"All this flowing water
has got my mind wandering
Do you ever finally reach
a point of knowing
or do you just wake up one day
and say I am going?
What will I tell you
when you ask me why I'm crying?
Will I point above
at the Red Tail gracefully soaring
or down to below where its prey
is quietly trembling?"1
I was driving from L.A. to Joshua Tree, and thinking about what Edward Abbey said about there being no reason to go to L.A. and how he didn't (he went to the Havasupai instead), and thinking about my friend's dead father and also his sister, who had just cooked dinner for us. And then about how my lies about the ashes of our fathers justified the salvation of those two father's children by their basking in the wilderness.
I'll need to confess that sin someday. Maybe today.
Imagine having to go to such great lengths to explain taking 2 days off just one week after you lifelong friend's father has died. We banish our failings to the dirt of the desert, finding peace in the only harmony we know; our developing oneness with the wilderness. Being one with the world is so simple, so fulfilling, the evidence of it simple sand in the shoes of an everyday life.
Mac never spent much time with me in the wilderness. But his life and knowledge of the wilderness, his savvy and wisdom, even the very weapons of his hunter spirit, have been shared with me through my friendship with his son. I am so much better off having known this man, Mac.
Yep, I was driving along against the pre-dawn Monday rush from the desert outlife into an urban world, cautiously fighting my own transformation, by playing endlessly with my phone, and thinking of Abbey. If Phoenix is a cancer, than Los Angeles is a pox; not a pox on humanity, just on the desert. Thinking quietly of Abbey and my upcoming birthday, and the Adirondacks, and my children, and John Muir, and Ansel Adams, and wondering at how many years have passed.
The sun was cracking open the sky.
Palm Springs was passing behind me and before me lay the Mohave. An uncharted wilderness of the military, bombing runs and the omnipresent creosote, a playground of outlaws, wild horses and the occasional border patrol. Thank god and Edward Abbey. I felt like I was coming home.
Me -- finding a home in the Mohave. I should confess that.
I decided that I need to go to the wilderness and write my story.
It's not the celibate story of Thoreau, nor the hardened wilderness of Hemingway, not Abbey's tale of love, nor a sad tragedy of Alexander Supertramp. It's a story of joy, and reverence, and abandon. It's the fly fisherman of my grandfather, the goose hunter of my father, it's the happy hiking guy and prospecting in the Sierras, it's tube rides on Cache creek with my crazy brother, and skiing with my overly sane one. It's me on Steptoe Butte listening to a Russian painter explain to me that the ants crawl into the pine cones when it's about to rain. It's the Colorado in a raft, barefoot hikes in the Rockies, an icy swim in the Couer D'Alene River, or a just a simple hike to a wilderness hot springs carrying a French woman. C'est la vie.
I think there might be more to confess. I think I am gonna just go ahead and do it.
1The Cowboy Junkies, Good Friday