If you go back with me two days, we would be in the desert west of Phoenix. We would be standing with a late morning cup of coffee and might be talking, but probably not. We would be looking out at the desert to the north where the world bends off, out beyond that bend and into the haziness. And over there is the place to where the mountains have marched off and donned their purple coats and then, even farther lie the mountains that barely exist, close to the color of the sky. Closer in, there are red faced cliffs and mesas that some old ocean left behind and above which old plesiosaurs swam through swarms of sharks under a long-long-time-ago sky. And maybe bat-winged birds glided through the rays of a younger sun.
I watched the raggedy, black ravens fly their tricks off the edges of ledges and I barked my best raven tongue talk. Only one broke off and swung closer to see who was sending false messages from below, who was singing out this semi-sense song. One wing tuck, a side-long glance, two held tilts and small chortle was the response. Curiosity is the charm behind those ebony eyeballs, ravens are really quite amazing to me, I wonder the size of their soul.
The revery stayed with me. The thoughts of the distant canyons and the hidden places stir the old desire to walk out and be gone from things for a while. I drove the dolphin and watched the red cliffs snake closer to the road until they towered over-head. There were signs that read a warning about painting on the sacred stone, put there to deter graffiti artists and lovers who like to paint symbols of love in wild places. This was reservation land. Around a bend I saw a dozen or so plastic, life-size tee-pees and beyond that, a giant, gaudy, poorly executed painting of a blue lizard on the side of a beautiful red cliff. I couldn’t help but wish the “artist” had heeded the sign that warned of painting on sacred stones. Undoubtedly, this was commissioned but nonetheless awful. Above and to the left were full-size plastic natives hunting plastic elk and plastic buffalo and a plastic bear. Below read a sign about seeing where Chief Yellowhorse lived followed by a smaller sign that read, “buy authentic beads and blankets.” I didn’t stop to shop or try and make sense of any of that business. I drove trying to pretend I didn’t care. Then more plastic tee-pees and some huge, goggle-eyed dinosaurs intermixed. I wanted more open desert and no more wrenching thoughts about how the old ways are lost. There’s more to be written about the tribes and why they’re glamorized, why they were disbanded and “civilized”–I’ll tackle that someday…maybe. I think we always like the idea of wild things, but we don’t like it when wild things bite. Tribes were unpredictable and wonderfully, terribly wild. Couple that with smarts and pride and it just doesn’t line up with modern government. Imagine Crazy Horse trying to find sense to anything that is said in modern politics or what he would think of someone like Donny Trump.
The drive ended and I had to dump some of those thoughts outa my head. I’m not really equipped to figure my way out of some of the problems I create for my conscience. Instead, I retreat and find a calmer, less complicated place to dream. I try and explain life as I see it, that certainly doesn’t mean I have it figured out. Mostly, it’s an exploration similar to the meanderings I take in the mountains and the deserts. After all, the difference between what we see and what we think is sometimes difficult to separate. So thinking and living are inextricably linked. Dark thoughts will draw you toward dark deeds. I find it very difficult to sustain a bitter heart when I’m sitting at the edge of the ocean watching a herd of whales as they follow their secret courses through the ever-loving deep! And hate? Hate can’t withstand the song of the aspen and the silent colors that swirl behind a long-eared owl as she drops through a blue-dawn, winter skiff, her eyes ablaze with an older knowledge that tells her of the mouse beneath pines.
And here I am, killing heavy thoughts with a dose of here and now. Thanks for joining. Maybe together we can all stay on the lighter side of heavy. Maybe while I’m stumbling around trying to find my way, we’ll bump into one another and laugh and look up at the sky and see the sun, and be thankful that we are here. I think that’d be cool.