Mornings and evenings at Hermit’s Lakes are natural wonders.
The lake, this evening, is without ripples. Fish rise with a splash to the water’s surface for flies, an eagle lazily circles above us, watching the lake’s surface for the same fish we are trying to catch. Richard and Maria share a bench, all of us fishing hard as the sun drops and you hunker in your jacket to keep warm.
It will be dark soon.
Ninety nine out of a hundred people would agree this is a good definition of paradise.
The one dissenting vote we would throw out and figure the voter has a skewed perspective that makes them prone to anxiety and depression.
Whether all this natural wonder is by design or the result of chaotic chance is a question all of us can ponder with the same intensity of a kid playing with a rubric cube.
None of us three say anything to upset the existing balance, our planet a colorful top spinning on a sidewalk, a perpetual motion machine set in motion with one flip of the wrist.
We are fortunate to be silent witnesses of a spectacular sunset.
The fish must be enjoying the sunset as much as we are.
We don’t come from some ” holler” in back woods Kentucky mountains with our best coon dog sleeping on our front porch, pop’s favorite whiskey Still covered by brush down by the river, grandma’s hot fresh baked biscuits on the table and you better not be late for breakfast if you want to have anything left to eat when you get there.
Bluegrass music was created around fires on nights like this, on people’s front porches, at family cookouts with cheap Chinese lanterns hung in trees for decorations, folks rocking in chairs on their front porches. Back in mountain hollers there weren’t televisions, cell phones, indoor plumbing, or microwaves for quick dinners. People read the Bible, if they could read, and kids didn’t go to school but learned how to fish, shoot squirrels, pitch pennies, and say their prayers real nice.
Alan and Joan have a discussion. Neal tends our camp fire, and Max and Weston move their hands and fingers just fine making us some Kentucky melodies.
The spirit of bluegrass is here tonight, just as meaningful as what we will hear under the big festival tent tomorrow morning.
You can be a city slicker and still know about ” hollers” , but I’m pretty certain none of us have been late to many meals.
Going back to our rural roots, even if we live in big cities, is what this bluegrass festival is all about.
The High Mountain Hay Fever Bluegrass Festival runs July 10-13 at the Bluff and Summit Park in Westcliff, Colorado.
A huge circus tent is set up in the town park with spectacular views of the mountains and valley nearby. In the 2010 census, the population of Westcliff was 568, up from 417 in 2000. 15 bands played this year and festival attendance was close to 4000. The Festival is a fundraiser for children of the area and helps with medical services for the town. In the last fifteen years, the event has raised almost $600,000 towards its charitable goals.
In a town of 568, you know everyone, and everyone is involved in their town. There are volunteers running shuttles that pick us up in the festival parking lot and run us up the hill to the music tent. Volunteers haul trash away, direct traffic, provide first aid services, sell tickets ,and one of them wraps the four day green wristband around my wrist and fastens it.securely. If you remove the band you have to buy another to get back inside the grounds.
Smack dab in a beautiful piece of no where, the town and festival is big enough to attract talent and small enough to be family friendly. You can go to the merchandise tent and visit performers after their set, buy CD’s and T shirts and ball caps. There is a beer tent and country folks handle their alcohol better than most. Kids run in the grass outside the tent and even dogs are well behaved and wag their tails in perfect time with the music.
For four days, we listen to and enjoy all the banjo, guitar, mandolin, upright bass and vocal music we can handle, mostly bluegrass ,but some country and some folk.
When, as one of the musicians says on stage, talking about a song he wrote,before he performs it, you move from a country where seven percent of the population feeds the other 93% you are seeing some real change.When people don’t know where their food comes from, they tend to lose their humility and appreciation for simple pleasures.
When we take the country out of America, we are burnt toast.
Bluegrass should be in every music collection, even if you don’t know where the country is and would never go there of your own free will.
I didn’t get a builder’s tour but this birdhouse comes with a sturdy shingle roof, spacious front porch, and a back door that can be opened to clean inside. The home’s front door is a round hole, big enough for a small sparrow to enter but small enough to keep out a coyote, hawk, or house cat.
This is one of Charlie’s birdhouse masterpieces..
The last one he made was more complex, a bird mansion that resembled a traditional New Mexico Pueblo, complete with ladders to roofs and a kiva. We all agreed it should be hanging in an art gallery but it is destined for Birmingham, Alabama for grand kid’s and a lucky bluebird family.
Us Charlie supporters, haven’t been on line yet to see what the going price is for “custom” birdhouses, if you could even find a custom one like this for sale..
More than likely, you can buy your birdhouses cheapest from Amazon but Charlie makes them for free for family and friends.Even a dirt poor rice farmer in Vietnam can’t sell his birdhouse for nothing.
If I were a bird, I would park my feathers inside this roomy mansion, turn on my big screen television and watch Hitchcock’s ” The Birds” ,or a documentary on Charlie “Bird” Parker.
I would move into this birdhouse now, in a second, if i could squeeze through the front door.
New Mexico, before statehood, was an American territory wrested from Mexico in one of America’s many wars.
In 1912, we became a state and were lucky to do so.There were plenty of critics, then, as now, who suggested New Mexico has more in common with Mexico than the United States, has a backward uneducated population, is not nearly close to being civilized. In our early days, outlaws like Billy the Kid shot up people, miners lived a tough and tumble life camped out in nearby ravines looking for gold, and cattle ranchers hung cattle thieves from cottonwood trees.
Cerrillos, at one time, was a bustling community and was considered for the location of our state capitol. When the mineral reserves played out though, the town shrunk, and, today, this back roads thin spot on a thin road is just a few hundred souls living a quiet life not far from movie star Santa Fe and Albuquerque, the biggest city in the state.
The Cerrillos Station is a new, remodeled version of an old General Store that our family visited back in the fifties.The coffee is fresh, the owners cordial, the merchandise arty and fashionable. The repertory theater that produced melodramas in the 50’s for families is no where to be seen but this little town is still typical small town New Mexico with adobe walls, pinon rail fences, garden plots in back yards, fifth wheels pulled up to utility poles, dogs running around unattended and without leashes.
Friends Robert and Eric, who came along for the ride, enjoy their coffee, and we take a quick break before heading back down the road to Madrid, another New Mexico mining town turned into a hippie hideaway and retreat for non-conformist souls who aren’t much different than the neighbors they live next too.
The old pictures of Cerrillos, in black and white on the shop’s walls, make me wonder how the Hell this territory ever made it to being an American state?
I guess those back room politicians just didn’t want to see a gap on the U.S. map between Arizona and Texas?
Either you are hungry, uncomfortable, scared, envious, or in love. Sometimes you are just bored and want to change because you can.
Chip and Lori want to live simple and live free.
” It’s an experiment, ” Chip says, and, thankfully, his wife is going along with it. Moving in a different direction than your spouse is like trying to row a boat with oars going in opposite directions.
The corner posts go in first for a storage shed that will give Chip a place to store his tools out of the weather. He can put his generator inside and we can have electric to run our power tools.
I will come back to help when Chip has all his materials on site and we can put the shed together in a couple of days.
Sitting around a campfire at night, under more stars than we can see, the place oddly feels like home, even if the wind whips up and the cold sneaks in under my bedroll and makes me wake up in the middle of the night.
Nowhere is most often a remote, uninteresting, nondescript place, a place having no prospect of progress or success, obscure, miles from anything or anyone.
Nowhere is a place no one else wants to be, a place that offers no comfort, no wealth, no value.
Nowhere, however, can be a place to gain privacy, a place to begin new, a place to build what you now see that you didn’t see before.
Pioneers struck out to find value in the nowhere reaches of the old west. Astronauts went into the nowhere of space looking for new worlds. Explorers in the sixteenth century ventured into nowhere to find profit.
Chip, wife Lori, son Bowen, and Scott are striking out for Nowhere, Arizona.
There won’t be a town here, but, by the time we are done, this trip, there will be the start of a storage shed for Chip and Lori’s stuff. Their homestead is still further down time’s road.
When you come to Nowhere, you don’t want to come with Nothing and you want to leave Something behind.
This is how it must have felt to the pioneers on wagon trains headed west after the American Civil War, a shared tragedy, like slavery, that some Americans still haven’t worked their way through.
Henry David Thoreau got tired of his rat race in the 1800’s and retreated to Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts to live a simpler life.
As a transcendentalist, he believed getting close to nature would get him closer to truth, wisdom, God, and peace. He built himself a little cabin on Walden pond, took daily walks, observed nature, documented his thoughts and daily chores in a book he called ” Walden, or Life in the Woods. ”
My road trip goal is to help Chip and Lori get a start on their simpler life in the middle of Nowhere, in Arizona, thirteen miles down a dirt road, off a narrow two lane highway leaving I-40 just past Gallup over the New Mexico state line.
With 80% of Americans living in cities these days, the things you can’t do, in a free country, are astounding.
The 20% of Americans who live outside city limits are an independent breed.These folks move to a different drummer, value individual liberty, work, helping your neighbors, keeping government at bay, They used to be everywhere, be your neighbors, go to your church, run for office. Now, they are scurrying out of the city as quick as they can get their resources together.
When all Hell breaks loose, do you really want to live in a city, anywhere?
Henry David Thoreau’s book is still resonating, a hundred and fifty years later.
I’ve heard, though, that even Henry would sneak back to town to have dinner with sympathetic readers and talk shop with Ralph Waldo Emerson over a glass of wine and a big piece of the widow Smith’s award winning Angel Food cake.
Sometimes you just don’t know what you are missing till you try something else.
Pat has been persistently trying to move Scott to a DSLR for several years. ” I Phone cameras are good for what they are, ” he has always maintained, ” but cell phones make telephone calls and get you on the net. If you want good pictures you got to get better equipment. ”
My DSLR stuff has been collecting dust, but, on this trip, Scott has taken his Nikon DSLR out of its case and taken a few photos.
The entire process is like discovering that you can eat soup with a fork, if you like, but it is easier and less messy to use a spoon.
So, here are a few photos taken with the Nikon.
I like them and hope Pat likes them too.
Next trip, there will be substantially more of them.