I’ve taken a break from the water and moved to the mountains for a few months to spend time alone, create and generally do whatever I want. I signed up for a web
site that matches nomadic, groovy people like myself with homeowners who have pet and plant needs to fill while they are gone. It made perfect sense for me – it’s like I’m finally getting rewarded for being an amazingly responsible adult.
Once I realized that I was going to be leaving the islands, I wanted to get my life tightened up even more than it was. I sold/gave away everything that I couldn’t fit on my back at one time. Farewell to my paddleboard, my surfboard, my SCUBA gear, my djembe … Granted, the remaining stuff wasn’t comfortable on my back, but on my back it was nonetheless. After a week of organizing and face-timing (the old fashioned way, like buying bagels and giving hugs) in Florida, I was down to owning an overstuffed camping backpack, a computer and a ukulele.
I arrived at my first housesitting gig about a week ago. It’s about 30 minutes outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico, which was always one of those states that called me from an early age but I hadn’t had the opportunity to go. The owners of this house are a retired couple with three cats. They were heading up north with their nephew to see the eclipse happening on Monday. (I myself am still searching for a pair of glasses. They were charging $100 a pair here! I’ll just look through a cereal box, geez.)
Once I arrived at their beautiful adobe abode, I got a feel for all the work they do to maintain each day. Here’s my schedule: I wake up early because their 19-year-old cat yells when she is hungry. And you know what? I’m going to do the same thing when I’m old too! HEY! FEED ME! So I rouse myself from bed and hook that frail cutie up with some wet food. Then I’m up so I feed the other two
cats. One of the cats, Chicha, sleeps with me, and the other one, Nikki, is super-jealous of this but is too shy to join in on the cuddles. One morning, I was leaving my bedroom with Chi close behind me and around the corner walks Nikki, and she was shocked, like I was cheating on her. Like she didn’t know that Chicha and I were a couple, and she had taken me out a few times. It was hilarious. About an hour later I completely covered my lap with Nikki hair by giving her a massive pet session. See, I keep all my ladies happy.
After the cats get food and water, I clean out their litter boxes, which is a bit of an undertaking. At this point, I get myself a warm glass of lemon water, because I read somewhere that was a good thing. I may tidy up if I left my stuff out the previous night. Then it’s time to head outdoors.
On the back patio, there are 10 bird feeders, and every day I fill them up. There
are four different types of bird food for the various birds that hit the smorgasbord up every day. I’ve seen scores at a time. Then there are the hummingbird feeders, which require a mix of sugar water. There are two of those, and I fill those up as well. I have seen more hummingbirds in a day here than I’ve previously seen in my entire life. The sugar water in the feeder drips down and creates a little feast for ants.
Also as part of the back patio are two large ponds. These require filling because there are some sorts of leaks. Then the one gets clogged with algae fairly regularly, so every couple days I need to clean out the filter. If it doesn’t rain – which it really doesn’t, even in this “monsoon season” – I need to water some of the plants that aren’t on the drip irrigation. Out front, the owner also planted a bed of seeds, which I must water. This is my favorite chore, because there is a metal bell in the middle of the seed bed. Watering the bell produces the most sublime low-pitched ring. It is bliss.
This entire process takes about 45 minutes to an hour, unless I linger. Then I make coffee. Then I play my ukulele. Then I write for a few hours. Then I think about what adventure I want to get into, since the whole point of being here is to explore New Mexico.
But I’m learning something beyond the joys of adventuring. I have recognized the owners’ wonderful stewardship model as their way of living. Caring for these animals – the hundreds of birds and the kitties – is a natural extension of simply living on Earth. I love being responsible for helping out my fellow animals. It is not a bother at all. Even when old Charlotte is yelling at me at 6:30 a.m., I am grateful for her. She fell in the indoor pond a few nights after I arrived, and I wasn’t sure she would make it. She had one of those Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Days, but she’s back to herself now.
I think this stewardship model ought to extend to our fellow man as well. As I watch with
one eye closed the recent racist parades and see my otherwise lovely friends on social media giving Nazis the benefit of the doubt because the American president did, I think about the time I put each day into helping creatures that aren’t even my species. Thursdays is the day I water all the inside plants. It takes a few hours because the owners have many beautiful plants. I was happy to give them all a drink. Why would I not want the same happiness for my fellow man? What is the difference between helping grouchy Charlotte and helping a grouchy person whose skin color is darker or lighter than mine? What is the difference between offering a drink to a plant and offering a drink to someone who is a different shape than me?
Regardless of your religious or spiritual beliefs, I think it is part of God’s plan for us to care for all living things. I encourage you to do so. Providing service for others is the best thing you can do for your own personal growth, and I am grateful for my efforts. I am also grateful for those who have helped me. Because there’s sure been a lot of you. The little rosebush inside me says thank you.