Nearly every day in fair weather—and the weather here in Santa Fe is fair nearly all the time—I take my picnic lunch and Pip and walk to my pond. The path I follow runs along the top edge of a deep, rocky and sandy arroyo, with a distant, now never clear, view of the mountains eighty miles away in Albuquerque.
The pond, which I had built two decades ago before we were seized by drought, is edged with big boulders, a deck, and a lively waterfall—all pumped and recirculated water. There are very few natural waterfalls here, and this one serves as a reminder of the big, triple waterfall at Wolf Pen Mill Farm—another or my sanctuaries although I rarely go to Kentucky.
Pip knows to stop at the wooden bench halfway between my studio and the pond. He waits while I sit down and begin to memorize another poem by Emily Dickinson—a short one. The little book has been hanging for several seasons on the bench inside a supposedly waterproof bag, but our rare rains have gotten inside and mildewed it—a reminder that the rains have come, and perhaps will still.
There’s a stone bench, too, at the pond where I sit to eat my lunch and to feed the big fat Koi who have been thriving and growing there for years. It being spring, one handsome, bright orange fellow shows off for me and his oblivious mates by leaping so high out of the water he seems to be standing on his tail.
Meanwhile, Pip goes next door to visit his friend, my granddaughter’s shy blond rescue dog. He also eats whatever food she has left in her dish.
All these places bless me.
Le Guin’s poem reminds me of the refuge I always find in words.
Initiation Song from Finder’s Lodge
Ursula Le Guin, from Always Coming Home, 1985
Please bring strange things.
Please come bringing new things.
Let very old things come into your hands.
Let what you do not know come into your eyes.
Let desert sand harden your feet.
Let the arch of your feet be the mountains.
Let the paths of your fingertips be your maps
and the ways you go be the lines on your palms.
Let there be deep snow in your inbreathing
and your outbreath be the shining of ice.
May your mouth contain the shapes of strange words.
May you smell food cooking you have not eaten.
May the spring of a foreign river be your navel.
May your soul be at home where there are no houses.
Walk carefully, well-loved one,
walk mindfully, well-loved one,
walk fearlessly, well-loved one.
Return with us, return to us,
be always coming home.