APARIGRAHA : NON GRASPING
I would like to share with you a little bit about the landscape and weather out here in Northern New Mexico.
Have you ever seen a painting of a western sky and thought to yourself, ‘That’s not real. Whomever painted that shouldn’t have exaggerated the colors so much. It looks fake’. Well, I can report that it does indeed look that surreal in real life. The sky really is that orange, really that blue, really that purple, really that pink. And at least a dozen other colors that I don’t think have names yet. It truly is indescribable (maybe that’s why there are paintings).
The sky is also really that vast. I can stand at a spot less than half a mile away from my house where in a full 360 degrees, I see nothing but sky. No buildings. No highway. Just endless horizon.
When I lived in NYC, I remember sunsets where my heart would ache for a glimpse of the whole horizon. When I lived in NYC, even New Hampshire, I could not imagine the way the stars would look in a sky completely free of light pollution. The Milky Way is so close, I swear some nights I can touch it. Nine times out of ten, if you just look up and soften your gaze, you will see a shooting star.
These are some of the things that make living out here the most magical. And surreal.
You might have heard that it’s a little dry out here. You would be right.
I’m an avid non-water drinker. Or I was. Drinking lots of water wasn’t something that was instilled in me growing up. The humid, moisture rich Northeast provided plenty of water for my body to absorb through osmosis 🙂
I learned very quickly that my years of dehydration did not prepare me for living in the high desert. Where we live is in the mountains, 6,500 feet above sea level among the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. As you drive north from Santa Fe, the terrain for a while gets surprisingly flat. Parts of it look like you could be driving through Nebraska. When you reach Valmora, you drop down into a small canyon where rocky cliffs frame a valley on either side. If you climb up to the top of the cliffs you will be rewarded with a panoramic view of the mountains and widespread mesa. Travel a little further down the canyon and you’ll come upon the Mora River. When there is rain, the trees and grass on the river’s edge feel almost like a late summer day in Vermont. Drive a little further, and you will once again open up onto the endless wide open cattle land.
It’s a lot of varied landscapes in a relatively small area. But they all have one thing in common. They are very dry. A lot of the time.
Rain and water have taken on a whole new meaning for me out here. When we first arrived and our neighbors talked about things like ‘bad years, water rights and monsoon season’, I felt like I was listening to the script from an old Western movie. Two years later, I have a better understanding about what that all means. More importantly, a much deeper appreciation.
Graha, from the word aparigraha, means to grab. Pari means everywhere. The ‘a’ negates the word. Aparigraha means “don’t grab everything”.
Another way to say it, don’t take more than you need. Don’t hoard. Make sure there is enough for everyone.
Growing up down the road from Niagara Falls, water was never a resource I worried about running out of. In New Hampshire, lakes, ponds and swimming holes are at almost every corner. I knew water was important and shouldn’t be wasted, but it was more of a concept than a reality. My life was so vibrantly green much of the time, I never gave much thought to the widespread effect of having very little water, or none at all.
Out here, the mesa is hard yellow and brown most of the time. It makes it all the more amazing when there is even just a little rain, a fraction of an inch, and you see the land that you are convinced must be dead suddenly revive and show signs of life again. Out here, the palest of greens is a breathtaking sight to behold.
I see wildlife out here everyday. I can see the difference in their stature, their behavior, when there is rain and when there is not. I’m not sure there is anything sadder than a skinny and stressed looking wild buffalo. Or elk. Or antelope. When it hasn’t rained for weeks and weeks, the animals start coming closer down to the river, where not coincidentally, there are more humans and more danger for them in general.
Speaking of humans, water rights are a serious business out here. Just up the river from us, about two miles away, is the greenest, most lush looking hay field I have ever seen. It’s a very odd sight amongst all the dryness. At first I thought they just must have more resources to water their land so much, as in, they must have more money to do so. I was right about that, but not in the order I thought. They have more money because they have more water. They are further upstream and can siphon off the water before it reaches other properties down below. The legality of this practice is under scrutiny all the time. But visually it is clear. More water, more green grass, more cows, bigger house, nicer cars etc. etc. etc.
Valmora is very unique in that the property has a natural underground spring. A spring that produces 24,000 gallons of water a day. It’s a boon certainly for the economics of the property and maintaining a self-sustaining community. But it also means the property is not placing undue stress on the land and livelihoods around it.
There is a monsoon season in New Mexico (we hope) every year towards the middle- end of summer. Besides the moderate snowfall in the winter, this rain is what most landowners depend on for their yearly water supply. There are a lot of times when the dark clouds will dance in a circle, flirt with you, but will not actually come over and play. But when the monsoons do come, it’s just what it sounds like. Torrents of rain, often hail, and more often than not a pretty rainbow at the end of the show. Now that these storms are not so scary to me anymore, they feel pretty glorious.
It’s a funny thing to wish for rain when you grow up in the northeast where it’s gray two thirds of the year. But it’s not just my partiality for the coziness of a rainy day. My physical body and soul crave the sound, the smell, the feeling in the air when it rains. With appreciation has come a reverence. I might not have control over when it rains, but I certainly have control over the amount of water I use. I am far more mindful now than I was before of my part in there being more resources available to everyone. There is always someone downstream, even (especially) if you don’t see them. The same can be said of all our natural resources. I hope though, in the future, it doesn’t take a direct experience for me to become this mindful and this respectful. Our planet doesn’t have time for that.
Aparigraha. Don’t grab everything. Don’t take more than you need. Make sure there is enough for everyone.