It helped that I was dirty, that I hadn’t showered in three days, and that what we called “shower” meant standing naked in the sagebrush in the late afternoon sun, in the middle of nowhere New Mexico, and lifting a hose over our heads.
It was the miracle of clean water every few days, how there’s nothing like being dirty to have you appreciate your innate smell, your skin.
It was the early mornings, so cold that all I could do was pull a pair of jeans over the long johns I’d slept in, then a sweatshirt on top of a t-shirt, a jacket and a beanie, and the way I wore those same clothes all day, every day, for days.
It was living out of a small suitcase; a couple of t-shirts, a pair of jeans, long sleeves, enough underwear to get me by, and a sweater, that kept things simple, eliminated choices, kept me less distracted and connected to something more essential, instinctual, more animal, more trusting of what was coming through me.
It was the way we cooked, keeping a pot on the stove for days, heating, re-heating, adding stock, a few more vegetables, an egg.
And those mornings – coffee, a fire and music – that woke something up inside of me, something clear, something more close to the bone.
It was also the mountains, and that endless New Mexico sky, the sagebrush, and the hawks overhead that had me pick up a pen and write without worry, without self consciousness, without the critical editor that can often accompany my task.
It was a rare energy that came through me, something that I didn’t often feel back home in the city where I juggled a million things and often felt distracted – mostly putting out fires – handling what was due the next day and not giving myself enough time to drop in deeper.
Here on the land in New Mexico, writing and teaching felt more like an extension of living; a pivot, another breath. It felt natural and I felt free.
From this place I wrote an essay about how clouds change, and how my relationship with Mark, my ex-husband had changed, and which I sent to a big newspaper without any worry as to whether they’d publish it or not. And I got on Zoom and I taught my classes with an unwashed face. And I also created a beautiful series of Wild Writing videos from a little cabin at the foot of the mountains, with a painting of a dragonfly behind me.
It was a dirty, wonderful, instinctual time, and I’d like to share it with you …
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