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My young neighbor, ready for a nibble of me

I'm happy to be taking to my life in the RAV4 slowly–testing things out one by one. My first trip was to the forest home of some friends who live in the Northern New Mexico Nacimiento Mountains. I already knew I planned to build an over-the-foot shelf for storage when I return to Albuquerque with my reward check (what a Navajo friend calls our Social Security checks) in hand. The need for such a shelf was definitely confirmed on this trip, as it will help so much with organization, which is essential in a small space.


The main thing I was testing was the comfort of my sleeping arrangement. The RAV4's back seats break down in a 60/40 configuration, so my 4-inch memory foam mattress is cut to the size of the 60 side, giving me plenty of width for turning to sleep on either side or my back. When the seats are folded down, they are referred to as "nearly flat." They do, however, slope slightly upward, which I thought would be fine, as such a slope is recommended for addressing reflux, which I do sometimes have. The place where the seat back breaks from the cargo area has a ridge that proved uncomfortable right away. I solved that by placing my self-inflating lumbar pillow at the division spot. In this way, I spent two nights of excellent sleep, but I noticed that gravity pulled me down toward the foot end enough that it created some low back strain.


On my drive across the checkerboard area of Navajo Country, the following occurred to me: I will be getting a 4'x8' sheet of plywood cut at the lumber store for my shelf, and there will be a lot of wood left over. I can make a very low sleeping platform–the head end resting on the top end of the folded down seat, and the foot end on supports that make the platform just level. That will be so much more comfortable, and at my age, comfort becomes ever more important. This will probably make exactly enough space under the platform to store my small aluminum folding table, too. Coming up with solutions like this is exceptionally gratifying. Of course the next step is the execution of it!


I had already done a dry run to test the ease with which I could get up and sit on the honey bucket during the night, and that proved to be easy in real life. I did experiment each night to see whether accesibility was better with the 40 seat up or down. Folded down, it turns out.


Both nights I spent the first few hours listening to the music of rain on metal roof–one of my favorite sounds. I felt snug inside my spacious new home. When I woke at 2:30, the rain had stopped, and the waning half-moon made the droplets on the windows shimmer. The Ponderosa pines were silhouetted tall and dark against the night sky. When I rose it was to the extraordinary smells of the high desert–rain-washed earth, pungent pine, cedar and piñon, sagebrush, and the dusky sweet of yellow asters. The world shone with the brightness of clean, and I was grateful to be alive in it.


The trip across Navajo Country involved a stop in Crownpoint at Basha's Diné Market to use the facilities and buy a few items. I grew up in the Navajo Nation (I'm white, in case you're new to me and my writing), and walking around the supermarket reminded me pleasurably of the old-time trading posts of my childhood. Every contemporary item you'd find in any US Supermarket filled the shelves, and the surprising luxuries of a deli and bakery stood to one side. And then there were the items you'd never find in a store in Albuquerque, NM or Grand Rapids, MI: galvanized buckets and tubs; bridles; saddle blankets; loops of stiff rope; salt lick blocks; Bluebird flour in sacks of all sizes; five-pound bags of dried, whole-kernel blue corn; sacks of blue cornmeal for making mush; speckled enamel kitchenware—coffee pots, basins, plates and bowls; and saddle bags, although these were made of nylon, not canvas. I felt at home and loved exchanging smiles and a bit of chat with other customers and the clerk.


For the next few days I'm staying in my brother's cabin in the Zuni Mountains, adjacent to the Cibola National Forest. My neighbors are thoroughbred horses– brown with white blazes on their foreheads. I am surrounded by pines and meadows filled with yellow asters. Grateful all over again to be alive.


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