November 27, 2014

Readers Write: A Forum for Communicating With Readers

These questions come from reader Sherry de Bosque. I love that she is so curious and is digging into the blog and finding certain questions or issues she’d really like addressed. And I’m thrilled she’s presented them to me. I am also interested in the idea that I am not being open enough or “vulnerable” in Sherry’s words. I am willing to be vulnerable on the blog and honestly felt I’ve been—sometimes almost too much so. So I’ve asked Sherry to continue to offer her questions and thoughts and I will respond to them on the blog, sometimes as a post as I am doing here today. I would also like to extend the same invitation to all of you. Please send me your questions and thoughts and I’ll answer and address them on the blog, sometimes in a post when possible.

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Sherry’s inquiries were originally comments on this post, Yet More Small Pleasures:

“I have read so much of your blog. But, while inspiring, it leaves many questions unanswered. Some, I imagine, you consider too personal. But my answer to that would be that given the spiritual nature of this blog, you might consider becoming more vulnerable… or not. But more importantly, what about the more practical questions? Example: ‘two years to build your house’ covers the money, time, trips, help, design, (do you have a bathroom, running water, a roommate?), and so on. I can hear you saying that in leaving out the details you leave us free to follow our own path instead of yours. Still, did you not have practical guide posts along the way that you could share? I’ll get back to reading. But a word about that fantastic kitty enclosure: How did you keep the kitties from escaping under the bottom, and how did you keep the snakes out of the enclosure? See? So many questions!”

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HRA

Okay Sherry, you make so many good points and have so many great questions, let me see if I can address them for you.

As to practical guideposts that others might follow, like advice about how to make this kind of move, I don’t really think so. I do believe our paths and lessons are so diverse that we each have to listen for our own individual messages and do our best to follow them. Perhaps that’s the practical guidepost right there: listen for the messages and follow them, trust them, believe them.

But it’s true there is more of a story to tell than the one I’ve told. And I do believe that in sharing our stories we may inspire others, in one way or another, to walk their own paths or at least effect some positive change. So let me flesh out the bones of my story a bit more and, once I have, you can ask whatever other questions come up or re-ask any I don’t answer to your satisfaction.

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First of all, I left the small town I was living in in Utah because it was “discovered” in the 8 years I was there. Literally, the homesteader fences, the livestock and the dirt roads were disappearing and being replaced by developments. The last straw came when they started building multimillion dollar houses on the rim of the canyon that stood above me and to the north of my house. Clearly, I had to go.

So I was looking for a house up the mountain, about 45 minutes away in a rural area, when a friend discovered I’d never been to New Mexico and that I thought Santa Fe was a western art town. So she suggested we take a road trip. She’d been to Truchas 6 years before and knew of a B&B so we stayed there. She also made me aware of an old adobe church in the village with a house on the back of the property. It had been for sale when she was there and she had photos of it. I was captivated. I called a real estate agent to see if it was still available and was told it might be. So I set up an appointment and hit the road.

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From the very first night Truchas both repelled and compelled me. I didn’t have clear-cut feelings about the village. In fact I felt a sort of dis-ease about the place. But something was also nudging me toward it; particularly toward an area of pastureland I could see from the main road.

It quickly became evident that the church was not for me. It was priced at the top of my budget and it needed a ton of restoration. There was no heat or running water in the house and no water in the church. In addition to that, a local artist was renting the place and I was uncomfortable with the idea of displacing her (this artist turned out to be Anna Karin whom, most of you know, I now share a gallery with). So I asked the agent to show me other properties.

There was only one house of interest, but a young local couple, relatives of the woman who owned the B&B I was staying in, were trying very hard to qualify for a loan to buy it. I wasn’t going to undercut them.

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I had to leave the next morning and I’d not found a house. But that night the real estate agent called to say there was a beautiful piece of land that had just become available. There was no road out to it and, anyway, I was out of time. I had to go back to Utah.

I had never dreamed of, nor even thought about, building a house but, for some reason, I took the plunge and made a commitment to buy the land, sight unseen, and left the village early the next morning. As it turned out, the property sat precisely in the area I’d been drawn to from the main road.

I have no doubt now, in retrospect, that Spirit wanted me on that land. I am still discovering all the reasons why.

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Money is a huge issue for me and is a stumbling block for many artists. It is my only remaining fear. But back then, going on 7 years ago now, I still had some savings and investments from my corporate life, and I also owned a house. It took everything I had (I believe that was a test), to cut a road out here, bring water to the land, put in a septic system, run electricity a very long way up the land grant to my building site and then build the house.

To answer your specific questions, I do have running water (wonderful “city water” that comes off the mountain), two bathrooms and no roommate, although my friend, Kim (see previous post A Very Mini Artist’s Colony in New Mexico), moved his Airstream onto the property in June and is sharing my studio and the downstairs bathroom for another couple of weeks until he moves into Hand Artes Gallery for the winter, and then back here again in the spring. So on a certain level it feels a bit like I have a roommate who has his own private living quarters.

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I like to say that budget designed my house. In fact everything was controlled by that. I read a lot about building and learned that a “small footprint” is the most cost-effective way to go (meaning a small foundation and a couple of floors, creating, also, a small roof). I found the basic idea for my house in a book I ordered from Amazon titled, Blueprint Small, Creative Ways to Live With Less, by Michelle Kodis. There were no blueprints in the book but lots of photos and several floor plans. The design of my house was adapted from a pool house in Memphis, Tennessee. I had two talented friends who did me the great favor of creating plans, drawings and blueprints for me.

It is beyond amazing that I am actually living here on this land in a completed house. I had no idea what I was doing and I was managing the project from afar in Utah. But, without any kind of intention to do so, I spent a lot of time daydreaming about living in this house. I visualized having coffee every morning, sitting in my east-facing windows, watching the sunrise over Truchas Peaks. I lived within moments of having dinner on my little deck. So, although I’d been told by a very talented spiritual guide whom I respect, that I have absolutely no ability to manifest anything, Spirit helped me manifest this.

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I got nervous when I arrived here at the frame stage of the house. Everybody, the builder, my neighbors, the real estate agent, the septic guy, all asked if I had a gun and/or a shotgun. They proclaimed that a woman alone, living way out here in isolation up against the land grant, needed to be able to protect herself and that guns and a knowledge of their use were imperative—that and a very large guard dog (my dog had recently died). They also debated the various locked gates I would need in order to be safe. But that very first evening, I sat alone on the skeleton of what would become my deck, with a little bottle of wine and a wine glass, toasting to a life I didn’t yet have, watching the thunderstorms encircle Truchas, the mountains and the valley. I felt completely comfortable and safe. I chose to go with those feelings.

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An important note here because most of you don’t know me: I imagine at least some of you are thinking that I am one of those people who take risks and make changes easily—that I am adventurous and that moving, by myself, to a “foreign” place where I knew no one, was in keeping with my personality and the ways I’d lived my life up till then. But you would be wrong. This was completely out of character for me and yet I was, somehow, very sure of what I was doing. There is that same guidepost again: listen to the messages, follow them, believe in them, trust them. That’s what I was doing.

I was most worried about transporting my 6 cats, 3 of which are ex-ferals. It was a long drive and they would be making it with me. I envisioned putting the back seats down in my Jeep and filling that whole area with a big cage where they could move around, sleep, eat and drink comfortably and use the litter box. I felt they needed to be contained and safe over the course of the 17-hour drive, and all its inevitable stops, that took me to Truchas.

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But, through it all, I never imagined it would take two years to build my house and get to New Mexico. As I mentioned in an earlier post (The Long Goodbye), I believe I needed that time to say goodbye to Utah and to prepare for the mental/emotional work I would begin upon arrival here (unbeknownst to me).

Perhaps if you are interested I’ll write about that…

P.S. I’ve answered your questions about the kitty enclosure on the post itself: Yet More Small Pleasures.

Love to you all,

Jeane