(adventures in New Mexico and thoughts on stress) As I started to write this, the tips of my fingers were numb, and my computer keys were so cold that I dared not rest my hands on them for any length of time. Jam was upstairs sleeping in the loft bed, having decided that his prerequisite for leaving said bed was whether he could see his breath or not, and I was [thankfully] starting to feel the first of the heat reaching my way from the wood stove. I was in a rocking chair next to the window, because given a choice of warmth by the stove or watching the sun come up over the cliffs, I chose the sun, and my fingers could just deal.
We drove up early on the first of January, eschewing New Years festivities to wake up at 4am and head off on an adventure. Driving through the southwest brings new plants and different coloured rocks at every turn. As we wound up into the Arizona mountains we discussed saguaro forests, while Jam contemplated what it’d be like to throw tomahawks at them (I responded with what I consider justifiable outrage) then he read to me about saguaros as they whizzed by and we marvelled at how old they must all be, and how small a growing range they have, and how with such a small growing range, how specific must be their conditions for survival. Stress for a saguaro is different to stress for a human, who seem to be able to exist in every growing range imaginable. We seem to be built for it while saguaro only seem to be built for extreme temperature and drought. Saguaro gave way to juniper, and juniper to ponderosa, and ponderosa back to juniper, and then the biggest sky I have ever seen (having never been to the mystical land of Montana) while we threw open the sunroof amid freezing temperatures and said, over and over again, ‘but how can the sky be so BIG?’.
The sun breaks over the top of the canyon wall and streamed in through our little window, catching frost, pine needle and oak leaf along the way. The breath coming out my mouth is slightly less frosty, though fingers were still numb. I get up from my rocking chair to retrieve my hat, and go back to rocking by the window. Jam wakes up. We cook breakfast over the wood stove, and sip steaming coffee that keeps our fingers warm. Time skips forward: Jam works on the path that was flooded out of existence six months ago; I walk up the hill to hang out with my friends. Kiva and I spend the day gathering usnea surrounded by junipers. Jam gives martial arts lessons while Loba and I giggle and watched from the warmth of the kitchen. We all gather in their little kitchen, and sipping cider late into the night, then Jam and I make our way carefully down the hill back to our cabin, looking out for bears and mountain lions along the way (no sightings, unfortunately). We get a good fire going, climb up into the little loft bed (with window right beside it), try to read by headlamp for five minutes before giving up and gazing out the window at all the stars instead. So. Many. Stars. You forget there are that many stars in the middle of a city. You forget that silence can stretch so long and so deep. You forget that without electricity the natural rhythms of the world become your rhythms too, and before you know it, its not even 9pm and your world belongs to sleep.
To some people, vacation is the absence of work. To me, vacation is the absence of pressure. There’s a lightness to the days, an expansion of sorts. I spend the drive home with my brow furrowed, trying to understand the difference between this stress-state contraction versus relaxed expansion. The only thing I come up with is that feeling connected to the world doesn’t happen under stress, the very nature of stress being to narrow focus and escape the cause for stress. I stare out the window at the passing landscape wondering if its possible at all to pull this into every day life. And then I think to myself that it might be a lifelong endeavour but its one I’m willing to take on as an experiment. Expansion 101, or, how to become a part of the entire world even when there’s stuff to do. Its a long-shot but I do believe its possible.
In the meantime, back home, with a couple of jars of usnea tincturing in a warm place, mullein root tincturing in a non-warm place, and some more mullein leaves drying because I believe you can never have too much, I get back to work. Exciting changes are coming: website re-vamp, more classes, some different recipes, more writing about herbs and medicine. Sometimes it takes getting away from your own life to realise just how excited you are about your own life. Does that make sense? I hope so. Stay tuned…