Muleshoe, TX

MuleshoeMuleshoe, TX, a note about connections between seemingly disparate peoples.  Yesterday, we passed through a small town of 5,000+ population holding their place in the winds of the high plains by the name of Muleshoe, TX. We bought gas, some dark coffee, and received a gift of remembrance of a forgotten time.

Remember when people respected the profound rituals of life, even if the rituals didn’t personally affect us?  Remember when we all would stop, stand and witness, a show respect for a “life event,” being present as a member of the human family?

Does it really take a profound disaster or personal pain to get our attention? Why is it so difficult to stop and give our undivided attention to another? Are there places where strangers still remove their hats to honor unknown fellow passengers on the ship of life?

We passed through this overtly poor village, surrounded by grain elevators and the peeling paint of abandoned buildings.  I could see the lights of a police car blocks ahead at the intersection. As we crept closer at 30 mph, I saw that it wasn’t an accident; it was a funeral possession.  In front of me, the 18-wheeler, ship of the plains carrying unknown cargo, slowed down and pulled to the curb. To my surprise, all our eastbound traffic passing in the opposite direction came to a stop.

We collectively pulled over and waited for hearse and cars in the procession to pass.  The head and the foot of this procession were county Sherriff cars; all lights flashing. In the middle, a 20 year old hearse and 15 or so cars of varying ages and occupancy moved slowly through town as everyone here paused their lives, just for a moment.


I have never been a fan of Texas.  Each way, our route through Texas is 600+ miles. Multiply that by three trips, and that makes over 1800 miles of ranches, BBQ places, prickly pear cactus, 100’s of Texas flags and very fast, but well mannered drivers Residents of New Mexico sometimes find the big trucks, big hair and big attitudes tiresome.

I have discovered that crossing Texas three times offers a new perspective, a more rounded sense of these independent folks ad myself as well. I’m not sure how this event will impact my life.

“It was nice to meecha Muleshoe.”

Coming and Going

Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” 
― Terry Pratchett,   A Hat Full of Sky

Time to go…again. My internal experience is different this time. There is no sense of skinlessness from shedding multiple layers of possessions.  There isn’t ego whiplash from closing an office with my name on the door. I realize today, the stop no longer seems so sudden. There isn’t the search for an identity that doesn’t start with, “I used to…” When destiny knocks; answer the door, or die wishing.

Yes Mr. Pratchett, there are so many colors here; a thousand shades of brown! And the impossible ethereal color of the sky. What are missed most are so many of my very favorite hearts. Little hearts that call me Grammie, bigger ones that call me Mom.  Hearts I know, and hearts that are just being shown; one story at a time. Here in this place there are precious friends, colleagues, magical mentors, and my very favorite students of life. They all live here in this mystical and dysfunctional place called New Mexico.

Tomorrow we are “On the Road Again,” ala early Willy Nelson when he still traveled in old cars, and coach seats.  We will miss all that is here in our decade long home place. This is a place where we have no ancestors, no roots. It is a learning place, not a place to grow old, spin wool, and watch our grandchildren’s children.  Everything is a circle, we will be back shortly to the same place but we, and you will all be different.  I hope.Image


Of special interest to those in West Virginia, and those of us who drink water.

Cultural Slagheap

My dad, a lifelong firefighter, used to teach Hazardous Materials Response and Safety classes to first responders.  The first informational point he covered at the beginning of the course was how to read the classification marks on transportation tankers—the little diamond-shaped signs, usually mounted on the back of the tank, that announce via numerical code what kinds of chemicals are stored in those transport vehicles, and what levels and types of health risks would be associated with a spill in the case of a wreck.  The first homework assignment he gave was for the firefighters to go home and stand on the main cross street in their neighborhoods and home towns for about an hour, and write down the numbers on every tag they saw pass through that intersection, then go look up the numbers.  Dad said that the next week, when those students came back for class, invariably there’d…

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Vision Quest

It’s been a week to value life. Death walks along our path closer than we think.  Early in the week I heard a local man of my age speak to a crowded room about his life rocking experience of life during death. In our limited understanding of the borderlands of being alive, he died and “came back.” His heart, challenged by an evolving heart attack, ceased to beat and was restarted four times over several days. In our limited definition of physical death, he died four times.

He did not come to speak about fear or sadness. There was no hooded terror with bony hand extended.  There was only peace, warm comfort, a sense of oneness, and a compelling choice given- to go back or to remain. In current vernacular this is a NDE, a near death experience as defined by Elisabeth Kubler Ross,

or Raymond Moody, http://www.lifeafterlife.cHieom/

He stood slowly, and sought the leading thread of his story through half closed eyes. He found his place in the faces around his, speaking seriously, humbly, of his unexpected journey into frontiers of consciousness. He led us carefully, with well-chosen words, through uncharted waters, and on into the space between life and death. He took this choir of willing participants to the edges of self, the land of less Me, and more Us.


It was apparent that we were witnesses at the denouement of an ancient ritual.  The Vision Quester returns to tell his dream at the fire circle of his community. Countless eons of humans have increased their collective wisdom hearing the big Dreams of those that venture beyond the edges of collective experience.

And this is the community that will live this knowledge.   This was a room full of death midwives; psychopomps in the old words. These were Hospice folks, PhD’s, MSWs, Therapists for the grieving, bereaved family members and even some other members of this elite NDE club. These are people who have sat at the bed, witnessed the passage, and continue to seek the beauty of the whole of human experience.  Some are willing participants, others drawn by life experiences so painful; they seek and search relentlessly for relief from the pain of separation from their beloved.

Universalis Cosmographia 1507 Universalis Cosmographia 1507

Despite the imagined scenario for his family, he described no hair-raising escape from the jaws of death on his side of the experience. He remembered only absolute peace, serenity, limitless concepts of soul, and life on a continuum. I am reminded of the explorers that first crossed the abyss now known as the Atlantic Ocean. Some came back, some didn’t, but the “New World” existed anyways, beyond the horizon and beyond the fears of the perilous journey. Maybe it is finally time to throw out Hieronymus Bosch’s creepy mental constructs of afterlife, and reach for the unknown with joy and expectation beyond our wildest dreams.

Walk Your Talk


Here we are in the short brown days and cold blue nights that are January in Santa Fe. I am reading, A Walk Across America, Peter Jenkins’ chronicles of his life changing journey of 1973. If you don’t recall this saga; brave, disillusioned Alfred College graduate follows his existential yearnings to find something, or someone, still “good” in America.  This privileged, former Greenwich, Connecticut suburbanite walks from NY into the deep South fully engaging with the people and experiences in his path.  I noticed the book on my daughter’s shelf, and felt the pull of the “Walk” in the title. As we are currently stationary, I feel compelled to keep some part of me moving. There it was, a chance to exercise my imagination, live an “edgier” existence, and all without the sore feet.

So far, I have traveled with Peter in spirit, up and down the mountains of Virginia and North Carolina, in the cold and wet of December. The word dampness was invented here. Think Smokey Mountain mist, at the edge of frozen. His only companion is a dog named Cooper; robust in nature and fur.  Being blessed with a half share of Malamute genes, Cooper is up to the challenge of living “almost wild.”

I had a Malamute neighbor once; a huge bear of a dog. He would stop in occasionally to lay on the sun warmed tiles of our old house in Tijeras.  He presented himself on his own schedule to accept ear scratching as if it was beneficial to both of us. Indeed, at the time it was. I welcomed these moments of ease, in an uneasy time. To look into his eyes was to see the fearless ancestors of the dark north, and a level of confidence and acceptance that could only come from living in a pack.

Peter and Cooper have just passed through the mountainous and mysterious backbone of the Appalachians. I am moved by his courage. We passed through this area on a sine wave of a road this Fall, the easy way; on I-81.  Even on this banal byway, the geography demands vigilance and respect. Once off this human traffic corridor, the trees are tall and the forests dark. I am not a being that would feel at ease in a small tent on the side of a wild ridge.  This is a unique kind of human that seeks this quest! Is he the 1970’s version of a 1670’s Explorer? He is venturing “inward” to country, instead of “outward” to conquer. But wasn’t that the lost beauty of the 70’s, that sense of innocence.


I am comfortable and warm, curled up in front of a Kiva fireplace with the high desert winter just outside the door. He is finding shelter and food as they appear before him. There is no GPS, or Tripadvisor to create safety and guarantee comfort along the way.  His whole journey is based on the premise that he will find what he needs, he will get by on what he has….Food for thought in this!

Holding this book, I remember that I have also wanted to go on a “Walk.”  It was seven or eight years ago that walking books began to cross my path.  Mutant Message Down Under, a very fictionalized and potentially disrespectful account of a walkabout with Aborigines was my first “walker” novel.  This was followed by another about an unexpected group of women walking towards themselves, and away from crusty cultural expectations. The title of which, has walked on down the road. I am always a sucker for shapeshifters and skin shedders, they are my tribe.
What is this compulsion to join feet to ground and enter the slow lane seeking a steady path to enlightenment? What is different about Peace Pilgrim, Granny D, and World guy? Who ARE they?
I am quite smitten with walking elders. I hope my knees hold up.