Stuck at LAX, as inebriated as I can possibly afford to be, I long to be home in Denver. Like many of us, I have spent the last several days with family, eating too much and spending time in places all too familiar. Please note the homemade cranberry-turkey sandwich at left with the double shot of airport whiskey - both quite necessary, I assure you.
[Note: The post comes a day late - thanks to false promises of "Free wi-fi!"]
Yesterday, I arrived at my favorite place on Earth: 29 Palms, California - specifically, a quirky little house that sits astride Joshua Tree National Park. I'm not sure exactly what draws me to this place. My mother first introduced the Dr. Seussian landscape to my grandfather back in the 1950s and the North Dakota farmer was instantly smitten. He bought a couple lots, had a house built and it still stands as the Hi Desert Branch of our small but mighty Clisby Empire. As with the San Bernardino Mountains Branch, there is no phone or television, just lots of books, games and wildlife to observe, plus the shuffleboard court in back.
The bunnies are large and the quail especially fat and plentiful this year, always a good sign. However, as much as I love this place, I dreaded this particular trip. It was here in February that I first innocently read a blogger fan letter from the man who would eventually (ahem) inspire my move to Colorado. Also, when I returned in April - I was here with MonkMan, camping with his friends. We'd stopped by the house and made love practically in every room, thereby tainting my beloved place with the foolish memory. That was a mere seven months ago and it feels like years. Such a naïve young girl I was then; such a wizened old cynic I am now.
Still, it needed to be done, which is why I insisted on the trip. Painful as it was, the place badly needed to be reclaimed. To honor all the years spent in 29 J-Tree, time with family and reveling in its natural peace and beauty, I cannot let one disappointing affair mar my feelings. After all, this is the place I've chosen to be "lightly toasted and sprinkled" after my spirit has moved on.
Quite soon after we arrived on Saturday, I went for a stroll to walk off some gravy. After a few hundred yards of purposeful walking, I quickly realized I had a specific destination in mind. Down a long sandy path, I soon came upon an old friend.
We'd met years ago, under the pale light of a full moon. I was off down some midnight trail, probably muttering to myself and trying to figure out my life, as usual. A recent flash flood had made the sand mushy and I slipped down steep incline, landing in a gritty heap. I then heard a contemptible snort following by whinnying laughter. This is how I met my equine friend, Snort.
This time, he stood there, it seemed, waiting for me. I walked straight up to his shoulder blade, gave some rubs and let him sniff me over. I had grabbed my grandfather's old coat from the house, a TUMS tablet circa 1960s still in the pocket. Snort found the coat fascinating and couldn't get enough of it. I stroked his jawbone, scratched his ears and touched his silky nose. My public face then dissolved and I collapsed into yet another heap at the hooves of Snort. There, between the cacti and the desert gourds, I sobbed and sobbed, embracing all the searing pain before letting it go. Under the horse's guard, I felt small and worthless but the demons just scattered.
Later that evening, after Leftovers Round Five and a family game of RummiKube, I found myself in that holiest of places, Pappy & Harriet's Pioneertown Palace. The Rojer Arnold band was doing a tribute to the late Buzz Gamble, and I was unspeakably content. I had a frosty cold beer, a front row seat to the action and I was back, once again, making new memories at my favorite place on Earth.