Re-Living In a Re-Enactment

A few weeks back I learned that the largest Civil War re-enactment was held annually just 40 minutes north on the 2nd weekend in August. I was excited. I am not a fan of war at all but that period of time and that particular War… feels so familiar.  As a Genealogy “nurd” I spent some recent time with my ancestors, focusing specifically on those who experienced this War. The Union appeared to be well represented on both sides of my family but I did find one family on mom’s side where grandfather lived in Georgia, served the Confederacy and owned at least one slave, but son served in the Union.

My research also found that the family men who served were sometimes not men at all but young boys. 2nd Grt Uncle Joseph Bucher enlisted when he was 14 years old, a month after his older brother, Martin had enlisted. Joseph mustered out in two months. My 2nd Grt Grandfather Zachariah Taylor Seymour, must have looked older as he initially enlisted when he was only 9 but was mustered out in only 2 days. He apparently tried again 2 years later, at age 12. This time he kept trying to get out, being arrested several times as a deserter and was even found in a wagon, drunk. Reward for his capture was $30.00.  With these stories in my head, I had an emotional reaction seeing the young faces re-enacting events and hearing the commander’s prays for fearlessness and God’s protection on the battlefield. Some so young

IMG_6222 IMG_6219So I took in the whole scene. The crack of the rifles, the sulfur smell of gun shot. The sound of cannon hit you in the gut and thumped the ground beneath your feet. The 9 year old watching beside me looked up and we both went, “Whoa!” I saw the agonizing slowness of muzzle loading. I watched the random, disorganized line of Confederate soldiers and the precision and “one-ness” of the Union. And it was all familiar…

The look before battle The Cavalry was where my heart was throughout and I couldn’t get enough. Horses were not ridden into battle. They were considered too valuable. Riders dismounted and their horses were lead away from the battle ground. One rider leading away 4 horses is not an easy feat, especially with the energy of battle going on.  Collecting the Horses

I got close enough to smell horse sweat and I was in heaven…  War Horses

Calm Horse         My Grt Grt Uncles, Joseph and Martin, both enlisted as musicians. The fife and drum were the primary instruments used and I spent time with the musicians at this event, learning the drum calls and listening to the songs of the period.

Fife Warmup IMG_6246                  The bugle became the primary instrument later in the War, providing a means to give orders from afar to both the infantry and the cavalry. IMG_6247A good deal of time was spent teaching and learning the different calls.

I had planned to leave by early afternoon but I didn’t / couldn’t leave. I felt like I was re-living a time I had experienced before.

Perhaps I had been a father, leaving behind a son, or perhaps I was the son being left behind.  Whatever the reason, when I finally did leave, it took a while to return to                                                      2015. I know what drives those to re-enact.

They are re-living the familiar.  Consoling

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A COSMIC NOTION

I was almost two years living in Albuquerque when I met up with three gals who had just moved to New Mexico from San Diego. Two of the three were looking for somewhere to live and I was about done living on the rough side of town. We found a house to share in Los Lunas, about 30 minutes south. In 1992, Los Lunas was still a quiet rural town and a wonderful break from the Duke City. About eight months into this arrangement, one of our party had ventured further south and discovered an even quieter town with a curious name. Since she couldn’t find a descent cup of coffee or a non-greasy meal on this visit she decided the town needed a coffee house. So she moved out to pursue this idea. She leased a building and called out to those of us still up north to come down and help. After one visit I was hooked. I moved to Truth or Consequences on 4th of July weekend in 1993.

Cosmic ConnectionThis move would be the beginning of many things for me but the coffee house, called the Cosmic Connection, was the spark to greater changes in the town. We had the first Espresso machine ever seen, in addition to offering various fresh roasted coffees. We served fresh salads and sandwiches and scratch-made desserts like Fudge Truffle Cheese cake, Cosmic Carrot Cake and Sirius Brownies. The shop had been completely stripped and the walls were painted a welcoming blue-violet. A local artist had painted a mural with clouds and if you looked real close you just might see a UFO peeking out from those clouds.

Cosmic Connection Opening

Back then the shop stood out, no doubt about it. We were quite entertained by the stories around town, made up by those who never walked through our door. Those who did found a special space to meet with friends, eat delicious food and mingle with like-minded people.

The food prep was not my favorite part of this adventure but I was able to see how much positive intentions affected the food we were preparing. The best part for me was serving and interacting with those who found their way through the door. When we started offering dessert and music on the weekends, the Cosmic Connection provided me with my first opportunity to perform in public. Playing at Cosmic Connection 

One of my favorite memories at the Cosmic Connection was Thanksgiving that year. We opened up the doors to any who wanted to share the day together. The Hassle Family Band brought their family members. Everyone brought food and we smoked a turkey in the alley out back. Lots of music and wonderful people. 

The coffee shop lasted nine months but there is no doubt that it had given birth to a new energy in the town of Truth or Consequences.

Eyes of a Hawk

Venessa Magnet2Did you know that a Hawk’s eyes darken with age ?  I didn’t know this until I met a Red-tail Hawk named Vanessa. She had dark golden-brown eyes and was proudly perched on her handler’s arm, seemingly little concerned that she had an audience. Her eyes were piercing and when she gifted me with her gaze I could not move. A Red-tail hawk and I were literally eye to eye. I learned that she was about 13 years old and that her wings were permanently broken.

My adopted family had treated me to a trip to the State Fair in Albuquerque. Several groups had booths along the main walkway to the exhibits. VenessaThis group, “Talking Talons”, was promoting wildlife education through the use of birds and reptiles who had either been injured or had been hand raised and could not be released into the wild. Even more unique about this group was that school children did the teaching to their peers, not the adults.  I wanted to be a part of this so with Vanessa’s eyes still on me, I signed up as a volunteer.

For about 3 months I joined Talking Talons at various events, including Festival of the Cranes at Bosque Del Apache in Socorro, to help promote the program. I learned how to handle snakes and, my favorite, two Big Brown bats who had been donated to the group from the Georgia Zoo. A falconer’s license was required to handle Vanessa, so I just enjoyed being in her presence as I  watched the awe in others who, like myself, were captured by her eyes.Nutty Buddy

Another favorite participant in the program was an American Kestrel named Nutty Buddy. Unlike the other birds in the program, Nutty was not injured but he had imprinted on humans and could not be safely released. He liked landing on people’s heads and really set up a ruckus whenever someone showed up hiding their head under a hat.

This chapter of my New Mexico life took place in 1991. Talking Talons was started in 1988 so was still fairly young when I met them. I am very happy to say that the organization still exists. In addition to continuing youth educational programs they also operate a Thrift Store in Cedar Crest, NM. Their mission remains, “To elevate youth and the community to become effective advocates and ethical stewards of themselves, wildlife, habitats and the environment.”  Venessa MagnetI feel so fortunate to have crossed paths and spent time with this group and I will never forget that close up encounter with the eyes of a Hawk.

Learning the Business of Being an Artist

For 6 years previous to my leaving LA for this great New Mexico adventure, I had played at being an artist. I showed my creations at various types of shows. Music Festivals, Women’s Festivals, Arts and Crafts fairs and Miniature shows.Castle Art Works at Covina Park I did this while still working a full time job at a bank. So moving to New Mexico came with the idea that I would become a full time artist. I found out about and attended a workshop in Espanola that talked about great techniques for marketing your art. I also learned about a group called Wesst Corp in Albuquerque, an organization that was all about helping women start small businesses. Through this group I applied for a small business loan and ventured into one of the scariest areas an artist may go. I had to visualize doing my art as a business.

I was provided the services of a wonderful consultant who supported and guided me through this struggle. Many weeks later I had finally completed a business plan. My next step was presenting my plan to a Board of 10 women…. and I thought the business plan was hard…  The result of this agony was a loan for $1,200 which seemed huge to me then.

I did not become a full time artist in the typical sense. I found work in several galleries in Old Town, Albuquerque where I learned a lot about the retail end of art. I was fortunate to work for people who were artists themselves so I could show my work and even Western Heritage Gallery Albuqdo a bit of creating while sitting the gallery.img037  One big thing that shifted for me was that I started focusing on one medium and that was Miniatures. I started entering competitive shows and actually received some awards. I was accepted in the International Guild of Miniature Artisans as an Artisan and was invited to participate in IGMA2006-03-04 11.28.04

their show in New York City.  I did go to New York and I sold everything I took there. I made contacts, I had orders to fill and I felt great. But this momentum did not last.

I look back now at this lesson and realize that everything I learned during this period, I put to use later while supporting the Arts and the artists in a little town 2 hours south of Albuquerque. I paid back my loan but I could never pay back what I gained in understanding the true business of being an artist.

WORK IN EXCHANGE FOR LAND

So I am visiting my favorite bookstore across from the University of New Mexico and I’m reading the bulletin board outside, looking for rental ads. One ad caught my eye. “Manage an Apartment in Exchange for Land”….  Say What ???  I had to find out more so I gave the number a call. I met with Jerry and his wife who explained that they owned an Apartment building with 4 units on the East side of Albuquerque.Albuquerque Apt 2

They needed someone to live there and keep up the grounds and generally communicate tenet concerns.  In exchange for one year of this, they were offering an acre of land down south between Belen and Socorro. My rent would be less as well. So, I signed on !

After moving in I took a trip with Jerry to go see the property. He had purchased several 1 – 6 acre parcels of a subdivided ranch in Socorro County. I checked out several locations and found the one that just felt good to me.  I loved the view of mountains in the distance and learned that they were called the Ladrones. A lot of mystery surrounds these mountains with stories of hidden treasure, a large population of rattlesnakes and people getting lost then found unharmed days later. I loved this !

I made another trip with Jerry to visit my acre. He had business in Socorro so he dropped me off and drove away.  The silence and the sky were enormous and time became non-existent.  The Ladrone Mountains

As I sat low in the grass, there was suddenly a shared moment of startle and surprise as a free range bovine came up on me just grazing along. (Imagine here a cow gasping with me…) She recovered quicker than I and continued on her way.

Me on my landI walked the whole acre and checked out the many types of plant life and collected colored rocks. I asked questions of the lizards and the horned toads and generally made myself at home.

Jerry eventually returned. On our trip home he shared a story about a ranch located up by the Ladrones. He had it on the market and sold it to an artist. Said this artist was quite renowned, especially in Santa Fe and was real eccentric. didn’t like people much. I remember being intrigued and thinking it would be cool to meet this guy. Amazingly, a few years later my path would cross with this artist, but you will have to wait for that story.

Albuquerque, First Impressions

Don Shaws WorkSo I had connections.  When I was doing miniature shows in California, I’d become friends with an artist we called “The Bear” who did chip carving on his furniture pieces. He lived in Albuquerque, and he would say, “you always have a place to stay if you are ever in New Mexico”.  He and his wife had been living in the South Valley of Albuquerque for thirty years in a 100 year old adobe house.  Don and Linda Shaws The story I was told was that it was built by the Hubble’s of the Hubble Trading Post family in Arizona.  It was my first, in-person experience with an adobe structure and all its character. Shaped like an H, half the home was fully plumbed and live-able while the other half was being  used as storage.

When I arrived I was given the use of a little trailer out back while they prepared some space for me in their home. This was perfect as I needed some private time to “come back” from my wilderness experience in the Gila.  Now the South Valley was not in the City of Albuquerque and still had that rural feeling.  My friends would share tales of community gatherings in their old barn and how many families made their living from their homes. Home at the ShawsBear and his family took me everywhere.

Hotair Balloon Festival20

I went to my first Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta and we waited in the cold dawn for Mass Ascension when all 300 Balloons hit the sky. They took me to Taos by the backroads, through the little Village of Penasco where Bear had taught the Village kids in a one room classroom. We did Old Town, Albuquerque and trips to the Sandia Mountains. And at dusk I was taken on old Route 66 that climbed West up out of the City where we parked and watched the City lights come on. They just shimmered in the dry desert air.    Albuquerque-Night

The Shaw familyBear’s family could not do enough for me but after 4 months I was ready to establish some independence and find my own way in this State I was now calling home.

The Call is Strong and I Must Go (Part II)

I had no difficulties in selling everything I could not fit into my van. I had no problem giving two weeks notice at a job I’d held for ten plus years.  The hardest part about leaving LA was telling my parents. Telling them I was moving two states away and I was not going to be making any money and that I just needed to do this. Yeah… that was hard.

So back I went to the Fellowship of Ecology and the Arts, with a van packed and my cat singing his concerns for several hours. When we got to the Grape Vine Campground, clouds were gathering and the air was full of static. Once again the old truck greeted me and we threw my stuff in the back and me and the cat in the front and we headed back quickly to beat the storm.  One last River crossing and we were there just as the sky let loose.  Within minutes the River increased in level and speed. A woman who was there for retreat looked at me and said, “well, you are here now”.  When the River rises, you cannot leave, even if you wanted to.

I had visualized myself being a part of this retreat setting, organizing the office, spending time helping with work around the ranch and getting into my art. What I didn’t expect was that the concept of the retreat had changed since I was there two month previous. There was less emphasis on the Arts and now more push to become a horse ranch. That’s not so bad, right ?  img012Not so bad if you had staff who knew about horses.  Nope.  Not so bad if your horses got along with one another.  Nope. In a word, a nice word, it was daily chaos. Just one example: I witnessed a buckboard arrive one day with a matching pair of mules. Beautiful they were. The Director decided to take them for a spin but the mules took off. She bounced right off that buckboard and the mules continued down the canyon. When they were found, the mules were still yoked together but okay and the buckboard was shattered. The Director was lucky she was only bruised.

I was there almost a month, trying to make it work for me. When I realized that I couldn’t be there any longer I took myself off to a quiet place and just cried.  img022 I didn’t want to leave but I finally realized that my initial experience of the Fellowship was to help me disconnect and leave LA. Now I was free to do whatever I wanted.

I made arrangements to stay with some friends in Albuquerque so the old truck was packed up once more and cat and I got dropped off at the Campground. We would spend the night and leave first thing in the morning. There was one more adventure as I lay in my sleeping bag with cat attached to leash near his crate. I woke up with cat sitting on my arm while he watched a skunk standing about 5 feet away.  I slowly pulled my cat into my bag and held my breath…. skunk finally walked away and cat and I beat a hasty retreat inside the van to sleep upright in the seat the rest of the night. Phew ~ !

My trip to Albuquerque was long  but it gave me plenty of time to catch up to myself. I drove through a little town called Hillsboro and stopped at an apple orchard for a bag of apples.  

Hillsboro

I saw the most amazing mountain range in front of me as I came down to catch I-25.  And I saw the name “Truth or Consequences” on a road sign and thought, how funny and interesting. I would need to come back and check that place out !    

Caballos                                                                                                                         T or C

I had no idea what was ahead for me now.  I only new that my new home was New Mexico and I was open to possibilities. Next stop, for this moment anyway, would be Albuquerque.

The Call is Strong and I Must Go (Part I)

Bodhi Tree BookstoreAnyone who has spent time in the West LA area and loved bookstores will probably remember the Bohdi Tree. Wonderful atmosphere. Large eclectic selection of books for whatever path you are searching at the time. I spent many hours there meeting up with friends, trading in old books for new and just hanging out. In 1991 the title of a newsletter caught my eye. “The Fellowship for Ecology and the Arts”.  I picked one up for later reading and with that action, my life changed….

The Fellowship for Ecology and the Arts was based in the Gila area, 30 miles outside of Silver City, New Mexico. A retreat for artists of all medium, one could stay for days, weeks or longer. You could pay full price and just be left alone to create or you could pay half and participate in a work exchange around the property. I had no idea where Silver City was in New Mexico but I couldn’t get the idea of this retreat out of my head.  I decided to take a week off from work and check it out.

I drove for 2 days. I was told to park in the Grape Vine Campground off the Gila River and someone would come pick me up, either by horseback or 4 Wheel Drive.

Grapevine CampgroundI was so hoping for horseback but the River was down so they showed up in an old beat-up truck.

I hopped in and we bumped along for 2 1/2 miles and across the River nine times.  I had no idea what was ahead. But when we got there, it took my breath away. 

Red cliffs started closing in as the canyon narrowed when around one last bend ….             the Watcher came into view….    Gila Guardian  This sentinel rock guarded the entrance to Source Canyon. (I later hiked this canyon to the Source of the water supply and experienced a near “death” experience when a flash flood caught me and my hiking partner.)

Gila          Lyons Lodge Every day of this week I was in awe. I found quartz crystal in the rocks as I hiked.  I was taken horseback riding further into the canyon where the walls would just open up to vast meadows and elk would be found grazing, undisturbed by our presences.  Everything we ate was either from the garden or homemade. The River sang me to sleep every night. And the stars ….. Oh the stars ….

Hot Tub in Gila My first experience with hot springs was here where the water was piped into a galvanized tub overlooking the Gila River, then later up the road after a visit to the Gila Cliff Dwelling, we stopped at the Gila Hot Springs for a soak.

I was told that someone was needed to help organize files and do computer work for the organization. This was not a paying job but everything would be provided. I accepted.  I said I needed to close out my life in LA.  I would be back in a month’s time.  I had no doubts this was where I wanted to be.

The Magical, Mystical Tour

SW Vision Quest Map

Starting in 1985 and on for the next six years I participated with a group that studied and practiced Native American teachings. During this time I participated in a 10 day Vision Quest that involved traveling to areas of Arizona and New Mexico. Our teacher was connected to the Native People in some of these areas, allowing us to  experience places not known to many. After 30 years I continue to remain respectful of the sacredness of this journey but                                                                      some memories I will share.

We spent a couple nights at the Hopi Cultural Center and it was there where I experienced true Earth time. There were no schedules, only a sense that when it was time for something to happen, it would. The People just sensed when the time was right to do something or to be somewhere. For those driven by man-made schedules this can be quite challenging.

A day was spent at Canyon de Chelly (pronounced Canyon d’ Shay), outside of Chinle, Arizona.  The trail down was so smooth, I took off my boots and walked barefoot. I can still feel the sun-warm Earth, so grounding beneath my feet and I could feel the centuries of feet that had traveled this path before.

Canyon de Chelly

Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, was my greatest teacher on this journey. Several days were spent with the energy of the past. One night we were each alone in areas throughout the cliffs. One day we explored the ruins and then sat around the large kiva just letting go of time….

.     Chaco Cyn   Chaco Cyn Image

SW Vision QuestSomething opened up for me during this time. I felt at home with the ancient energy of these places. I knew I need to be a part of this Land, to feel grounded in this Earth. The time wasn’t yet, but I had learned that I would know when the time was right to return.

And You Had Me At Lamy

I graduated from College in 1979 with a Bachelors Degree in Recreation Admin with an Outdoor emphasis. My first real job was with the Santa Clarita Valley Boys and Girls Club in Newhall, CA. I ran a County funded program, taking troubled teens into the wilderness to teach theProject Solo Daysm survival skills and I started a community outdoor ed program called ECO HAWK that was run through the Clubhouses.

Into my 2nd year I received a brochure about a conference being sponsored by Outward Bound. Location: Glorieta, New Mexico.  I had no idea where this was but I wanted to go. My boss agreed to pay for the conference but I had to pay for transportation and lodging. A round-trip train ticket was do-able. I found out that the train dropped you off at the Lamy, New Mexico station and a van would be sent to pick you up. They had a campground on the conference grounds so I borrowed a tent from a friend and packed up my backpack.

I left in the late afternoon from Union Station in LA.  Seventeen hours later, l arrived at Lamy, New Mexico.

Lamy Station

There was nothing around but this very small adobe building. No cars. Very few people. But I remember the air was incredibly crisp and smelled of earth and a scent I later learned was from the chamisa bush. I just kept breathing it in.

I was there for about 30 minutes when a train coming from the East pulled in and several people got off, a couple had backpacks like myself. A van finally arrived and we loaded up for the 30 minute trip to Glorieta.  I was just in awe. I would get glimpses of red earth between pines and the sky was SO BLUE !!Glorietta Conference Ctr

The conference ran for 3 days. That day I arrived I became acquainted with a New York gal and she and I hitched a ride to the nearest convenience store for something for supper as neither of us paid for extra meals and we were both on a budget.   A woman picked us up and shared some insights into the area. She said it was very common for the first snow fall to occur at this time and she was right. That next morning we woke up to a light snow covering the ground and the celebration of dancing and playing was just a natural response!

I was so full of this whole experience, I have no recollection of the train ride back to LA. When I finally moved to New Mexico I had the opportunity to return to Glorieta. My first impressions came back to me so clearly and yes indeed, you had me at Lamy…