Land Connection

I recently started reading the book Hard Light, by Michael Crummey.  I’ve read other books by Crummey and I like his style and his themes. He writes about small town Newfoundland and he writes historical fiction. The interesting thing about Hard Light is that it is a collection of family vignettes, short stories that last one or two pages, peppered with reproductions of photographs of tough people in tough places having tender moments caught in a moment of living a tough life.

Photo by Dieter Kühl on Unsplash

What speaks to me from these pages is a universal sameness between people in small towns everywhere.  No matter the culture or the landscape, we are all the same in our hearts. On the surface our wants and needs may seem very different but underneath there is more similarity than difference.  One way to explore this theme of universal sameness is through stories that cut deep into the everyday fabric of our lives.  When I read about a Scottish-born fisherman off the rocky coast of the North Atlantic Ocean, I can also picture a Hispanic sheepherder in the high country of northern New Mexico.

One of the common themes is open spaces. Historically the land in the lower San Luis Valley of southern Colorado and northern New Mexico has been open to common use. Before the Spanish traveled to the area in the 1500’s, the Native American nomadic tribes roamed the land following the herds of buffalo, antelope, elk, and deer.   Their way of life was threatened by missionaries establishing small colonies of settlers in plazas connected by travel routes. Only a few Spanish stayed in the area, discouraged by hostile native tribes trying to re-establish their territories, but the legacy of Spain remained and was carried on by farmers, ranchers, traders, and others coming north from Mexico.

Land grants were established without benefit of fences and barriers. Moving herds of sheep or cattle from winter to summer ranges and back again was generally accepted.   Later, with the arrival of European colonists lured by the railroads and promises of homesteads, adventurers from eastern states, and capitalists looking to establish towns and commerce, fences became common and land grants were usurped. Keeping people from their ancestral grounds or traditional grazing and hunting lands became contentious, sometimes fought out in the courts and sometimes fought out in private, personal conflicts involving angry words, guns, and sometimes sabotage.

Today, some 400 plus years after the Spanish first came to the San Luis Valley, open space is still valued and protected. Sheep herding, albeit in smaller numbers, is still practiced in the old tradition. Cattle are moved back and forth from mountain range to valley floor (still nearly 8,000 feet above sea level) usually in small herds. The lack of vegetation and water mean that livestock needs a wider range of land in order to be successful.

Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range from the San Luis Valley

There is something sacred and timeless, going back to the very heart of the land, being able to look across the land for fifty miles or so of clear vision and few or no barriers.  A fence only mars the view. As the Newfoundlander looks across the ocean in all kinds of weather and rejuvenates his soul, so does the rancher in the San Luis Valley look across the rolling land to the mountains in the far distance and fill his heart up once again.

Telling Stories

Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash

Some of you may be wondering what my blog is all about, why I’m writing it, and why should you read it or care.  I believe that the basis for all human connection and understanding can be found in the stories we tell and the stories we read.

The history of what went on before us, when rendered in a deep and personal way, can reveal to each of us the soul we were born with and have buried along the way. History can direct the roles in our lives that we choose or are chosen for us.  History can give us tools in the form of knowledge and understanding that we need to interact with the world.

For most of my life I buried my soul in order to “be” what and who I thought I should be.   What kept my soul alive during this dark time were stories.  Reading books allowed me to shift into a world that was different than my own. I could be anything, do anything, live in any place on earth or outer space, or even dark within the earth through the characters, places, and events I read about in books.  As I grew older I got curious about the people who wrote these books. I wanted to write books! I wanted to know about the authors and how they came to bring these worlds and characters out on paper.  From there grew my love of words and putting words together. I entered the world of non-fiction and wrote hundreds of thousands of words.  But always there was the story, the history, waiting in the wings to be heard, interpreted, invented, and told.

So this blog is really an extension of my belief: The basis for all human connection and understanding can be found in the stories we tell and the stories we read.

My goal is to give you the tools and inspiration to explore your own stories, whether that be through fiction, poetry, non-fiction, or other creative avenues such as song, dance, and art.  The world needs you to tell us who you are and what you love.  And in turn, show us why we should love it too.

So if my posts seem a little scattered at first glance, look deeper for the underlying thread of story. The thread of hope and inspiration and discovery of true self.  Therein lies the pattern that will make sense of it all.

Explore yourself through story!