“To live alone onemust be an animal or a god — says Aristotle. There is yet a third case: one must be both — a philosopher.”

― Friedrich Nietzsche

Friday, June 21 — afternoon
Trimming the rosemary
Is it dying?
Thinning the corn plants
Mulching the flower beds
I am in the sun too long without cover
Watering the gardens
The apricot tree is dying, too

Saturday, June 22 — morning
How quickly we become like animals in the heat
pausing under shade trees

The fire smoke is a blanket
under which cicadas’ songs are amplified
making the morning landscape turn a shade of blue to match the sky

Smoke collects in the throat

Sunday, June 23 — morning
When baby C. found the brown hair tie outside, I asked his mom if it was hers
She didn’t know
But why leave it on the sidewalk?
I wear it on my wrist now
Noticing it as I push the sleeves of my shirt down to protect my skin from sun

I have lupus
I am a scavenger

How much can I reconstruct from memory?

Avery texts as I approach the base of the hill
She is traveling by plane to the west coast for a therapeutic wilderness adventure
She writes in jest: If you wanna feel VERY smug and superior, wear your new form fitted merino wool mid weight zipper pullover by REI and take your own travel mug and water bottle

How can I hate the privileged? The Patagonia wearers, fancy-tent campers, high-tech gear collectors, cross-country fliers? Because I love Avery, and isn’t privilege by degree?

I look down at my dirty feet in six-year-old Chacos, my yellow thrift shop pants and periwinkle button down. My hair is uncombed, sunhat faded, sunglasses clouded with sweat and dust. I carry a worn black leash, an iPhone, am tangled in headphones and the leather rope which keeps my hat attached to me. What a mess. I feel superior to no one. I walk here in constancy, in smallness, in relative poverty. And the whole world (it sometimes seems) is moving quickly, erratically, and here I remain, still.

Friday, June 22 — evening
Sasha finds us
She moves her whole, dusty, shedding body against my clean yellow pants
I laugh
I love her — black German Shepherd with paws nearly as big as my hands
Her ears give her trouble so I try not to touch them
I kiss her nose
She sniffs me and licks my face,
Collapses in the dirt for a belly rub
My own dog comes and goes
They do not compete

I trade in Vivaldi for Mary J Blige
Ascending the hill, I see a man
The sun is setting in the west and blinding him slightly
I explain that the German Shepherd is friendly
I think he cannot hear me — headphones? And he is shielding his eyes from the sun. But he gets it when we are closer. He has brown skin with many tattoos, wears a white tank, wishes me a good evening, and I him.

Tuesday, June 18 — afternoon
My mornings (and evenings) are spent walking in the open spaces near home with my dog. Today, the academic requirement that I finish Aldo Leopold’s, A Sand County Almanac, means looping through the same territory over and over while listening to the book’s narration on Audible. I take notes on my phone as I walk.

If everything in the land body has a purpose, like the wolf or the juniper, then what is ours — our human purpose — collectively, as a species? Leopold dichotomizes between the land body and the human body, yet he also speaks of ecology and the relationships of all things in the context of a system.

For instance, of what use is it that humans go into nature to excavate our own psyches? We do it. We are unique in our ability to do it. How does that contribute to the ecological whole?

Leopold also says that, “Man kills what he loves,”
and that, “An ecologist lives alone in a world of wounds.”

Wednesday, June 19 — evening
My mother’s birthday
Joy Harjo becomes the first Native American Poet Laureate
Ta-Nehisi Coates testifies before congress about reparations
Refugees flood Deming and are welcomed
Thirsty deer come into the neighborhood at midday looking for water

I listen to Joy Harjo’s “Fear Poem” accompanied by drums as I walk
I sob uncontrollably

“…I am not afraid to be angry
I am not afraid to rejoice
I am not afraid to be hungry
I am not afraid to be full
I am not afraid to be black
I am not afraid to be white
I am not afraid to be hated
I am not afraid to be loved…”

Monday, June 17 — evening
Happiness Frequency Serotonin Release Music
Vivaldi Concerto for 2 Cellos, String Orchestra and Continuo in G Minor, RV 531: 1. Allegro performed by Bobby McFerrin and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, “Paper Music”
When I listen to this music on the evening walk, I conduct
This music and the movements required of the tongue to produce it are deeply sensual
Nature, too, is deeply sensual
I am with Eros tonight

Friday, June 14 — afternoon
The goal of my writing is to explore the movement between an identity-less self in nature and an identity-full self in the social world.

The goal is to explore how the commodification of nature is damaging, how it reinforces the otherness of nature rather than unifying human and nature, the latter which is, ironically, often the spoken intention.

[Edit: I am not sure that I care, not when I am in nature.]

The goal is to explore singularity, then.

Day Unknown — morning
Walking (an excerpt)

The sound of human feet
A fly
A song bird’s cry
In conversation

It is greener here by the water

I turn my human music on
Black artists, rhythmic
There are no black people in this wilderness
Only white
Some brown

My hair is pale like the dry grass
Like the seeds of the purple thistle after blooming
My animal, as black and sleek as the ravens
Which are not here

Here the skeleton of a tree like an old man whose limbs have buckled and bent
Maybe he walks with a cane
Maybe most of his teeth are gone
And the skin on his cheeks is collapsing inward
The joints in his hands are swollen
Bulging knuckles
Translucent skin
That is what the tree looks like

And the mullein
My favorite soft plant
At once so female in its center
Until it blooms into a flowering phallus
And then back again
I drink rain drops from the tender leaves
When there is rain

Dog panting
We move along

Buzzing insects
A truck rumbling

Broken glass

Flags in the distance:
New Mexico
Prisoner of War

Someone’s made a peace sign in the dirt with stones

We cross a road
Cross over the wasteland

Like another planet

With Tires
Chunks of concrete
Rusted pipes
Remnants of a garbage container

Someone has made a stone path
Someone else has taken parts of it away

The cicadas continue
Another truck

A breeze through my hair
the sound of hollowness
Dogs barking
Flags clanking against a metal pole
A grasshopper

My dog waits in the shade
For me to leash us
And continue home
Through the streets

Not wild
We two
But smiling

Sunday, June 23 — evening
Dear Class,
I am finding that between phenomenological exercises and reading Aldo Leopold that I have lost my own (familiar) writer’s voice, and seemingly, some cognitive ability. My brain is not thinking in complete sentences. It is sometimes thinking in images, possibly in sensations, if it is thinking at all. True, this could be a result not of the course material but of time spent in the sun, inciting a lupus flare which casts a low fog in my brain. In the past weeks, I have walked almost from Silver City to Las Cruces (nearly one hundred miles!), but here, in the open spaces outside my door, with my dog, Sanjay. We are taking a break this evening. I speak this gently to him. He is disappointed, likely still hoping, and resting by my side.

But, isn’t it also possible that the walking in total presence with the land body for so many mornings and evenings could impact the way one’s mind works? Could I be thinking like a mountain? Or a . . .

White feather, soft, floating above tall grasses on the hillside, in the morning sun

I do not see many people. It is a life of relative ascetism that I live: Me, my animals, the land.

I want to tell you that it is difficult to be a wilderness guide in the desert who has an adversarial relationship with the sun. My body’s immune system will attack itself if given too much light, limiting its own mobility and covering its skin with a rash.

Saturday, June 22 — morning
Breeze, cool from the west
A pine tree
Trucks in the distance
The sound of wind

A shadow
Half of a waning moon at 9:00 AM
Up high
Against a blue sky

Black dog running up hill
My pants flagging in the wind
Sun beating on the back of my neck

The truck sound is coming from the cemetery
Digging a grave
Amongst the white crosses and silk flowers of Catholicism

Dogs from the animal shelter bark in concert
Enjoying their morning exercise

We walk on
My nose bleeding slightly from the dryness
Always I am asking the pine trees for help

Here a bridge
Three bridges

A family of quail
My dog knows he will not catch
So he listens, panting

Beneath the umbrella of deciduous trees in summer
Fanning us cool
Verdant against the sky

We walk on

Into the dry wash
Over a concrete embankment
Marked by translucent spider webs

Through the pines now
Over a carpet of brown needles

The wind stills

We walk on

Broken and twisted trees
Long dead
But beautiful

My hair lifts slightly in the breeze
A bird calls
Another now, but sweeter
A soprano
Harmonizing with a buzzing alto

Tree roots
Rock dams
White open poppies in the sunlight
A plastic bottle full of sand

We walk on

Power lines and water tanks
A shelter for abused women and children
A wall
A security code
Dark slate rock underfoot, breaking

Dried grasses in circular patterns
Spikes of cactus
Low to the ground

How do animals know to avoid them?

Tree roots strong enough now to support my body
Shade between junipers

Billowing pants, hair lifting


The birds

Yellow lines on a curving road

Where is my dog?
I hear human voices from the women’s shelter, a laugh

I walk on
I hear his tags following me, his panting
His toenails against concrete
His spit making water marks beneath him

Butterflies the size of my pinky finger
A copper mine in the distance

We walk on
ATV tracks in the dirt
Eroded hillside
Will it hold?

Silver rabbitbrush
The sound of my own feet
Over the same wasteland
With the same flags

A town unfolds

And a raven!
Before me in the tree
As a second alights

So good to see you!
Where have you been?
What does this dryness do to our psyches?

Monday, June 24 — morning
Body tired
Joints, ankles, knees stiff
Muscles sore
Exposed flesh throbbing

I sit in the shade
Sanjay comes

Our bond is deeper for these walks in the wilderness

His body is lithe, well-muscled strong
He does not have lupus or take medications
Two cups of food per day at regular intervals
And lots of rabbit chasing

Sometimes he wins
Evidence that the chase matters

Cicadas in waves
Persistent crickets
And a motorcycle engine

A car alarm
And a hole in the dirt
Whose home?

Crossing over barbed wire and the remnants of a box spring
Electrical pole 4113
My legs like molasses

It is never tiresome descending to the place where water is, but isn’t
The green betrays the hidden, subterranean moisture
There is a cool freshness, a lightening of spirit

But we are just passing through
A constant bird calling

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