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Posted: August 1st, 2018, 9:35 pm
by mnaz
(from a few of my wanderins' and scribblins' last decade)

......The road was getting pretty long. I remembered how it all started, when I noticed a large blank spot on the map, so I went over some mountains, not sure which; the point was to get across. And from pine-pricked scree I fell to counties of scrub juniper hard to outrun, past towns farther apart until none, lower into bare deserts and scattered ruins that once seemed a good idea, lower still, always down toward a shining bright playa.
......May arrived, and freeze abruptly turned to fire, burnt slopes stopped blushing unhealthy shades of green, wildflowers withered, and the desert got back to sensible shades of baked tan, and I remembered one night in winter in the back of my truck beneath Milky Way's angelic opalescence, under twelve blankets and a camper shell, a dream I had. I dreamed I was headed down a long slope, slowly moving toward a shining playa where it might be warm . . . until I met Ed Abbey's ghost near its shore. He was sitting on a thrum of pumice, about to crack open a beer. On vacation.
......"Shut off that damned petrol-swilling beast," he suggested.
......"You won't see anything inside that damn thing."
......"I bet you can't even name your last three roads."
......He had a point. I was all over the map; a wanton waste of time and fuel. I was going nowhere. And so I kept going, past Abbey, down toward the playa where it might be warm. And quiet. Where I could have time to think, or better yet subdue thought. But I admit, Ed was right. No point in going much farther. In each town people had what I gave up: home. I lived in cheap rooms and my truck, and didn't spend much money, but even if bankrolled to roll indefinitely, indefinite roll would roll me. But it was the only way there, and I needed to be there.

......It seemed funny how no one had really come up with a good explanation for the desert's pull, although Ed took a pretty good crack at it one time; Ed, who knew his deserts inside and out, and not from behind a wheel but on foot, or horseback, or even on his belly to watch mating rituals of snakes. Three worlds of space called us out to explore, he said: ocean, mountain and desert. And of those three, the ocean pulls most strongly at its shore, but becomes a medium of tedium once the shore recedes. Likewise, a mountain pulls most strongly at its base but becomes a hard, dogged pursuit near the top, where the climb tends to be rushed and the weather often bad, and there's nowhere to go but down. But the desert, ah the desert . . . it extends forever, pulling you on toward its next distant prospect. Destination and journey at every point. Well something like that . . . Or maybe Ed just liked horses. Useful in a desert, but not on a mountainside or a blue ocean.
......So I headed for the playa once again, down the long slope, down a chalk-white etching to a white sea. I found a spot on its dimensionless plane and stopped to settle in and face my own noise. Then I noticed a few scattered rocks on the horizon and wondered if they'd ever moved . . . like the ones I saw last time, with smudged trails behind them. They'd moved across the playa, but how? No footprints anywhere.
......It was a mystery on an empty plane where nothing should be mysterious. Or maybe I'd seen them in a dream . . . But no, they must have been real, because I learned later that scientists had debated the moving rocks for a long time. The funny thing is: they've moved, but no one has actually seen them move. The best theory seemed to be lots of wind and rain, to such incredible levels as to seem ludicrous in the desert, since wet clay gets slippery. But I wondered why scientists were so obsessed over such minor oddities in such remote spaces. It was probably just Abbey moving furniture around on his vacation flat.

Re: Ed

Posted: August 2nd, 2018, 9:45 am
by sasha
I've flown over the desert a few times, but only stopped there once - and I'm not sure I was capable of seeing it, any more than I was able to truly see a giant sequoia - my mind just balked at the immensity, and said, no way is that canopy 300 feet up - it must be something much smaller, much closer. Yeah, that's it. The desert was the same for me. "Those hills can't be that far away - they must be smaller & closer." But they weren't.

Enjoyed the read.

Re: Ed

Posted: August 4th, 2018, 9:29 pm
by mnaz
Yes, good luck seeing the desert, understanding its spans. You won't, not right away, probably not ever.

It seems Ed was a wandering A-hole sometimes, but he made sense. He knew the boundlessness of a desert horizon, what it meant. Shit I hope I didn't misrepresent his take. Might have to go back, read that part again...