“I cannot cause light; the most I can do is try to put myself in the path of its beam.”
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
The western horizon turns cotton ball white almost every afternoon. It’s one of the pleasures of living in the high desert, this ability to watch giant clouds marching toward the city on their way to the Sandia Mountains. Sometimes they hold moisture and in such cases the clouds are a menacing grey; still, light or dark, they’re saviors protecting us from the intense sun.
When rain does come late on a summer day, it is glorious. My heart does a little flip-flop when I hear the sound of water drops atop the metal box of my “swamp cooler” (air conditioner with water-cooled pads) just outside my apartment window. Opening the door and standing on the porch, the rain falls on the palms of my hands in largely spaced pellets as I lengthen my arms away from my body. I get a good soaking from head to toe if it’s a particularly monsoon-like storm. After the clouds pass, rosemary, sage and lavender fill my neighborhood with their scents. I often pick a few wet sprigs to keep in the kitchen or to sprinkle in my bathwater.
This year, we ended winter early, having received barely a flake of snow, and the blessed transitional season of spring seemed never to appear. Summer arrived in February. Now, in July, the rainfall is moody. Evasive. From my west-facing living room I see bright white clouds inching toward me, framed in baby blue. It is Sunday. 4:00. The sun won’t set until 8:30 or so. I hope there’s moisture somewhere in the crowd of clouds. If the city doesn’t receive the rain, more deservingly, the flora and fauna in the mountains will soak up any cloud bursts.
This life. Living alone. It’s been a rough year, though not necessarily a dramatic-rough, not a loud-and-boisterous-rough. The challenges crawled into my life, catching me off guard only after they’d been here for a while. The only true surprise was my dear aunt’s death in May, unexpected after a routine hip replacement surgery (isn’t 77 years of age supposed to be the new 47?). Expected but still uncomfortable were the effects of quitting my job before finding another, and managing flare-ups of an autoimmune disorder that attacks my thyroid gland.
I’ve been sad, uncertain, lost, scared. Exhausted.
Isn’t this how it is? Dry spells. Floods of things.
Yet, in addition to friendships, this writing community, and conversations with kind folks, weather and landscapes sustain me. Indeed, here in New Mexico, they’re the first things you notice; they essentially smack you in the eyeballs upon arrival:
The burning sun in the summer followed by (the hope for) cooling rains.
The massive sky in every shade of blue imaginable, but beginning and ending its daily appearance in purples, pinks, oranges, reds.
The crisp, freezing winter air, often a surprise to newcomers who’re deceived by the cheerful sunshine.
Full-arc rainbows stretching across this vast sky when the light is, of course, just right (and it often is).
And the 360 degree views, from nearly anywhere here:
West: five volcanoes atop a long mesa (an elevated cut of land) overlooking the Rio Grande.
South: smaller mountains, lush river valley farmland, and giant cottonwood trees with heart-shaped leaves ablaze in yellow during the autumn months.
East: the towering sunset-pink Sandia Mountains.
North: and there, off in the distance, the enchanting red rock cliffs, massive volcano bowl, and lush wilderness of the Jemez Mountains.
Bearing witness to all of this, I feel less alone. There’s a sense of freedom but I also feel small, almost belittled, in my humanity. This is a good thing. When I’m trapped in my head, when my own thoughts cause me worry and anxiety, it helps to know I’m not all there is.
Even so, as a singleton, there is no escaping the aloneness. Everywhere I turn, there I am. Finances, a good-fitting job, health: there is no “we,” no duo, no herd of roommates or family. I am my own nurse, cook, accountant, energy balancer.
I choose this life of home solitude.
I begin my new job in August.
The sun shines forcefully down from the sky, then dims as clouds sail eastward toward the Sandias. Rain reaches my desert herbs, my hands, today.
In addition to online and in-person gifts of friendship, how else may I feel comforted than to take in the season’s art?
How else than to know such a stumbling, solo life as my own exists amidst such beauty?
“Standing or sitting,
I know not what to do.
Though I tread the earth,
My heart is in the skies.”
The Seasons of Time: Tanka Poetry of Ancient Japan