Sometimes, when we want to grow spiritually, we must stretch ourselves. In my case, this meant a return visit to Colorado with my middle son, since the two of us did the same trip 12 years prior. That was 2 marriages back for me, and my son had only a driver’s permit. Since I now live in the city, and I live alone, I thought it might be soul-full to visit my cousin, his family and the gap-year environmental school that he runs. They live communally here and they live off the land. Another family lives with them in a house that was once a shed. Up the hill are a series of homes made of straw bales and mud, adobe style. The majority of the people I see here, young students, and mesa neighbors are well-educated and quite capable of American affluence; instead, they choose to live in a way I see as hardened and pure, rich with mountain views and gentle kindness. Hard living and brotherly love can bring out parts of me that seem important to know.
We spent our first few hours visiting, and getting to know each other all over again. On the porch, I sat on a duct taped leather loveseat, and our table was an Amazon box emptied of its delivered contents. There were dogs and chickens and small children and rabbits. I was delighted that my cousin’s wife made us mason jars of fresh mint alcohol-free Mojitos, in addition to slices of hard white cheddar and fat greek olives. Later on, grilled chickens they raised and vegies they grew.
Then we brought our things to the cabin out back where we would sleep, two bunk beds on a particle board floor. They had an outlet and ceiling light. Thank goodness. An outdoor kitchen with running water and a gas stove was just 20 feet away. My son slept under the stars as the cabin was about 80 degrees until the mountain air cooled around midnight. I just left the door wide open and hoped critters would leave me be.
The next morning, I made my own coffee in a press and walked down to see 7 people eating breakfast. It was Eggs Day. They dispersed to various tasks, my son and cousin building a donated yurt, and two students who lingered through the summer to be leaders in the fall were setting stones for a new entrance patio at our communal kitchen.
I did my morning yoga and went for a walk up the mesa. When I came to the top, it was hot and stoney and there were juniper trees and what looked like sage. A gold and black lizard scurried past. I looked back and saw the immense glory of the mountains, blue against a hot white sky. I would make my way back soon . We had big plans to swim in the ice cold irrigation ditch. I wondered if I should pee in the grass, braving anyone who may happen by, or venture into the murky and unpredictable outhouse. I wondered if my plastic bottle from the long road trip was offensive. I wondered if it was annoying to go sit inside their house. I wondered if the giant butterfly in my cabin was a guest or a permanent resident. I meandered past a woman breast feeding a baby, with nothing covering the breast she wasn’t using.
I heard natural, unassuming, music made only by hand. It suddenly seemed silly to use an eyebrow pencil. Or bother with a clean pair of socks. I ate some dehydrated ginger rolled in sugar. I thought about how my cats back home were royalty and how I feel guilty when they get their canned food an hour later than usual.
The knot in my shoulder released and I could bend my neck about 50% more than before I arrived. This world and its culture was fascinating and deeply humbling. I’m not sure I belong, but I like the idea that I could live here without having to be employed by any bureaucratic institution, if I was useful to these people, and if I was capable of behaving like a woman who knows her natural place in the world, kind, wise, willing to carry my own water, and more curious than afraid. Like a woman who could just stare at the full moon and feel the earth under her bare dirty feet, then go sleep on a simple sheet and never consider the alternative.