Alzheimer's had robbed my mom of her ability to live with dignity. The capable and independent person she had been was gone. I looked at the years I probably had left and didn't want to waste any of them. Each year that passes as we get older brings slight changes to us and to what we are capable of doing. I had some things I wanted to do out here while I could. And a place needs to be lived in and taken care of and looked after and there was no one else to do it but me.
I gradually moved all my possessions from the apartment to the ranch until all that was left of me there was a pair of pajamas, a jacket, a pair of sandals, and a photographer's picture of us taken the year we met.
And Rick, the other half of myself.
I brought fears with me, some of them deeply embedded, ones that walked with me since childhood. A fear of the dark and an unreasonable but paralyzing fear of spiders. And I acquired at least one new fear out here, a fear of wildfires. And a healthy respect for rattlesnakes.
Three years of living by myself hasn't lessened any of these fears. I still have them. Facing them doesn't make them go away, no matter what people say. And whether we have nothing to fear but fear itself or not doesn't really matter. We're still scared sometimes.
Living in this country of no subdivisions and shopping malls, where much of the land hasn't changed in the last 150 years, you look out and can imagine how it was for people here back then. When darkness is settling in and the moon is rising, you look down the hill and easily imagine a Comanche slipping quietly through the live oaks. Their ghosts walk these hills still.
And you understand that people have always lived with their fears and you're no different. You go on in spite of them and are thankful most of yours are just in your mind unlike the very real fears so many people the world over live with.
A person learns a lot about themselves living alone, far away from family and old friends, where neighbors are spread far apart.
I've learned some pretty good carpenter skills here and I've done some projects that I didn't think I could do. I've done my part to finish out two cabins and built an outdoor kitchen from recycled objects. I've built shelves and organized three storage buildings. I've tiled a kitchen island and painted the deer blind. I wasn't raised around cattle but I've learned to enjoy the company of two 1200 pound longhorns and to care for them. I've learned how to winterize the water lines and I've worked in the freezing cold to try and save the garden. I've hauled hay and unloaded feed and filled feeders. I've shot rattlesnakes and tracked deer and found mountain lion scat. I've hauled trash to the landfill. I've photographed and learned the ways of deer, turkeys, and birds. I've stacked and burned brush and cut thousands of small cedars. I've pulled on my boots and gone out in the snow to feed and break ice for animals both wild and tame. I've moved tons of native rock and gravel with a shovel and wheelbarrow and I've taught myself to do masonry work. And I've written a blog about it all.
I've had a great time and I'm proud of the things I've done on my own. But I miss my partner. He hasn't left me totally alone out here. He comes out a couple of weekends each month, although much of the weekend is spent traveling back and forth. And we're counting down the days now until he makes it here full time. Each of us at the end of our rope and hanging onto the knot we've tied, ready for a change.
We've paid a price all these years to have this place. Trying to hold onto it while having to make a living somewhere else. And we continue sacrificing now, being apart. It gets lonesome out here, even for an independent gal who likes her own company. But it's a peaceful lonesomeness. I share it with those souls both past and present who inhabit the land. I've put my stamp on it these last 3 years. And it's put its stamp on me.
"I don't want to be alone. I want to be left alone." Audrey Hepburn
"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, went I came to die, discover that I had not lived." Henry David Thoreau