To begin with, I live alone, and since I spend not only my nights but my days alone, working in my studio, I am prone to the desolation blues: a form of insecurity that can be ripe with possibilities.
My first decision, regarding loneliness, is to accept all possibilities, all invitations, and deal with the inevitable cold feet (a hot water bottle?).
My four days last weekend at Canyon de Chelly are the best example yet of the glories that come from accepting all invitations.
My biography of Doris Duke, Doris Duke: The Invention of the New Woman which I finished, after five years of toil, last June, has reposed on a desk at Farrar, Straus & Giroux ever since I just found out what is happening to it: my editor is editing the manuscript—again.
This is after four revisions of mine and one complete and total revision by her; so I am suffering from the unhinged feeling that comes when an editor is deep in my pages.
More insecurity, more reason to accept all invitations.
I did turn down kayaking to visit the whales in the Sea of Cortez because something in me protests going to gawk at wild creatures.
I long for wild creatures, but those that are truly wild and not visited by human beings in kayaks.
My wish was fulfilled yesterday at Apache Mesa, my piece of wild south-east of Las Vegas, New Mexico, on an arid mesa we are restoring to health.
Our first requirement is to find water. We have a well, but it is not very productive; our solar pump draws up just enough for cooking and flushing the toilet, and the claw foot bathtub we installed in a moment of enthusiasm will probably never be filled.
Other dreams—a vegetable garden, a few cows, a plodding trail horse for me, depend on finding more water.
The best possible source—probably the only source, other than some temporary ponds that only fill when we have rain—is a spring at the foot of a cliff; the spring, which dribbles down the cliff face—and it is only dribbles—slowly fills a small pond fenced with tall reeds.
Yesterday, my dog Pip (he has starred in some of my blogs) and I walked down the steep, muddy road to visit the spring and see how the dripping was progressing.
It wasn’t progressing much; weeds on the cliff face were dripping like old men’s beards, and the hopeful pipe we had installed issued only a few drops.
However, the little pond beyond the reeds was full. I could tell, because something was splashing around in there.
Pip and I stopped to listen. Whatever was in the water, invisible behind the reeds, was having a great time, jumping and splashing and cavorting the way only a small child or a wild animal is likely to do.
I thought of making my way through the reeds to look, then decided that might not be wise, and started back up the muddy road, calling Pip.
Pip was on the alert behind me, ears pointed in the direction of the splashing, tail at an acute angle, the picture of interested curiosity.
Then he dashed into the reeds.
I called, but Pip does not come when he doesn’t want to, and he did not obey me.
In a minute or so, there was a great thrashing of reeds and Pip came tearing out, pursued by a brown bear.
She was round, plump, young, small, maybe 150 pounds, and she was tearing after Pip, about ten feet from where I was standing.
I waved my poles over my head and shouted and she turned tail and ran back into the reeds.
“Come, Pip!” I commanded, but the fool dog, with the crazy courage I so much admire, rushed back into the reeds, after the bear.
A breath later, Pip came tearing out again with the bear on his tail.
I waved my poles and shouted and she turned tail; brown bears are not aggressive although, of course, any wild animal is unpredictable.
This time, Pip dragged up the road after me, limping, panting, having met his match. She had lightly scored his chest with her claw. Of course she could easily have killed him.
But I couldn’t regret the crazy daring, the reckless curiosity of my little black knight as he plunged after this strange being as though with lance at the ready.
And there again is my divine insecurity, flashing its rays.
Did I wish I had bear spray?
No—partly because I would never have been able to find it in my backpack.
Did I wish someone was with me?
No, not even the delightful company whose company I always miss.
Pip and I were on to adventure, on the edge of danger, full of life and energy—the way I want to live.