Tuesday, May 17, 2011
I was reading. The boys were out exploring. It was after six o'clock and the evening had reached its cool, breezy desert perfection.
I kept hearing a rustling. After wondering for several pages if some really cool desert animal was just outside the van and ready for viewing, I sat up to look. The rustling was our trash bag shimmering in the soft wind, but there was something else I could make out now. I heard singing. I was pretty sure I was right about this one.
I looked out the window: the little cinderblock house for the pit toilet was in my direct line of sight about 25 feet away (purposeful site choice). Beyond it, another 80 or so feet to the left was a minivan with something tied to the roof and a man in a red shirt standing near it. To the right, a little further on toward the hills I could see a pick up and an RV.
I listened. It wasn't a radio. It was definitely singing. Pretty, though I couldn't make out the words. The red-shirted man walked to the other side of his van and eventually the tune changed. It was him for sure.
His song warbled and took a dramatic rise.
Not much by way of family camping in these parts. Most people seemed to arrive alone to an already lonely place. I am no expert on desert or landscape or spirituality, but there appears by all accounts to be something spiritual about these places. Some kind of secrets the barrel cactus holds in like spare water. The sage brush not giving it up either as we intruders tromped by their bristly hedges for a few hours, a day or two.
I wondered if the people who came here came because they liked the solitude or because they needed it. I was sitting here alone, too, and I could sit here happily alone pretty much all day. A book, a journal, a pen. I was set. The boys could explore without me. I did not feel cheated by the extra bedrest this pregnancy required. This is what I did often on a regular vacation. But that's different. I knew my family would be back eventually. I knew I wouldn't be the one maneuvering this van out of the sandy paths and back onto the highway. I knew it wouldn't be long before someone would ask me to read a dinosaur book or come look how high he could climb. I did not come alone to sing to the red hills whether or not anyone else witnessed it. Writers like audiences.
This personality is foreign to me, the one where standing alone you watch the Mojave yucca, that is also standing alone and this is enough. This constitution, like the desert itself, is something I can only observe with fascination and know there is something special in it, a magic I do not possess, but am more than grateful exists in the world with me.