I had my first overnight guests, Ivan and Jesus, the moving men. They arrived at the gate in the middle of the night, around 12:30 a.m. All the lights were on in the singlewide in the hope it would serve as a beacon. The truck hesitated so I ran outside with a flashlight, stood at my side of the creek crossing and waved like mad. They saw me! At the top of the edge of the crossing, they hesitated again. I told them on the phone that they would have to cross the creek but they didn’t believe me until actually confronted with it. Gamely, the truck moved forward and entered the water. Slyly the creek waited until the truck was fully in the middle before grabbing hold of the front right tire and refusing to let go. The driver, Ivan, tried everything. He spun the tires and rocked the truck back and forth but the sand laughed and pulled harder. For the next ten minutes we yelled back and forth.
“Can you pull us out with your car?” Ivan shouted.
“My car is not big enough to pull a truck! What else can I do?”
“Do you have trash bags?”
“Yes.” I thought that was an odd request but then Ivan yelled for duct tape and I understood. He planned to use the bags to cover his feet so he could enter the water. I ran into the trailer, grabbed a roll of bags and tape. Back outside Jesus opened his door and I heaved the roll of bags right to him followed by the duct tape. I watched as Ivan contorted his body covering himself with plastic. Then he jumped into the water and came over to me.
“Do you have wood?” Ivan asked.
“Yes, in the shed. We’ll drive there in the Explorer.” We climbed in and drove to the shed. The moonlight cast hazy shadows, a soft light that was beautiful to me but spooked Ivan. His eyes were large as he looked around.
“This is a big place! Are there dangerous animals out here?”
“Yes, but they won’t bother us.”
We walked to the shed and I shone the flashlight inside. Ivan seemed reluctant to go in so I took the lead. He followed me and we picked out four pieces of lumber and threw them into the car. Then I drove to the Ranch house to grab another supply of trash bags and more duct tape. Ivan was wearing shorts and a thin cotton shirt. His shorts were wet and the plastic bags had done nothing to keep the water out of his shoes. He took the new bags and wrapped every part of his legs and torso taping everything tight. He looked like a kid dressed up for Halloween, alien space invader style. I drove back to the creek crossing to light up the scene with my headlights. Ivan dragged the lumber into the water and attempted to shore up the tires. The water was fast, cold and unrelenting, the sand soft and sucking.
Around 2:00 p.m. the white flag of surrender was raised, or should I say a white trash bag of surrender. Admitting defeat, the guys waded to shore and stood on the deck of the singlewide to strip off their plastic and tape. Sitting at my kitchen table Ivan made a call to dispatch to get a tow. Dispatch said it would take about 2 hours to get here.
Wiry and dark haired, Ivan spoke with a slight Russian accent and it was obvious that Jesus took his lead from him. A big, beefy kid with a round baby face, Jesus had close cropped dark hair and a soul patch. Dressed in wet shorts and t-shirts, both of them sat shivering at the table, frozen from the cold water. My maternal instincts flared. I heated up some Progresso chicken soup, made toast, peeled oranges and set a bottle of soda on the table. They ate like it was Thanksgiving and cracked jokes about “playing MacGyver.” When Jesus asked Ivan what he would do if they found themselves stuck here forever, he responded,
“I will sweem that creek!”
We all laughed and then I showed them the bunk beds in the back bedroom. They stretched out on the beds but left the light on. I went to my bedroom and did the same. Fully in mom mode, I closed my eyes but didn’t sleep, hearing every snuffle and snore from the back room. Two hours later the phone rang. I jumped to get it. The tow truck driver was at the Ranger Station and feeling lost. I gave instructions to the driver on how to find us then went back to get the boys. I knocked on the door and said their names. Ivan rolled over and Jesus was in full snore. I hesitated to get familiar with these strangers but had no choice. I entered the room and gave them each a shake. They were so deeply asleep it took ten minutes of shouting and shaking to wake them. Jesus woke confused and gave me the “where am I look” and Ivan rolled up into an even tighter ball.
“Get up! Get up! The tow is here!” Using the “mom means business” voice that my own kids knew so well. I shook them each so hard I practically rolled them off the beds.
They moved as if drugged, yawning and unwilling to get up. I kept running to the front window to see the tow truck sitting at the gate then running back to prod them to action. Jesus sat on the edge of the bed and changed his socks. Ivan asked if I had a pair of flip flops he could use.
“My flip flops are in the back of your truck. Here.”
I tossed him a pair of cheap Dearfoam brown slippers. He slipped them on like a pair of mules. Finally, they went outside. I stayed inside, stretched out on my bed wide awake. The two trucks were rumbling and with all the shouting it was so loud I thought sure the noise would carry through the canyon, wake the neighbors and start an avalanche of rocks and mud. There was a lot of splashing going on and I shivered thinking of the ice cold snow melt. It took an hour and half to pull the truck from the creek. But when it was finally out, it was on the other side with my things still in the back. Ivan crossed the creek and came back inside so I could sign paperwork.
“Take those three big tarps. You can unload my stuff on the other side and leave them under the tree. Make sure you cover them well with the tarps.”
“Okay. We are sorry to keep you up all night Kathleen.”
“It’s all right.” An unreasonable dispatch schedule was behind this, I knew it wasn’t his fault.
“Thank you Kathleen. You have been nice.” He looked down at his feet. He had stretched the slippers to fit. His shoes were soaking wet and the slippers were warm.
“They’re cheap. You can keep them.”
“Thank you again.”
I waved good-bye, closed the door and went to my bed. As I snuggled under the comforter the phone rang. The dispatcher wanted to get a status. I told him the truck was out and they were on their way. It was now 6:30 a.m. I raised my own white flag. I surrendered to the task of getting those boxes across the creek and got dressed for the day.
I walked outside to check my options. The crossing was unstable and torn up from the truck. I went downstream to see if I could find a good place to cross with the Little Mule. I was able to make my way across on foot but the banks were too full of large rocks and debris for the Little Mule. The boys had placed one tarp on the ground near the sycamore tree, piled everything on it then covered it all with the remaining two tarps held down with large rocks. The delivery included my deck chairs, my massage table, my leather bound trunk full of linens and a vacuum cleaner. These items were all securely wrapped and taped in moving blankets. Everything else was in boxes, about fifty of them.
I crossed back home, took off the boots and went inside. The crossing was too unstable for the Explorer or the Little Mule. Crossing on foot was my only option at this point. The sand was too soft to use a wheelbarrow but I wondered if I could lay boards across the creek for a path. That was foolish though. The force of the water was still strong and would wash them away. I could call someone but who to call? David was an hour and a half away and working on deadline. Pat was working. Charlie has a bad back and Jerry is 85. Kathy has her husband to care for. I decided to meditate. It came to me to try walking boxes across for now. Do as many as I could and then, when David came out, enlist his help.
I pulled the boots back on, walked downstream, crossed and picked up the first box. The water, though low in that spot, was still strong and the additional weight of a box made for slippery footing. But I made it with the first box, walked up to the back deck and tossed it up. Box one. I set a goal. Move at least ten boxes.
Back and forth, one box, sometimes two depending upon weight, the first ten went rather quickly. The sun was over the mountain now. I took off my jacket and threw it up on the deck. On the third crossing, I managed to get a bootful of icy water. With the next crossing both feet were wet. After a minute, my feet were numb to the cold so I kept going. New goal, ten more boxes and I continued. Several years back I did a charity event to raise money for cancer research. The challenge was to climb the steps inside the Sears Tower, a bit over 2 miles straight up to the top. To train for the event I went to the Swallow Cliff toboggan slides in the forest preserves near Chicago. I climbed the 203 stone steps to the top of the slides over and over. I carried a handful of pebbles and each time I reached the top of the stairs I would place a pebble on the wall. I did this until I had a pile of 25 pebbles for 25 laps. Now I counted boxes instead of pebbles and each box cemented my move to Aravaipa. After hitting 24, I decided to count the number of remaining boxes. There were 28 to go, not even halfway done. I picked up another box, crossed and set it on the deck. Then I sat down to once again consider my options.
I was tired from being up all night. I was tired from flood clean-up and piling up debris for a burn the day before. I had an open blister on my left hand, assorted bruises dotted my body and I had more scratches than I could count. I was paying the price for my inefficiency. What could I do? I looked at the place where the truck had been stuck the night before. Other than that, the crossing looked fine. All I needed to do was fill in the hole, move some sand around. I grabbed a shovel, waded in and started shoveling. The heavy wet sand did not want to cooperate but I was persistent. An hour later I decided I had made the creek road-ready. Confident, I pulled off my watery boots, changed to my third pair of dry socks for the day, slipped on hiking shoes, grabbed the keys to the Explorer and jumped in.
I pulled out the owner’s manual to see what 4WD setting would be best for sandy conditions. After changing to Low 4WD I drove into the creek. The Explorer slipped and slid which scared me. I gave it gas and the tires bit. I made it across. I felt triumphant! I loaded up the Explorer with boxes, careful not to make it too heavy and plunged back into the creek. Storm clouds were rolling in and it began to lightly rain, an incentive to keep going. I managed to get everything across with the exception of the leather trunk full of linens, much too heavy to lift by myself. It would have to wait until the cavalry arrived whoever that might be. I wrapped it up with the tarps to protect it from the weather.
That evening the rain came straight down in buckets but I slept like the dead, or more accurately like Ivan and Jesus. The next morning the creek was roaring and impassable. Again. The rain continued through the morning. Jerry called and I recounted the story of the moving truck.
“Why didn’t you call me?” He asked.
“Jerry, it happened at two in the morning!” I replied.
He laughed as I told him about Ivan and Jesus and their alien attire.
“That’s a good story and certainly a new one for the books!” He said.
“The creek is up again this morning, Jerry. I’m stuck again.”
“It will go down quickly. Don’t worry.” He said.
I thanked him for the call. Two minutes later, the phone rang again, this time it was Pat.
“We’re in for another flood, a bigger one. The warm weather at night in combination with the rain is melting the mountain snow quickly. The water is high at Klondyke above us and the ground is saturated. Are you okay?” He asked. I launched into my story of the movers.
“I had no idea! I was out for the day and missed the whole thing! I wish I had been there.”
“I’m surprised you didn’t hear the tow truck, it was so loud I thought the vibrations would start a rockslide.”
Pat offered to get my trunk for me and store it safely for me out of the weather until I was able to get it. I was relieved! Pat asked about the supplies I had on hand to ride out a second flood. He also walked me through the procedures for safe drinking water in case I lost power and ran out of water. I have come to the conclusion that everyone needs a Pat the Ranger in their life.
I cancelled all the Ranch events for the weekend and left David a message. I called Jane and Steve to update them on the situation. Kathy Larsen called. She heard from Jerry that I had a story to tell and we laughed on the phone for a good half hour.
I feel so blessed. The people here have done more than welcome me; they have embraced me as a neighbor and a friend. When I first came to Aravaipa over a year ago on retreat, a Native American spirit guide came to me. Running Water blessed me in the creek then and she is blessing me now. I am awash in abundance.
The rainy weather forced me to stay inside and unpack. I do not know what tomorrow will bring. But I am ready for it.
The creek continues to rumble and roar. Trapped by the rain, wind and flooding waters, I worried about Branden. A few days ago Jeau called me on the phone.
“Come meet your new neighbor.” She said.
I pulled on my shoes and walked up to the Ranch house. Jeau and Charlie were cleaning the Ranch house between group events. There is nothing else around so I was puzzled. When I walked up Charlie greeted me at the door.
“Good! You’re here. Let’s go back to meet your new neighbor.”
We walked to the back patio of the house. Skunk lightly perfumed the air.
“He’s in there. Cutest little devil of a spotted skunk. He’s made himself quite at home in the compost bin.” Charlie said. “I went to toss something in there and banged the lid. Scared him so he gave a little puff. Let’s see if he’s still there.”
Gently we opened the lid and inside was a tiny skunk, no bigger than my Kitty.
“Oh, he must be young! Look how tiny he is.” I was so surprised.
“Nope. He’s full grown. The spotteds don’t get as big as other skunks do. I named him Branden after Brandenburg Mountain.”
Branden was beautiful. His tiny eyes looked up at us with trust that though we might peek, we wouldn’t force him to leave his little home. I’ve known some skunks before and they were much larger with stripes running down their backs. Those skunks were quick to spray and I always kept big cans of tomato juice on hand to give the dogs baths after unfortunate encounters. But Branden was patient, waiting to see what we would do before he would react. Black with white spots starting at his brow and running down his back in perfect symmetry, he looked like a kitten and it was hard to resist reaching in to scratch him behind the ears. I could see the hole he had chewed in the hard green plastic of the bin, his own little doorway into a world of tasty orange rinds, banana peels and other assorted treats.
“I could put a bottom on the bin to keep him out.” Charlie said.
“But that would defeat the purpose of the compost bin.” I replied. “We’ll ask David what he would like to do. I can see he’s harmless as long as we don’t rile him up, but how will our guests react?”
A few months ago a little spotted skunk wandered onto Charlie and Jeau’s property and quickly adopted them. The skunk finds them good company, happily enjoying the treats they give him. He eats out of Charlie’s hand.
After exchanging hellos, we decided to let Branden be and returned to what we had been doing.
The storms have been raging all week. Torrents of rain and wind gusts have plagued the canyon and the creek is running high with flood waters. There was a break in the storm and I told myself it was part of my job to check the Ranch house to make sure it was weathering the storm. I went to the house and walked through checking for any leaks or wind damage. Finding none, I stepped out back and cautiously opened the lid of the compost bin. Branden was curled in the same spot as before, nice and snug, chewing on an orange peel. He looked up at me with his tiny trusting eyes as I softly said,
“Just checking up on you little guy. Looks like you are doing okay.”
He blinked his eyes. I softly closed the lid and went home.
Rough against my hand, the tree folds in and around itself,
A spiraling scar, smoothing trauma of long ago,
It grasps the past before reaching for new.
The whorl in the tree whispers to me.
I know secrets, doorways to inspiration.
The past is but a seed, planted deep in the dirt of despair.
Water it with your tears; share the sun of your smile
And beauty will burst forth in your soul.
In the shelter of the tree I sit and rest,
Nestling amid the roots, back braced against bark.
I am welcomed like a lost daughter.
Leaves rustle with delight at my homecoming.
Roots are your support, send them deep.
Seek strength in the core of Mother Earth,
Hold true and fast with your heart
For true power is rooted in love.
A branch takes my gaze upward to see
A nest perched, empty and waiting,
Intricately woven of twigs and dreams,
Together we anticipate new life filled with song.
The top twenty things I have learned since moving to Arizona
· Coatimundis know how to climb ladders
· Roadrunners really are that fast!
· Walking in the creek in rubber boots is a blast.
· Hiking sticks are handy.
· A “tank” is a mud puddle.
· It’s a long drive to town. Make a list.
· Prickly pear syrup is my new favorite food.
· Fresh squeezed orange juice is a close second.
· Cowboy songs are the true Country Western songs. They make you cry.
· Cow manure is good compost. Horse manure is not.
· There are four growing seasons depending upon what you want to grow.
· How to drive a “Little Mule”.
· How to use a chain saw.
· Cottonwood burns fast, pecan wood burns slow. Mesquite wood smells sweet.
· I always thought I was strong. Now I know I am.
· Ranch work cures insomnia.
· The beauty of a Century plant.
· All the colors of the sky.
· True abundance.
· I am home.
Two poems for the price of one today….
Fresh oranges make you young
Like wading a creek in rubber boots
Splashing water like a child, stomping the sand
Or hiking a trail with a new friend
Three dogs keeping pace, tails wagging your joy
Or no jacket in January
Stepping outside to sun, the widest blue sky
Or climbing a tree, wrapping fingers around a
Golden fruit, a gentle tug and it’s mine
Juice running down my chin, citrus in my nose
Boxes and boxes of fresh oranges
What could be better?
COATIMUNDI ROCK AND ROLL
Coatimundis climb ladders and drag race on the roof
Critters in the night clever claws make me contemplate.
Is it one? Is it two? Is it a dance under the moon
And the stars? Scrabbling show-offs won’t let me sleep
Until I turn on the porch light
Then they flee.
It is a soft morning.
Within the cradle of the mountains, the wind is a cool sigh.
Light licks the landscape with laces of gold against a pastel pink sky.
The waning moon washes away like a photograph worn at the edge.
Cactus ghosts creep up the mountainside pale grey and green
Silvery needles like a sprinkling of fairy dust.
Are there fairies here?
Sprites swirl like leaves in the creek sparkling as they leap
Pebble to stone, too quick for my eye to see, too soft for my ear to hear.
It is a land of ancient whispers, reptilian and rough, prickly and pointed,
My senses drown in the defiant beauty that flows deep to my heart.
The sun tops the mountain, sharpening the day, warming my face.
In the mountain’s embrace anything can happen.
I looked up javelina today. On my first day in Arizona, javelinas came up in conversation twice, first with Pat, the auto broker, and then with Charlie, my neighbor. I had never heard of one before and had to ask what a javelina is.
“It’s a wild pig and they can be aggressive.” Pat told me.
“There were about twenty of them around the creek the other day rooting around for the pecans.” Said Charlie. “Not to worry, though, the pecans are over now so there’s nothing much for them here right now.”
Twenty! Suddenly I wondered if my coming to Aravaipa was such a good idea after all. I heard nothing about wild pigs the first time I was here. I knew there would be snakes and scorpions. I knew there would be bighorn sheep and jumping cholla. I knew there would be the occasional bobcat or two. But aggressive roving wild pigs? I had not counted on pigs and the city slicker suddenly felt a little wary. I figured I better learn as much as I could about them so I would know how to avoid them.
According to Wikipedia, a javelina is a peccary or a wild pig. They average about two feet in height…at least some of them do…at least I hope the ones around here do. Because there are some that get bigger, but I won’t think about that. Javelinas migrated from South America, hence their melodic Latin name. But that’s as pretty as they get. No roly-poly porkers, javelinas are bristly and tough with quick legs, long snouts and muscular bodies. They like to travel in herds. They do travel in herds so if you see one javelina there will be more to follow.
Wikipedia gave me all the scientific information, but what I really needed to know was what to do if you encounter one (or two or three). Fortunately I found another website with the skinny on javelina etiquette. Do not approach them (they are territorial), walk quickly away (they have poor eyesight so best to get out of their vision range), and make loud noises, like banging pots and pans. They don’t like loud noises, well for that matter neither do I. And never, NEVER feed a javelina because that will make them more aggressive. Gardens in javelina country require good fences.
Snakes are no issue. I can be careful where I step. And I’m not foolish enough to stick my hand into unseen places where a scorpion might reside. Bobcats and bighorn sheep are shy so I will be lucky to see one. Coyotes are around and I will keep Kitty inside. But the javelina issue was something new. I wanted to wander around Tuesday night, but would there be wild pigs lying in wait for me at the creek? I sat inside near the sliding door with the light on while writing. A moth flew up to the window and I worried, would the light attract javelinas too? Charlie told me in no uncertain terms not to leave any garbage outside. Those little piggy eyes may be poor but those snouts are good for sniffing and smelling. Could those javelinas smell food cooking inside? I closed the patio door and the blinds. Best not to take chances. I looked over at the ranch house. I needed to go to the big house the next morning to use the phone. It’s about a quarter or maybe a third of a mile away. Right through the pecan trees.
Tuesday night was quiet with not a javelina in sight. Wednesday morning, no piggies. It was time for the city slicker to get over it. I strapped on my boots (actually walking shoes) and headed out the door. Ravens flew overhead, smaller birds chirped and I ran into some neighbors riding horses. That was the extent of my animal encounters. I walked to the ranch house. After I made my calls, I walked the labyrinth then took a stroll down by the creek – through the pecan trees. I checked the fencing around the soon-to-be garden area. It looked good and sturdy. I worked outside for a bit, then decided to test out my new camera and hiked around taking photos. I was outside so much today that my cheeks and nose turned pink. I refused to let some potential close encounter of the porky kind keep me from enjoying the beauty of this place.
After all my foolish worrying I want to see one now. I want to see what all the javelina fuss is about. I want to catch a glimpse of a herd. The orange trees look ready to drop their fruit soon. My pots and pans are ready. Bring ‘em on.
“Today is a day of magic.” I wrote those words the other day as a reminder to myself to look for the beauty, grace and magic in all things as I moved throughout my day. That was three days ago. I spent the last few days on the alert. My eyes squinted and searched for something special. My ears strained to catch and analyze every noise. I walked, I stopped, I looked, and I listened. Everything was unchanged. Everything seemed ordinary. I worried that I had lost my connection.
Today, this first day of the New Year, I went to the grocery store to pick up more boxes for my move. My little car doesn’t hold much so it was actually my third trip to the store over the last three days. When I called the store earlier this week to ask about getting boxes, the customer service representative explained the procedure to me. Overnight the workers restock the shelves and at 6:00 a.m. they bale up the boxes for disposal. If I wanted boxes, I needed to get to the store before 6:00 a.m., roam the aisles until I found a stockman and ask for boxes. No guarantees, no promises, simply show up and throw myself on the mercy of the workers.
I rose at 4:30 a.m. to shower before heading out the door, figuring that if I looked fresh, clean and presentable I would stand a better chance of winning some boxes. I arrived at the store a little after 5:30 a.m. Only a few cars were scattered in the dimly lit parking lot, cars I attributed to store workers. But I couldn’t see anyone inside. The lights were on but the store seemed lifeless and I worried that I might not be able to get in. Sure enough, I walked up to my usual door and it was locked. Not only was the revolving door locked, shopping carts were upended between the two interior glass doors. The store takes up almost an entire city block and it was freezing outside. I thought momentarily about getting back in my car to drive across the lot to the other door, but that was stupid. So I ran to the other door, found it open and walked into the store.
Without the bustle of people, the piped-in music was creepy loud. I felt unsure of what to do. I walked further into the store and came upon a worker stocking the shelves in the pharmacy, Aisle 2.
“Is it possible to get some boxes?”
“Talk to the guy in Aisle 10.”
I walked down several aisles and found two men working in Aisle 10.
“Is is possible to get some boxes?”
“Try a couple aisles down.”
“Is it possible to get some boxes?”
“Go to Aisle 16.”
This was voicemail hell personified. I continued on to Aisle 16 and there I found Neil. He jumped up and asked what I needed the boxes for so he could better help me. Dressed in black slacks, white shirt and a black jacket, he did not wear an apron like the other workers did. I assumed he was a supervisor. Lanky and quick, he looked familiar to me and I later realized he was a blond version of my youngest brother Mike who passed away many years ago. Neil raced to the back of the store, to the restricted area and came out with an armful of boxes.
“You need a cart.” And off he raced to get one for me.
When he returned, he loaded the boxes for me chatting away.
“You look like a lawyer.” He said. I laughed and shook my head.
I explained I was moving to Arizona to live and work at a retreat center. He introduced himself and the conversation turned to horses and his family’s love of the animal. He asked how far I would be from Vegas and I told him about the Aravaipa Canyon.
Over the next few days Neil saved up boxes for me, carefully choosing sturdy boxes that were not too big and therefore manageable. I picked up the last batch today, New Year’s Day. Neil expressed his desire to come visit the Canyon with his wife one day.
“May I give you my card? Next time I am in Vegas with my Jenny I would like to get in touch with you and possibly explore the Canyon.”
“Of course! How often do you get there?”
“A few times a year I get there for bowling. I bowl in tournaments with the USBC, the US Bowling Congress. I used to bowl five times a week, but now I only have the chance to bowl twice a week. But I do like to go to the tournaments.”
His remark blew me away. My mother is a bowler but that wasn’t it. Bowling was a passion for my brother Mike. I could imagine my brother, seeing my need for boxes, scrolling through his angelic rolodex of bowlers to find Neil, the right person to help me. His way of saying “good luck.”
I drove home with my car packed with boxes. Today, this first day of 2010, I realized that every day is full of magic and it comes in the most unlikely ways.
My resolutions for the New Year:
· To embrace the beauty and joy of each and every day.
· To give thanks for the abundance in my life each and every day.
· To recognize that true prosperity and abundance comes in the forms of health and creative flow. How lovely to know.
· To open my heart to all who cross my path. Every person, animal, stone, tree, and situation comes in to my life for a reason. I will listen to and embrace the message each brings.
· To remember that although I cannot see the future, it is enough to know that it is coming.
· To be present in each and every moment, each minute, each second, and each nano-second.
· To be authentic and true to myself.
· To listen.
· To garden.
· To explore.
· To serve.
· To pray.
· To create.
· To write.