Several years ago, Don returned from a trip to Arizona wearing a t-shirt that said, “what happens in the desert, stays in the desert”. That’s more or less true. For the fifth consecutive year, I’ve returned to the north with part of my soul remaining behind. However, this year, with it being so dry in southeast Arizona, part of the desert tried to come home with me. My van is probably carrying a couple of pounds of red dust. It’s on and inside of everything, including the guitar, banjo and fiddle cases.
As most of you will know, this blog has been very quiet over the winter. In part, it was a case of me not feeling much like writing, but also due to preoccupation with the project that was alluded to in the previous blog post. After five years of renting a house in town, It seened time to move on. The rental house has been a good thing in my life — sort of like a big life raft floating serenely on the Sea of Chaos. However, now, with the old place at Round Hill gradually taking shape, it felt like the right time to leave the raft and swim off into a new adventure.
And so, after a bit of planning, Larry and I decided to get started building a small cabin in the desert. Just a simple place that would provide something of a home base in the southwest. Somewhere to hang a hat in the desert, when not off wandering elsewhere in the world.
We chose a location where we would be surrounded by nature – and it is, from just about the second you step out the door. It’s Chihuahuan desert, dominated by mesquite, whitethorn acacia, creosote bush, devil’s claw, yucca, and other arid land plants.
In places, ant hills scatter the sand like craters on a moonscape.
Footprints of javelina, fox, coyote, roadrunner, kangaroo rat, lizards, and other creatures form a network of trails. Kestrel, ravens, vultures, harriers, redtail hawks, and in winter, sandhill crane, glide and soar overrhead.
Every foray presents us with some new plant, creature, fascinating rock, or old relic from past. There is a 360 view of the sky. Sunrises, sunsets and clouds take on a greater significance. At night, the moon and stars take center stage.
The dogs love the freedom of racing down washes and around hummocks of mesquite – as do we.
The cabin is compact and simple – built strong and solid. Larry’s former days of building timber frame houses made it so. The exterior is of stucco – this photo taken after the second coat but before the final pigmented finish coat which, we hope, will be about the colour of dried grass in winter. It’s off the grid, so relies on solar for all power. It has a loft and will have steps and a porch out front. Larry has stayed on to complete the building while I return to work on the old house up north.
Before leaving, I made a circle of stones on a little rise above one of the more pronounced washes. Over a couple of days, I collected a about three dozen small boulders – the beginning of a pile that may be used to build a round structure as a place to paint and play music. That’s stuff for the future – next year and beyond…
Inside the circle, I arranged findings of the last few days’ walks before leaving. Compass-like, an odd rusty piece of metal points northeast. This summer in the north, I shall make another pointing southwest. It is good to have markers pointing the way home.
It’s been a long while – a very long while – since I posted anything here. No real explanation for my absence other than that I seem to have been preoccupied by a good many things and not in the mood for writing. I may be ready to write again.
Anyhow, I’m still in Bisbee, but leaving to head back north quite soon. I’ve been playing a lot of music. In fact, I’ll be playing music tonight – with the group of people I jam with a couple of times a week. We are a group of musicians who enjoy playing celtic music. Because we play down here in southeast Arizona, we call ourselves the Borderline Celts. Tonight, we’ll be playing together for a live broadcast on the local public radio station, KBRP.
There’s other news to write about, but I’ll do that some other time – hopefully soon.
For now, I just wanted to comment that playing music brings a lot to my life these days. It’s nice to get together with a bunch of good friends to play tunes for a couple of hours. We do it not just for the music, but for the camaraderie, I think. Music has always meant a lot to me – I began playing guitar at a young age, inspired by my parents who also played instruments. I first picked up the guitar after listening to my mom singing and playing folk songs during the 1960s. Both my parents loved to sing and I have many good memories of our musical household.
Anyhow, tonight also happens to be the 15th anniversary of my dad’s death. As some of you may know, I was his caregiver during the final couple of months of his life. He died in the arms of myself and my husband Don, who is also now gone. It’s sometime difficult to think of a way to remember someone – a suitable ritual. However, I think that playing music this evening may be just about the right way to remember my dad. I know he would have loved to be able to tune in to hear my friends and I playing celtic tunes on the radio.
As another summer comes to a close, it seems an appropriate time to look back on the house as it appeared when I first arrived here in Round Hill in April 2010 (see below – click on all photos for larger views).
What do you think? Four summers of plenty of sweat and elbow grease has made quite a difference! When I first arrived here, the old place was in a shambles. As many of you may remember, I bought it sight unseen other than through photos and video clips. Upon arrival, I wasn’t dismayed. In fact, the state of the house barely registered as I was still in that peculiar state of seething fury that sustained me during the first three or so years after Don’s death. Perhaps it’s good that I felt that way. Otherwise, I might well have abandoned this project as there was just so much to do in order to make the house even passably inhabitable. The truth is that living here has been a pretty spartan existence. Fortunately, that didn’t bother me much. Most of the time, I was entirely oblivious. I expect that my few-and-far-between visitors wondered if I was off my stick for staying here. Well, perhaps I was.
Anyhow, things are better now. Great strides have been made this summer. With the help of my spirit ally, Larry, many projects saw completion. I won’t go into a detailed enumeration, but suffice to say that the house is looking and feeling much happier these days.
And, things are finally to the point that I’ve even been inspired to get creative – painting floors and fish on doors – and so on.
One of the nicest projects was to get some new windows for the brook side of the house. The best of the original windows could then be added to those that I had been rebuilding for the front of the house. When I arrived in 2010, most of the front windows were a rotting, unsalvageable mess. However, now with the extras, I was able to assemble enough for the three front windows. I even had enough of the rippled antique panes of glass to fill all of the upper sashes. They look wonderful from inside the house – like looking out into a slightly watery impressionist painting. In daylight, the same panes throw beautiful shadows and reflections on the interior walls.
The collapsing cellar entrance is now well shored up with concrete and reinforcing rods. No longer must I worry about a cave-in on the way into the basement!
All in all, it’s been a terrific summer — between playing music with friends, cooking up the bounty of the prolific vegetable patch, and seeing the completion of a number of projects. It’s all been good. The forlorn old house has grown into a much happier place.