As the mildness of a southern Arizona winter moves through, I watch as our mountains slip into a soft slumber where the heart gathers the warmth – leaving the bare branches trembling under the weight of a Mexican jay.
I love these mountains, where the peaks reach so close to the heavens...and you can see Mexico and New Mexico and the galaxies…and your heart carries you beyond where your eye can see. When I reach down deep in need of solace – it is the Chiricahuas that nourish my soul. Their strength rises within me, their wisdom guides me, their heart holds me.
These mountains replenish my creative side when everyday life begins to take its toll. I run to them, parched. The trail leads me through the dry creek bed. I jump from stone to stone, those same stones that lifted me across the water this summer. The ones that were so wet and slippery…with the water cutting its new channel through the creek as it came rushing down the mountainside, flowing through my mind. Now the early morning mist and the beauty of a dawn awakening stir a more tender side of me, yet nourish me just the same.
A Whitetail buck stands off in the trees. He stands still, not a breath, his antlers weaving in among the bare branches. I know he’s there. I see him, but yet I wonder - is he there? I’ve learned from these mountains to respect the subtle changes through the year, and the changes within myself and welcome them with an open heart.
My thoughts tumbled in my head as I slid down the snowy slopes. I was trying to reach a narrow, tiny strip that looked like a logging road winding through the trees far below. Sometimes my thoughts waylaid me – getting in the way of the road. These were the same thoughts that had been there forever, but had become muddled with time, and work, as we struggled to make life work for us. Now they refused to be put aside…they were demanding attention. But I have to get to the road, I told myself, as I tried to push the thoughts away. This is important. I am lost, for God’s sake. Lost - I hadn’t allowed myself that thought. I didn’t want to let it in, but here it was and the reality of it all swept through me. I was lost in the Wyoming wilderness and my chances of being found were diminishing each moment. I sat down on a rock, and let the thoughts roll in, like the early morning fog. They were thoughts of our lives, and the choices I had made.
And then a poem that is deeper in the work:
Now I walk the earth, deep in the wilderness, listening to the whisper of the wind
As I sit in prayer, I connect deeper and deeper to that soul within
I’ve been lying here all along, it whispers
I’m here among the pines…in the mountains you love so much
I’m here in the mesquites and desert that you walk miles among.
A novel said to be 'a journey into our consciousness, both as a people and a nation.' As many of you know, this novel has taken me fifteen years to write and I earned two college degrees along the way. I never thought what was so prevalent that long ago would still be all over the news today. Yes, immigration and the Mexican border. This novel, this journey, is the love story of Jessie and Clay, a journalist and a federal agent. It takes place within the rich cultural landscape of our borderlands. In 1998, I moved to southwestern Arizona to work as an innkeeper. Within the process of living and writing, I found myself captivated by place, by what I thought I knew, and how little I really knew.
Place is as elusive as the dawn. It doesn’t have an edge, but lifts gradually and infuses us with light. We can see a town or a landscape, but until we open ourselves to its light – letting the rays seep down into our consciousness – we don’t really see it, nor do we know it. When I first arrived on the border, I was too eager to jump to conclusions, and as the poverty of Agua Prieta sidled up against our fence, I sat down to write: Poverty gnaws like a rat at Mexico’s very foundation.
Cardboard shacks, dirt floors, no running water, wood-burning stoves backed up to paper walls just waiting to ignite. Outside toilets, windows made of plastic, sealing the little hovels off like tombs. A bonfire burning in the streets … men dragging broken pieces of furniture … children in wet diapers and no shirts, running to the warmth. People begging. A woman, with a child tugging at her breast. Her well is dry … child sucking up emptiness … a ragged paper cup, a pitiful extension of her soul … old men clinging to the image, hoping for a glance of the soft brown nipple … pulling them into mother’s breast … that mother who reassures against hunger and torment. Clinging to a dream – blisters, snakes and mountain lions, just trudging and carrying those less fortunate, just walking – just running into tomorrow … I don’t need to go on.
I, like so many writers, assumed what I saw was all there was, and I was wrong. This rugged landscape, known as the ‘borderlands,’ teems with diversity. On both sides of the border, I had missed the rich texture of place and its culture. I’m not sure when the knowing started nudging at my senses. Had I fallen off ‘the shelf of indifference’ or was I dragged? Whatever happened, as I opened up and let this land and its people absorb me, I was able to see and the story was born.
I hope you enjoy it.
Praise for C. Susan Nunn and Song of the Earth:
'It is a gripping novel that recounts the complexity of the human story behind the immigration issues and politics. With the authentic flavor of first-hand knowledge of the Borderlands, the drama of tragedy, romance and adventure unfold, as the protagonists come to know themselves more deeply against the backdrop of a harsh and unforgiving land. But ultimately, this story becomes a profound call for awakening to the pressing need to respect and preserve the earth.' Joan Ruvinsky, author This Wind
'Susan Nunn has written/created the USA/Mexico border in all its horror and beauty. She renders that man-made border – the ancient trade routes – human.' Alma Luz Villanueva, author Song of the Golden Scorpion