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Pueblo & Chiricahua Apache in Southwestern New Mexico

I’m sitting in my rig in a beautiful valley in southwestern New Mexico. Spring is just starting to find its way up here with the quail beginning to move and the greening of the grass. At 5500 feet, winter still exists here, just north of the Mexico border. The sun is out and the crisp mornings precede warm days.

We’re in a valley that looks into the Gila Mountain Wilderness. The snow capped peaks top a landscape of weathered grass and sunflower stalks from the season past. The hills surrounding us are covered with juniper and some manner of dwarf, western oak I have yet to meet.

My rig, the bus we converted in mid-pandemic during 2020 has died. A series of mechanical misfortunes has taken her permanently from the road and she was delivered by semi sometime around noon today. Her resting place will be a friend’s off-grid homestead where the bus’s independent innards can be put to good use.

How did we get here?

Weeks have passed since we found out that the bus was likely done with unassisted road travel. The first three weeks were spent just sitting out in the desert a few miles from the Colorado River and the Cali-Arizona border. We’d run into the truck stop for water and find a ride into town to resupply food. Each morning I went on a long walk and took my time picking at yellow and orange honey agate, red and white fire agate, and pink hued morganite. The rockhounding was a pleasant distraction from the building and rebuilding of contingency plans that kept changing, and the changing of the plans was another layer of distraction from actually feeling the loss of our home. Creeping in at the edges was resolute want for some manner of something to come in and rescue my tribe and I from our circumstance just to avoid having to feel the reality.

We were stuck. Really stuck. Our home was on its last leg, and whatever dreams we had of the future were suddenly called into question. This experience triggered every one of my outcast and homeless patterns, bringing me back into a space of my forgotten child at times. The splitting of homes, the uncertainty, the never feeling safe wherever it was I called home was a background to every moment.

I’m still working on my feelings. I can be intermittent in my willingness to look and discover rather than avoid and repress. I’ve battled the numbness, opening space to an antsy anxiety that threatens to consume me with busyness at times. I know the busyness to be false as well, having spent two decades busy with a farm that could not solve my inner dilemma of trauma and response, the past drawn into the present then the future. Dispair. Confusion. Lost. Anxious. Where’s that damn feeling wheel when I need it?

Yet, we were. . .
Well fed.
Well watered.

Safer in an empty desert than I ever felt in my childhood.

I shut my eyes and return to spaces and places I have pushed down for decades. Getting eviscerated by a so-called parent for taking the wrong bus home after becoming confused about which house I left the night before. Watching my brother get dragged from my mother’s house by a so-called step-parent for the same reason.

We were broken the fuck down and we were. . .

Well fed.
Well watered.

Safe. How pleasant. How quaint. How novel.

Broken down and safe.

Space to walk. Space to breathe. Space to attend to our needs and have conversations about what might be possible as next steps.

I’ve spent tens of thousands of miles on the road. I’ve slept in Walmart parking lots, on the edge of the interstate, in empty forest service campgrounds surrounded by thousands of straight trunked Ponderosa pines, and in the side yards of new and old and rediscovered friends.

Now, at the end, I’m just staring blankly at a screen wondering not so much at what comes next, but how I came to be here.

Why is it that at every major transition in my life I’ve found myself catapulting myself into an unknown that seems far safer than where I came from. Getting a ride from a stranger is a stronger betting hand than sticking to the stagnation in which I found myself mired because it is my normal. I’ve driven off the north rim of the Grand Canyon with no brakes. I’ve hitched across the country. I’ve thrown myself at a college that offered the shelter of distance between me and my family. I’ve thrown myself into a homestead in a distant universe full of white pines and balsam and birch and aspen and know that the line between bioregions might as well be a world apart from where I came.

I dismembered my life up over and over and over again to learn what?

I always felt homeless, as if I didn’t belong in the places that I found myself. Yet the opposite is just as true. I belonged as much away from whatever normal is just as much as I ‘belonged’ to where I came from, with the sticks and bricks and misery projected in order to keep someone in authority from feeling a fucking feeling they don’t want to feel.

If I embrace this belief that I do not belong and dig down to the root of it the possibilities open in a surprising way. I have the choice to continue in the self-isolation I have waxed and waned through most of my life, or I can accept a root premise that holds the possibility of remediation and transmutation. . . I am here. Wherever my feet find themselves, I’m here. It doesn’t really matter where or even when. I am here. There is no need to deep dive into the past and uncover the specific incidents that lead to here, the feeling itself becomes a guide to the beginning and end. No one is holding a gun to my head, there is no real threat to my safety in the present or future. I am here. I know how I feel. I know what I think. I have the ability to source my thinking and my feeling to its root, then question whether this (usually) familiar situation is real. When this process is applied, more often than not it returns to, “I am here.” If I can recognize that I am, really and truly, here then I have options and choices again. How, where, why and when become relevant questions for my next steps.

So, what do I really want?

Because if I’m here, I know I can go anywhere I choose from here.

Where might you go, having untethered yourself from the chains of the past?

What might you be capable of with increased bandwidth and clarity and insight?

How might you choose to create a ripple of shift in this world?

What seeds might you choose to plant?

I hope you found this triggering, because in our present triggers we find the ways we have abdicated ourselves. For childhood trauma survivors, in many cases, this abdication was imposed from outside ourselves by humans we believed to be the closest thing to god we could imagine. It is in the reality check that empowerment comes.

What am I thinking/feeling?

Why am I thinking/feeling this?

Is this thinking/feeling new or familiar?

If it is familiar, is [it] really happening again?

How can I see this circumstance differently? How can I reframe it?

about author


A dad, a kid, a kelpie and two cat brothers rubbertramping around the country doing our best to live authentic lives while awakening to our birthright. 

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