It’s been a busy two weeks and I’ve found all sorts of excuses to not write. Funny how that muse visits and then disappears. I’m also assimilating what I learned via a powerful seminar I attended last week. The seminar was a Positive Psychology presentation exploring the Habits of Happy People. The chief element in a happy person’s life is gratitude. But there was much more to it than that and I’m still over thinking it.
The weather has been perfect and that has moved me outside. When I walk I meditate and write to myself. I compose stream of consciousness essays. Of course they are Sontag caliber pieces and isn’t it a shame I can’t remember those exact thoughts? (wink) But the walk and private writing stir the muse so at least my thoughts are collected and have a general direction. I like to walk by myself, too.
I set out on my own a couple of Sundays ago and headed to the east towards a dry creek. The vigilant boyfriend told me he would look for me after an hour if I hadn’t returned. I wasn’t too worried about getting lost. It wasn’t as if the landscape is littered with dense stands of trees obscuring the horizon. Rather, it was littered with my thoughts but somehow I managed to not get lost.
I walked to this place, it’s maybe a half a mile from the house and last summer after the gift of a rainy spring it was green and vibrant. Now it remains the dun color of an over dry winter.
The arid conditions are troubling: the grasshoppers are early and almost biblical in their numbers. They will eat the grass to nubs in the dirt and leave nothing for the cattle. The risk of fire is also troubling. I don’t even want to imagine the devastation if there is a wildfire.
I considered walking south along the dry creek to see where it led, I might do that next time. The grass near the dry creek is tall and dense for short stem prairie grass; I was a little daunted by the idea of snakes and wary of walking through it to amble along the rocky creek bed. But a small gathering of antelope bedded down near the tree. Their resting place offered a path to the tree.
I spent more time looking down than up, watching my step and listening for a slithering sound in the grass. Rattle snakes don’t really make that big Hollywood rattle. It’s subtler sound and one I’ve not heard yet. I thought I heard it but it was the trilling buzz of those damned grasshoppers. I’m terrified of snakes and it has proven big medicine when Dr. Doctor has taken me out to the fields and the junk piles to scare up a snake so I can see and hear it.
After I forded the deep grass, I sat near the creek, it was getting hot and I was overdressed in a long sleeve tee shirt. I did remember a hat but forgot water. Stupid. The wind had died down so the sun was beaming freely. I almost lost track of time and considered a message explaining where I was. I had cell signal but if I went further southeast I probably wouldn’t. But I didn’t bother because I knew he was busy doing whatever and I don’t need to breathe down his neck 24/7 on our weekends together. But I thought better of sitting too long in the sun and getting dehydrated. I could wander back towards the house and take my time, pacing myself so I was thirsty when I returned but not miserable.I said good-bye to the trees and promised I would return.
Great minds think alike, I was halfway home when I saw him top the horizon on the four-wheeler. He was looking for me and Bea was running behind him. I was no longer alone in the prairie with the snakes, grasshoppers and the sleeping coyotes deep in their tiny burrows. I stopped and watched them come towards me. I had a feeling he had something planned.
He didn’t disappoint. I managed to “hop” on the back of the ATV , clung to him for dear life and he took us further to the southeast showing me an arroyo (a small canyon) of sorts that took my breath away. I remembered wandering the mesas to the east of our house in Albuquerque so many years ago and how we would find arroyos but they weren’t like this. I had aways wanted to find a secret canyon.
The sand stone formations reminded me of Red Rock Canyon outside of Las Vegas. These rocks aren’t as vibrant but they were just as interesting and beautiful. There were crevices, tiny caves, and deep cool places for snakes, coyotes, and once upon a time cowboys hiding from Indians. It was beautiful, peaceful, and reminded me why I haven’t left the west. The wind informs rock formations in way artists never could. It was also grand to share it with someone who appreciates the vast prairies that hold surprises like this.
I have no doubt I will wander back to this place. I’ll be better prepared with water and sun screen and make a morning of exploring these wild places. It’s bliss to get lost knowing dog and man are really just on the horizon.
If you are the praying sort please ask the rain starts, maybe a couple of ridiculously deep, sloppy April snow storms to nourish the Pawnee grasslands. A few afternoons of range soaking rains, the type you have to dry off from even after a dash from truck to house. In the words of Anne Lamott here’s an advance: “Please? Thanks. Wow!”