Into the Gila

Gila Wilderness

Oh my look out

WOKE UP AT 3:00 A.M because a female voice was saying, “Let me in,” but I was dreaming in the dream. Walked to my front door and opened it. All was pitch black, scary, no one there. Turned on the outside light and flung the screen door open. Something caught my eye off to the right, an odd thing at the far edge of the flower bed. Walked out, bent down, saw a raised bare lump with ants! Not a normal anthill mind you and in winter too but then again a dream. Came back in the house, this old adobe, this room, still inside the dream. Vivid colors, cold night air, humidity, and smells. Noticed that the hard adobe floor in the corner of the room was spongy like a forest and found a second place with ants. How peculiar, really, right there on the old gray carpet. I pushed down with my foot to feel for sure and yes there was some give like I was outside in the dirt and just a little damp. Nothing I could do about it then so I went back to bed inside the dream, at which point I woke up for real…

Room 303 in Silver City

I’m better these days. When Kathy died my purpose ended like I’d done it all but here I am again. I see connections, flail around, and try to love myself. Look too hard for meaning where there is none, hold myself together when I ought to swing from trees. I know I’ll love again but worry I’ll forget her or be cheating on an angel, even with permission. Everything I’m pulled toward feels like it’s my last chance and I’d better get it right. Nothing is ever finished, though. Tears of longing, tears of beauty. Air. I walk into the bathroom in the morning, see my face and say hello to John. Usually I smile. I also wear her gold chain now. It barely goes over my head. Drop it down inside whatever shirt I’m wearing, icy cold, and then it warms right up and comforts me. Not because she owned it, though. I think it’s mostly from the gold.

If only it were all as good as that. The house is still full of her things. There are piles of clothing, blankets, suitcases, plastic bags of half-sorted “stuff” that haven’t changed in 18 months. Every day I vow to tackle this or that but usually hurry to lash myself to the mast of making NFTs although I haven’t sold a one. Writing too and taking photos, editing. Oscillating between peace and fear. The two storage units are full of possessions we brought from Maryland in ‘99 as well as furniture, rugs, mementos from my mother’s double-wide in Tucson. The rental cost for the storage units has doubled in the months I’ve been alone. I’ve been telling myself I need to make some money before I deal with all of this. It has to end this spring, however. All of it, everything. The money can wait and it will come. I need the space to work. Someone told me I was on a hero’s journey. That comforts me as well. I realize anything is possible. The only way to fail is by abandoning myself which I will never do. I know I’m loved and meant to thrive connected to the Whole. My health is steady. I am free.

Gila Wilderness

The time for holding back is gone. There never was a reason. All I have to do is watch my thoughts and only keep the good ones. Last month I took a four-day trip. The 2007 Pontiac Vibe was ready to go but on the final afternoon before I left I noticed that the irregular slapping, ticking noise from the top of the engine never really went away when it got warmed up like I’d reassured myself it did. What if it were the timing chain? Drive all day and have the bloody thing explode was not the way to go and I knew I’d have to take the truck. Oh please don’t throw me in that briar patch. The 2001 Dodge Dakota 4×4 was smooth and solid. The overhead cam V-8 was bulletproof and rumbled gloriously through twin tailpipes. The interior was warm and comfy. If I got 18 miles per gallon I’d be lucky but at least I’d fucking get there.

It was meant to be. I got out of the way. The ride down south was better than I ever dreamed. In the twisties in the canyon I could pass like thunder just by pushing down my foot. I hummed along at 80 mph on the almost empty interstate. The Dodge was in a sweet spot where it felt like I could drive forever. I had plenty of food, stopped whenever I wanted to take a picture, filled the tank on credit, and rode up high where I could look around at beautiful New Mexico. I hardly listened to the radio or played CDs because the motor sounded so damn fine. On the steep roads in the mountains I locked the auto trans in second gear and gave it gas to rocket up the hills. I even needed four wheel drive on packed snow on the shady side of steep slopes in the Gila.

More Gila

I have to tell you, it was crazy. Four days after Christmas, almost no one there. The mountain road was paved and signed but often unmarked, really just one lane with 10 mph switchbacks, hairpin turns you couldn’t see around, sudden patches of ice. Few guardrails. Lots of little places to pull off, though. The purity and clarity was mesmerizing. I kept the window down and had the heater blasting. No way could I have a piece of glass between me and that air, the smell of nothing, oxygen and trees, the rumble of the twin pipes bouncing off the rocks.

The first time I stopped and stepped down from the cab, the wilderness hit me like a breaker at an ocean beach as the mountains rolled in all the way from the horizon. Standing right there all alone with everything so stunning, living, clean, and empty of the works of man (except the road of course), I was overcome with awe and started shaking. “It’s so beautiful,” I sobbed out loud while stumbling over rocks and taking pictures. This has only happened to me once before, in northern Taos County on a birthday trip with Kathy in the ‘90s several years before we moved from Maryland. That one sealed the deal. This one may have too, but I don’t know the plans or even the dimension. I doubt it’s geographic, though. The first one wasn’t either really.

Here are several photos you should see:

Pay attention!

Mimbres Cliff Dwellings

Gila up close

Looking east toward the Gila from Leopold Vista on US 180

The next day I came home. I really needed gas and figured I’d hit a station on the way out of town. To my great surprise, the street I chose climbed quickly through a jumble of funky neighborhoods and spit me right out on the lonesome highway. No suburbs, no nothing. No traffic, either. I checked the map and saw there was a town (?) some miles ahead. Everybody needs gas, right? But there wasn’t anything you’d call a town. On the left though was a little store with gas pumps, glory hallelujah. I might have stopped anyway because the place was named “CHUCK’S FOLLY.” The gas pumps (only two) had no card readers at all. No instructions, either. I walked inside to look for Chuck. He may have been the fine young bearded man who greeted me.

“About the gas, should I pay now or pay you later? I don’t know how much I need.”

“It’s entirely up to you…”

At least I thought that’s what he said. I wasn’t sure because I’d never heard such a thing before. My ears were also stopped up from the altitude changes along the way, so I made him say that twice again before I finally got it. The pumps just sat unlocked for anyone to get their gas and then presumably pay Chuck. One pump for regular and one for premium. No buttons to push either, just pick up the nozzle and squeeze. This made me so happy I bought a big ham and Swiss cheese sandwich I didn’t need when I was done. It kept me going all day long.

Road to Magdalena, Socorro, and I-25

I don’t know what the dream means. But I feel the trip has opened me up. The first thing I remembered after I turned on the light was how green the whole dream was. Grass and bushes outside, even in the dark, and here inside the house a sense of it. (The area around my desk returning to the Earth.) Did this have anything to do with death and giving up my body? And what was it that wanted in?

With every kind of art there is I’ve always felt a little guilty. As if I needed to make some money with it or explain. This won’t work, it isn’t serious, you don’t know what you’re doing. Study, practice every day, you lazy good-for-nothing bastard. Applied to music that meant barre chords, toughen up the muscles, learn some scales. But Johnny only wants to fly. I’ve always been that way, ever since the first time I bought a balsa glider at the five & dime, put tadpoles in a jar, drew space ships on my homework, built model airplanes, wore out all my 45s, tried to kiss the preacher’s daughter, and cried when Buddy Holly died. Still it’s like I’ve never done it, whatever “done it” means.

Would you believe I’ve hardly ever used a capo on the 12-string? Some people call them cheaters and I bet that’s why I haven’t. Never mind that blues guys do, folkies do, everybody does but me and barre chords are too hard so fuck it. Why on earth not though? A couple days ago I did. Clamped that sucker on the third fret of my ‘68 ES-335 TD12, rolled the master volume up to 10, whomped a jungle rhythm on a single chord for 30 minutes, and blew my mind. By the time I stopped I was rollin’. Heart rate in the 90s, oxygenated out the gazoot, high as hell without a drop or toke involved. Felt so good I jumped right in the truck, drove straight to Sonic, bought a goddamn double bacon cheeseburger with onion rings, ate the whole damn thing in one go and still felt 10 pounds lighter. ROCK AND ROLL, my people, and all I had to do was:

Later, everybody. Pay attention to what you tell yourselves. God bless from 7,000 feet.

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John Hamilton Farr lives at 7,000 feet in Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico, U.S.A. As New York Times best-selling author James C. Moore tells it, John is “a man attuned to the world who sees it differently than you and I and writes about it with a language and a vision of life that is impossible to ignore.” This JHFARR.COM site is the master writing archive. To email John, please see CONTACT INFO on About page. For a complete list of all John’s writing, photography, NFTs, and social media links, please visit JHFARR.ART  

  • Richard January 23, 2023, 11:33 AM

    Hey, John. Glad to see you’re still dreaming and reporting back. “Oscillating between peace and fear” pretty much the human condition. Ye gods, that picture looking east! Keep on flying and rocking, you’ve got no excuses and no guilt to hold on to now. You always remind me to do the same, brother. Thanks.

  • JHF January 23, 2023, 6:06 PM

    Hi Richard! Quite right on all counts, many thanks! Not going anywhere soon (I hope). I especially like the “no excuses and no guilt” parts. It really is almost that simple.

  • JudyC February 28, 2023, 1:48 PM

    Those photos are fantastic ! The clarity is perfect. I really liked looking at them. Twice. And I’ll be back to look again.
    When I read about Kathy, I was so touched and sad, because I felt like I knew her, since I’ve been following this blog from the time I came across it years ago. I didn’t comment because what, really, can one say?
    You seem to be holding your own, and somehow surviving, and I guess that’s all one can do.

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