Saturday, October 29, 2011

Desert Dust


It’s like washing all the dishes after Thanksgiving dinner.  It’s like taking the trash out with the bows and wrapping remnants of Christmas.  It’s like those billy-goat vacuums that follow a parade sucking up the last shreds of the festivities.  Usually within forty-eight hours of arriving home, I unpack the laundry from my vacation and begin the process of completing the last travel-related activities.  I don’t enjoy it, but it needs to be done.

When the unpacking commences, my toothbrush and favorite souvenirs make it out of the suitcase shortly after the front door closes behind me, but dirty clothes hold a lower priority and can stay in there until tomorrow, maybe the next day depending on my schedule, converting my suitcase into a laundry basket.  Cleaning my travel wardrobe erases the fragrances, both aromatic and foul, the spills and the splatters, and the visible memories of the most recent adventure.  And with a wash, a rinse, and a spin, my vacation is completely behind me.

Beaten and Blown by the Wind

Twenty five years ago the desert of southeastern California inspired the album cover of Joshua Tree, and the prospect of driving to that site and letting the desolation of the sandy, scrub-covered landscape absorb me and remove me from the noise and structure of my everyday life enchanted and excited me.  Over a small hill, I abandon my rental car and walk amid the uneven desert floor, mindful that those shallow holes and connecting tunnels could contain rodent wildlife or venomous residents.  In both reasonable proximity and the farther distance, less than a half dozen Joshua trees watch over the landscape and take no action against my entering their domain.

A quarter-mile walk leads me into the open desert and I reach into my pocket and pull out my pre-queued soundtrack for this exact, planned moment.  Beyond a place where the streets have no names, I stand where I want to be: where the streets have no pavement.  I use my small sneakers to leave a mark in the sand – one that will only remain until the wind blows it away – and like an elementary ballet pupil, I spin to the song’s introductory riff kicking up the dirt around my ankles, making a mess and not minding at all.  I don’t even mind the sand in my shoes rubbing against my feet when I hike back over the hill to the solitary SUV.  And now three weeks later, the rest of the laundry is washed, dried, hung, and perhaps even worn again, but the sand coating those shoes remains, not to avoid cleaning them, but to preserve the visible memory, and because I want the desert dust to continue to be at my feet.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

On The Advice of Friends

Style and Substance

Feelings have no place in a blog, as my friend tells me.  While I agree that reading someone else's emotional oatmeal may be full of fiber, but low on literary flavor, some measure of touchy-feely content brings value to blogs (think, "I delighted in the ambiance of the turn-of-the-century decor.")  But she is correct: blogs should provide insight, not just the ramblings of an online diary.  Of course, that's one friend's opinion on style, and I'd like to think she's a friend who knows.

Friends have also suggested I consider a subject of substance, and since I value them as friends of substance, I am listening to their likewise substantive recommendations on content. If I take into consideration the ability to write what I know, I feel confident that this blog should contain three areas of focus.

What I Know

One, I know about me. In fact, I know more about me than any of my friends, so I wager they would find me an expert on the topic. Two, I am a traveling oddity, and I tend to see the places about which most people occasionally recall from high school history. In between the more famous sites, I experience the places about which many people have never even read. Three, I have successfully raised two boys and while the jury of their life experiences deliberates my level of knowledge on this topic, I am able to tell you there are two young men on this planet who carry bits of me into their worlds.

So on the advice of my friends, I am taking a stab at blogging about what I know. I promise to weigh heavy on my travels and life lessons about which they only peripherally know and I will avoid the syrupy slobber they do not care to read. And having visited forty-nine out of fifty states, I should be able to find a place, a topic, or a lesson that might just serve as advice to my friends.