Posted by: goutdeterroir | March 23, 2011

Connecting People to Land

“Wherever the hero may wander, whatever he may do, he is ever in the presence of his own essence — for he has the perfected eye to see. There is no separateness. Thus, just as the way of social participation may lead in the end to a realization of the All in the individual, so that of exile brings the hero to the Self in all.”

~ Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949)

I miss being here, writing down the bones of place. While my connection to wildness certainly has not lessoned, my emergence in it has. But that is not all there is. There is more to this passion for fur and feather, leaf and bloom, wind and stone. There is also a passion for connecting people to land. Today I begin to broaden my horizon and expand my reach with this blog. Instead of reaching in I reach out to you, dear reader.

In the cycle of the Hero’s Journey, made cogent for our didactic persuasion by Joseph Campbell, the process of returning is of particular importance. It’s all well and good to journey out into wilderness, overcome trial and tribulation, win the prize, but what do you do with the prize? The “prize” of the deep work is not for the hero(ine), but for the community. The work must be integrated back into the whole. I now understand that I have been missing a crucial step. It is now time to close the circle, to come full-circle, to return to my tribe with my bag of goodies: ecology, holistic science, traditional ecological knowledge, biognosis, and a few more tricks and treats.

From dialogue to communion . . .

Posted by: goutdeterroir | July 4, 2010

A Return to Wildness

I return to this blog after more than a year away. My love for experience of land has not diminished, but my priorities have shifted. The physically intense and limiting experience of a complicated pregnancy, followed by the all encompassing role of motherhood, are my excuse. Since we last talked I have moved twice, each time closer to the heart of town and farther from wildness. These days it takes more effort to find wildness, and even more to find the time to transmute the meaning and magic to words.
Perhaps it is my keen awareness of what I have lost that drives me to connect again to this blog, this place where I “write down the bones” of the beast born purely of unadulterated wildness. Reflecting on wildness, it seems clear that wildness is not something “out there,” separate and other. It is only because wildness resides within us that its outer form so moves and stirs us. An echo returning to itself. Sunlight reflected in still water. Wherever we reside, be it a landscape of glass and concrete or a landscape of wood and stone, wildness is there for the finding. Look for the meaning, look for the magic and there you will also find wildness.

Posted by: goutdeterroir | October 25, 2008

Why I Live in Wild-ness


In my last entry I wrote, “Maybe I’ve had my fill of the country, maybe city living isn’t so bad after all.”  All I can say is “perspective is everything.”

The universe has a sense of humor, as if to answer the question that has been on my mind lately (is it time to return to the city?) I had several experiences that reminded me exactly why I choose to live in the middle of nowhere in a harsh, beautiful and stoic landscape.

All of these experiences where negative city experiences, and while I’ll spare the details, let me just throw some words and phrases that sum it up: pit bull attack, untreated mental illness, poverty, near-miss auto collisions, random acts of violence, hostility, fear, inhumanity, reckless stupidity, cruelty.  

As I pulled up to our gate, having just returned from a stressful and harrowing day in the city, I had a sudden and profound appreciation for my home in wild Golden.  I took a big breath of clean, crisp, cold air.  No pollution.  No noise.  No reckless violence.  No greed.  Just wind. And sky. Ravens playing in the currents above. 

A raw, untamed clarity and beauty. This is why I live here.  


cactus blooms

cactus blooms

I would rather nuzzle-up to the uncertainty of sharing place with mountain lions, bears, rattlesnakes, cactuses, rodents, skunks, coyotes, children of the earth, tarantula and the tarantula wasps that hunt them than sink to the bottom of a cesspool of humanity saturated with self-inflicted suffering and aggression.  I choose the difficulty of dealing with wild, uncontrollable and unknown forces of nature over the difficulty of dealing with human ignorance, greed, violence and disconnection.  

I lifted my head to the Golden sky, “Thank you spirits for reminding me of how lucky I am to breathe and walk and be alive in a human body with the capacity to choose my environment.  Thank you brother cougar for teaching me fearlessness and self confidence.  Thank you sister bear for teaching me how to patient and discerning. Thank you spirits for humbling me in the face of powers much greater than me.  Thank you for reminding me to take responsibility for every foot-fall and helping me to not take for granted my personal freedoms and privileges.”

Posted by: goutdeterroir | October 21, 2008

Lions, Rattlesnakes, and Bears – Oh My!

Lately I’ve had several experiences that have challenged my desire to live in Golden, NM.  Individually, these experiences are not things that would send an outdoorsy person packing, but taken together – well, you’ll soon understand.

Dusk, Approaching Storm

Dusk, Approaching Storm

The first in the string of events happened maybe six weeks ago.  I was hiking with my dogs along our favorite trail in the Sandia Mountains.  I really enjoy my hikes in the Sandias because I get to hike in tree cover as opposed to my daily routine of rock, sun-baked dust, pinon, chamisa and cactus.  I usually let the dogs off-leash once I’m away from the road, and we hiked this way for most of the trail.  Towards the end of the trail, near where a 1/4 mile spur takes you back to the parking area, I just had a feeling I should put their leashes on.  As we walked along the path I heard a rustle and saw some brush moving down the trail on my left.  I was very curious about what could be making so large of a disturbance – I guessed it was something a bit smaller than my dogs 35 and 45 pound dogs.  As we got to the point where I had seen the rustling brush I turned my head and came eye to eye with a bear cub peaking out from it perch about 4′ up a tree.  I sensed something watching me on the right of the trail but did not want to be eye to eye with mama whilst in between her and her cub.  Without thinking twice, I simply pretended that I didn’t see the cub and cheerfully encouraged my dogs on down the trail.  My heart beat like a hammer with every step I took.  I was trying to stay calm and not give off any sense of fear or stress. I didn’t let my mind go to thoughts of an attack, I just put one foot in front of the other until I was far enough away to take a big gasp of breath and count my blessings. 

I talked to some rangers and locals and found out that the bears had been very active this summer.  There are five 3-year olds that were on their own this summer, that means five juvenile but full-grown bears looking for territory.  This spring another set of twins and triplets born last spring.  The bear population is too big for the small confines of the national forest – the only place that hasn’t been taken over by highways and sprawl.  I was saddened to hear that two of the young bears where hit trying to cross the highway.  

The next few weeks I stayed away from the Sandias, a little shaken by my experience.  I returned instead to my daily walks on the vast expanse of old mining roads behind my house.  Looking back, knowing what I know now, I shiver a little bit when I think of those late September walks and the danger that was so close at hand.  I quickly became aware of my mortality on a Tuesday evening in early October.  Dusk was falling, the setting sun casting a golden and red glow on the land.  I heard the dogs outside start barking intensely and incessantly. After several minutes I went out on the porch to investigate.  I asked them what they were barking at and they pointed there noses north-east, towards the gate that we use to take our walks.  I saw something move, something big.  I assumed it was brother coyote, a desert constant.  But then I saw the golden tail that swooped all the way to the ground and curved up again, the white butt contrasting with tawny flanks. The slow, unconcerned gait.  A mountain lion.  The demeanor gave it away quicker than anything; here my dogs were barking up a storm trying to be very fur-ocius and this giant cat is just ambling towards them like it was checking out the menu board at a local deli. 

Needless to say, since then I’ve been a little nervous on my walks.  In fact, I didn’t step foot past the fence for a whole week.  Seeing the cat had brought together a string of evidence that confirmed a suspicion I had since August, that a young cat had moved in and decided to stay.  Some of this evidence including morning scat so fresh it would have been steaming had it been colder air temperature.  But mostly it was just a feeling.

After I saw the mountain lion and quite taking my morning and evening walks I began having doubt about staying long term in Golden.  My walks where already tense with a constant vigil for rattlesnakes.  And then there are the ubiquitous mine shafts and air holes pock-marking the landscape – trying to keep the dogs from running across these as they madly chase after rabbits is an exercise in futility.  Then there’s the human element.  Some of the people who wonder back there are friendly miners with legitimate claims, but most of the folks who are back there have less then lawful reasons for being there. I started thinking: “lions, bears, rattlesnakes, cactus, migrating tarantulas and the tarantula wasps that hunt them, hunta virus infected mice, poisonous 6″ centipedes, children of the earth, mine shafts, gun-happy poachers and meth-cookers – ok already!”

Maybe I’ve had my fill of the country, maybe city living isn’t so bad after all . . .

Posted by: goutdeterroir | August 31, 2008

The Verge of Winter?

A few weeks ago I found myself thinking that we (the land and I) were on the cusp of the coming of winter.  I then reflected on this intuition, “no, that’s not right.  It’s only August.  Winter is months away.  We have at least a month of hot weather and then several months of autumnal weather before winter arrives.”  But there it was again.  Some subtle shift in the gout de terroir, the taste of the earth, was registering in my body and it was just sure that it was winter. 

Today when I awoke the air was full of moisture.  Low, dense clouds hovered over the tops of the hills.  Instead of layers to protect from sun I layered to protect from wind, rain and cold.  I was very excited to venture into the landscape in this new, grey and sullen light.  How weary I had become of the brilliant light and heat always illuminating everything.  As I begin walking I saw that the landscape itself looked different in this diffused light, everything slightly muted, nothing standing out.  I noticed how sound vibrations seemed different in this new moistness.  The cold air whipped around my neck and I wished I’d worn a heavier jacket. Yes, this is the edge of winter’s touch.  I can feel already the certainty of winter: the quite and stillness, the land asleep under a thin layer of snow.  Perhaps there are really only two seasons: winter and summer.  Like yin and yang, each carries the promise of the other within it.  It seems on days like this that spring and fall are merely the medium values on the spectrum.  What is spring but the death of winter and the birth of summer?  Fall but the death of summer and the birth of winter.  Yes, winter and summer are the axis points, the double zenith of the pendulum.

Posted by: goutdeterroir | August 11, 2008

sunset storm


I’m in my bedroom in Golden, sitting on the couch looking north and west over the landscape.  I have the distinct sense that this moment in burn brightly  in my psyche for a long time.  Watching the sky this last hour has been one of the most stirring and wonderful moments of my life.  The sky a color I have never seen in my life, no textile or artist palette could ever capture this beauty. To the west the sun has sunk below the hill, bathing the land in shades of red and gold.  Storm clouds gather to the north.  A wind is coming up from the south, clashing with the low clouds above Ortiz Mountain, which is my north star. 

The northwest sky is a brilliant glow of yellow, orange, and gold.  Blue lighting flashes in this field of yellow.  A dense rain begins to fall.  The sound of thunder grows closer. The sky darkens from yellow to peachy orange.  Flashes of lightening all around me now, thunder shaking the house, and orange simmers to periwinkle blue and violet as the sun’s last rays disappear in the west.  The rain softens for ten or fifteen minutes, as if the land is preparing itself for the deluge that is to come.  And it does, just as darkness falls.  The lightening and thunder somehow in sync with the growing darkness, so that the crescendo – deafening crack, brilliant white – happens just at the first moment of utter darkness.  

Throughout this spectacle of fire / water, earth / air I am filled with a gratitude for this moment.  For all the little moments in my life that have added up to being “here, now” with a still heart and open mind to appreciate this special flash of eternity.  The freedom and opportunity to watch this magic unfold is worth more to me than all the little pleasures of the city.

Posted by: goutdeterroir | July 21, 2008

the woes and triumphs of a traveling coffee snob


I’ve been in Vermont for about a week.  As always the search for even a decent espresso has been a daunting, thankless task.   Tried espresso at four different locations and have been scared away from even trying it several times as well.  For the most part, the espresso I had was so bad even 10 ounces of milk (in the form of an iced latte) couldn’t mask its nastiness.  Most of the places just had such terrible beans even the most talented barista with the most awesome machine couldn’t have done anything with it.   Then you have the counter help (can’t bring myself to call this guy a barista) who didn’t have a problem with serving me a 40+ second shots (I stopped counting after thirty seconds and less than a quarter of an ounce).  Honestly, some of the espresso I had was so dank and bitter it makes sucking on a dandelion root sound tasty!

This afternoon I popped into a modern, chic but unpretentious spot called “new moon” on cherry street in downtown burlington.  I had a feeling this could be my spot.  All admit it, I’m a sucker for moon references.  And anyone adept enough to call a shop with black walls and crystal chandeliers “new moon” – how appropriately dark and magical and how not cute!  They have a wonderful salad selection, tossed fresh as you watch, a great sandwich selection, smoothes, fresh veggie juice, pastries, etc.  Anyhow, I started smiling when I saw there “espresso” menu listed macchiato separate from the lattes and caps.  Luckily, someone ordered an espresso and I could peak at the shot and it was lovely!  And the final thing that clenched my excitement – the hopper of the astoria grinder held a lovely melange bean.  While the barista was pulling my shot I inquired who the roaster was, so I would know what to look for on future visits to the N.E.  I couldn’t believe my ears when he said “broadway roaster”.  There is no way, I thought, that this could be the broadway cafe & roasting company

beautiful shots from broadway cafe

beautiful shots from broadway cafe


 I know and love from kansas city. But the barista confirmed that it was indeed: “It’s the only decent bean we can find.”  Wonderful for me at this moment, but such a sad commentary that nowhere in the north east is there a roaster who makes a decent espresso blend.   

Well at least I can say Vermont has one up on New Mexico, where I have yet to find a decent bean.

Posted by: goutdeterroir | July 17, 2008

on staying put

Visiting my dear friend Erin and her boyfriend John in Vermont.  Halfway through the trip, as often happens on visits to far away loved ones, the time somehow begins to slip away.  On realizing that one only has so many days left, a frenzied air begins to stir and stress kicks in.  I think to myself “I cannot be this close to the Adirondack Mountains and not visit.  I’ve wanted to see the Adirondacks all my life, and here I am just across the lake.”

A furor of phone calls, google searches, mapping applications.  The question: “If you only have six hours in the Adirondacks what do you do?”  in the midst of all this planning I pause for a second and think. I imagine the uncomfortable wait at the ferry (will we make it on this one, or will we be in line for another hour?), the relief of touching ground at the other side, the impatient departure from the dock and onto the highway.  Then the negotiations over rumbling bellies, full bladders, the feet itching for the water battling the feet itching for a rocky climb.  “Where to now?  How much time is left?  How much can we squeeze in?”  Then, inevitably, “we’ll just have to change the plan.”  When the new plan is in place, it’s: “Hurry, let’s go!”  Scurrying from one pit stop to the next, jumping from cars like so many lemmings.  In my rush to see and do as much as possible I feel I will loose any chance to truly connect to this land.  What am I rushing to see that I cannot see from the deck of John and Erin’s woodland retreat?  Am I interested more in the bragging rights than the actual experience? (“Oh, it was a marvelous trip!  I traveled by plane, car, boat, and bicycle! I visited X, Y, and even Z!”).  Does my time here have more meaning if I’ve been more places and done more things?  

I think not.  I don’t want to buy into the “Great American Vacation!” hype; as a matter of fact, I think I’ll rebel against it.   That’s right, I resolve to breath.  To let my chest rise and expand, contract and then fall.  To listen to the falling of leaves in the forest, perhaps to hear the footfall of fox or elk, the whir of hummingbird wings.  I want to sink like a stone to the bottom of the pool, slowly eroding until my consciousness has become the lake.  And as the lake I also become the moose who wades, the heron who hunts, the frog who splashes, the tree and fern and moss that drinks. 

I’m going to spend my time in Brooksfield, on the sixty acres of land owned and cared for by John and his family.  A person could spend a lifetime learning from this place.  I have only a few days of summer in which to inhale her verdant fields of flowers and hidden damp darkness.  I choose to spend my time collecting the spice of the earth, the gout de terroir, that particular flavor of soil which makes this place unique in all the world.  If I’m very lucky I can come to know this place a little bit, perhaps to recognize the angle of the sunflowers bow, or the change in lilt of the chickadee song when the sun comes out from behind that cloud.  Yes that particular cloud, the one that is now changing, the one that is now changed, the one that is no more and will never be again.  

This is the truth of living in the moment.  Knowing that every breath of the universe is a precious gift that will never be again.  It exists in and for itself and the most that we can do is join the dance.

Posted by: goutdeterroir | July 17, 2008

wonder lust

wonder lust?

you’ve lost your wonder

  for the AWE

that is here beside you

                   right here

in this small, quiet place

                  right here

like this ruby-crowned

maiden who has made her nest

                  in this 

abandoned utility box

you thought was just

another ugly sore