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.