whole of the experience into our beings and selves, continually becoming more connected and more ourselves.

  8 Responses to “Fire & Flood: Finding Balance in the Extremes”

  1. You paint a wonderful image for me, of your life! Sounds like you live in another time.
    Amazing that you do not have running water for dishes and gardening, or a refrigerator, but you can get on line?
    Beautiful post!

  2. Hi Tammie, so glad you enjoyed the post!

    We have satellite internet powered by limited solar electricity. We also have just enough power to run the stereo through our laptops so we can have lovely music and to sometimes use a blender to make pesto (although we also use a hand powered blender for when we’re short on power).

    Rhiannon was ~shocked~ yesterday to realize that not everyone’s power comes from the sun. She was literally dumbstruck. Of course, this is also the child that runs away from flushing toilets (they’re scary, and they’re stealing all the water!) and tries to stop water from flowing down the drain in people’s houses because she’s worried about them running out of water. However, she is perfectly comfortable to ride hanging on the roll bar of the jeep in and out of the canyon LOL.

  3. Your work being what you love…that is the way all people should live!! I love reading about your lives, and am striving for the same depth of experience and joy in my life and world. I wish everyone could read about, and begin living this message…

  4. Hello and thank you for your response. Wonderful that you are using solar power for various things. Wonderful too that you can share with us all on line!

    I smile and giggle of your Rhiannon tales. How wonderful to be aware of the treasures of energy in all it’s various forms.

    Also your comfrey pictures (and post) are lovely.

  5. Every post you write takes me on a journey of the senses– thank you for your amazing gift of language, which allows me to connect with your corner of the earth so far from my own!!! And I hope that your rains come soon…. (: Sasha

  6. Absolutely beautiful and very inspiring Kiva. Thanks for doing it over & over…

  7. That was amazingly poetic and dream-inspiring. You have a wonderful gift with your words 🙂

  8. Your life is what I would want mine to be if I could. My 3 1/2 year old grand daughter loves your pics of the flowers. I don’t guess I will ever come to New Mexico but I have always dreamed of it. I feel like New Mexico and Arizona are where I would belong. I love reading about your life there.

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