I woke up almost early at an anonymous motel in Moab. Now I am sitting in my parents’ dining room. At times it felt like I was not traveling, so much as hurtling.
The desert exploded red around a bend early in the day and I made a sort of yawp-caterwaul. I love the ocean, but there’s magic in the desert. Rocks speak, and out here, there isn’t much in the acoustic environment to get between your ears and what they’re saying.
Here’s something these monuments can teach you: how the softer, sandier bits will be blown away by the wind–because there is always wind. And how the finer stuff, the harder, denser stuff will stay. It will withstand eons. So, build your hardness out of beautiful stuff, because one day it will be all that’s left.
The ground today was like a Persian rug… first that fucking red! and then a gray sagey dreariness that gave way to Arizona’s finer pinker clays. The first lavender layer I saw was at the base of a ridge just over the border. I drove right past the Grand Canyon–you’d never know it was there but for the signs, surrounded as it is by ash-white domes and the stretching horizon, right until you almost walk over the edge. After the white hills (like elephants?), the grass got long on the steady climb to Flagstaff. It was a bright yellow against the dark green shrubs, a beautiful contrast. And then, one last mountain for awhile. There was even a welcoming lightning bolt and beardy clouds. It’s called virga when the rain evaporates before it hits the ground (my phone kept correcting it to “virgule” which it sort of looks like)–sometimes all the crying in the world doesn’t get a damn thing wet.
The switchbacked, steep-graded plummet down to Phoenix’s valley is oranges, golds and yellows with dark trees and gray shrubs. I saw a lot of ravens today. And deer, both alive and dead, along the roadway.
I longed for a horse, impossibly, because the car moves too fast. The towheaded grassland was gone before I could take a picture. But the fences and overpasses and semis getting passed in the on-coming lane by F-150s would ruin a horse ride. But just imagine what it was like, when you had no idea what was next, and suddenly, a blood red valley with towers and spires and ship-shaped rocks rising out of the earth stretched out before you. Or, when after two or three or even four days of that, suddenly, the ground swelled up and up and up and there was snow again, when before there had been only the terrifying breath of the sun.
After a day of driving, it is sometimes the case that I see the world “coming at me” in my peripheral vision. It’s a minor distortion: a tunneling-type optical illusion, most noticeable against blank backdrops: a sidewalk, a stuccoed wall. It only lasts a few hours. My body has stopped, so the world obliges by rushing at me.