Charlie Hurst, Charlie Hurst, Charlie Hurst, blessings, sacred journey.
I come from the San Francisco Bay area: Oakland, to be more exact. I’m just beginning to live half of the year here in Questa. I’m in a men’s group in California (now 100 men and counting), that supports men, families, and community. When someone needs help or has passed, we say their name three times aloud with a blessing.
Charlie Hurst recently passed away here in Questa. He was my closest neighbor, and a friend. He was caretaking the land near me. We shared the same dirt road. We lived on the same earth.
I liked Charlie immediately: big belly, big glasses, and a funky handlebar mustache and sideburns. I sensed we recognized each other, some destiny that brought us together. I met Charlie last year, hired him to build me a fence, and then more fence again last month. My dog Karma liked him immediately too; she helped him dig holes for the fence posts and I had to watch her so she wouldn’t walk home with him. I even thought I might be able to leave her with him if I needed to travel.
Charlie was part of this land. He grew up here. His parents, siblings, wife, and daughter were all part of his world. I didn’t know him from his past, but I did get to hear many stories over time. I heard about his career in the firewood business, how he handled a million pieces of wood in his lifetime—that’s a lot of knowledge about trees and the elements of nature that trees are connected to—knowledge that comes with hard work, being on the land, and working with your hands. It was this that had me admiring him so much, that he knew this land, this magical part of the world.
I know his life was hard, it was easy to see it on him, and at the same time (and I don’t know how) he transcended this, he transcended his story. He was one of the more positive people I knew. He was happy on purpose: in a sense he glowed. And I mirrored his goodness. I told him my stories, showed him my art, what I made with my heart and hands, how I found myself here, my broken dreams and failed marriage, and how grateful I was to be in the land of enchantment, this magical northern New Mexico.
I’m no stranger to this state. I have lived in Carson, Santa Fe, and later for several years in Ribera (towards Las Vegas, NM) in the mid 1980s. My art took on the element of the Earth when I lived in New Mexico and it still does to this day. I know I inspired Charlie to start to carve wood again—I commissioned him to make me a creative cedar art handle for an axe, and he made me a walking stick as a gift. Last year, when I was closing up my place for the winter, he gave me warm venison, which was a godsend—I so needed some grounding wild animal protein. Recently, he gave me a jar of plum jam that I think his sister made. He said it was worth its weight in gold, and it’s true.
The last time I saw Charlie, he had just come back from a solo river trip down the Rio for several days. He said he sorted some things out, and I could see how grounded and present he was. I greatly admire anyone who spends time alone in nature as a friend of mine. His heart, his health, the heat, being alone out here, and ready to leave his body all were part of his leaving.
I now know this: I feel way more alone here on the land. I already miss his joy, his stories, his friendship, his knowledge of things, how to build stuff. His knowledge of the land and the elements will be missed. I was looking forward to learning from him. When I asked if I could help him with my fence, he laughed and said that will cost me! I’ll be putting a small cabin on my land someday… I think I will call it “Uncle Charlie’s Cabin.” Charlie Hurst, Charlie Hurst, Charlie Hurst, welcome!