The History Of Anima Center – Part 3
I had begun the search for land with two cohorts from my Taos art gallery days, the mountain man aesthetic John Drake and adventurous Corbett Wilson. But when Corbett “flaked-out” on John, John figured the search was over and headed back to his Wyoming horse ranch. Now I was the only one left, bereft of resources, yet still wildly intent on the quest for a home. From the moment Emile the rancher had driven up, I had felt a tingle, as though the place he talked about selling was somehow magically the fated one. My heart started racing and it was all I could do not to shout with joy and expectation. As soon as he had he said his goodbyes to my real estate agent employer, I climbed out of the hole where I had been working. I was already trying to figure out how to pay for it, before the dust roused by the departing truck had settled back down again.
Within hours I had arrived at the spot Swallows had marked on the map, a section of dirt road that led to the mouth of a canyon where the San Francisco River coiled from one side of the canyon cliffs to the other, dissolving into wilderness beyond. That maiden walk in was indescribable, both what I saw and what I so deeply felt, awakening a deeper connection to myself through connection to a place. If ever I experienced what they call “déjà vu,” it was then, as each bend in the canyon appeared as I had imagined, and the water lapped at my feet with the familiarity of eons. The landscape was of course stunning, as impacted as the two miles of national forest property leading into it was from a century of cattle grazing… hosting the very rock formations, pines and giant cottonwoods of daylight visions and long held dreams. There were no fences or landmarks to indicate the boundaries of the private inholding I hungered for, and yet when I finally stopped to camp it was well within the parcel, and only yards from where I would park my school bus camper following its final earthen voyage. “Whatever it takes,” I heard myself promising, when I was finally able to relax enough to sleep.
The price seemed insurmountable even if, as Swallows thought, I could get the owner to carry the title and give me a full 15 years in which to pay, given that I had neither savings, credit nor cash, and had moved to an area where it was impossible to make any income on such “foolishness” as artwork. I nevertheless went ahead, fueled not by the recklessness of my youth, but by the power of an already irrevocable commitment. Unwilling to wait until matters were decided, I jumped in the bus and drove it – pedal to the metal – through the 7 formidable river crossings and straight up a twisty trail to the mesa where to this day it sits. From its windows I watch the river wind below on its way to Arizona, and contemplate my course of action in the glow of the sun-lit crimson cliffs.
As it turned out, the initial step in purchasing land is often an official signed Offer To Buy. But before submitting one, I was required to deposit with the agent a set and sizable amount of money. They call this “Earnest Money,” since it tends to guarantee the earnestness of the buyer. Such funds are counted towards the down payment if an offer is accepted, but are forfeit if the seller were to accept and then buyer failed to raise the rest of the proffered payment. Just getting the thousand dollar Earnest was a stretch. My sympathetic parents had no money to loan, and the only established credit I had was with the friends and associates who knew and believed in me, thus within a few weeks time I had already borrowed as much as possible from everyone I knew. Next were the forced sales of everything salable, beginning with the paintings I had done, sold to distant friends and clients at a fraction of their onetime gallery price. Then my motorcycle, a treasured bit of hardware that I equated more with freedom than with transportation, and still there was not enough. To make up the difference I decided to take a huge chance and sell the engine out of the school bus I lived in, to a new buddy I’d met named Jes.
Years later I was surprised while reading about ancient Viking history. Apparently there were times when the Norse raiders disembarked from their ships only to find themselves unexpectedly surrounded my numerically superior forces. There were time when, rather than withdraw, the chieftains would set fire to their sails. Then, with their backs to the sea, the sword wielding raiders would inevitably fight all the harder. With no exit possible, there would be no half-hearted swings. In my own way, I also had ensured my utmost efforts. Not only would I have no money to leave on, but I would also have no way to get my bus back out, and no vehicle in which to leave. From the moment Emil agreed, I knew I would only have a scant few months in which to raise many thousands of dollars, or else I would lose it all. And I already knew that this land was meant for more than just me.
-Jesse Wolf Hardin (to be continued)