I am not one who is prone to tears. Never have been. A childhood filled with abuse teaches one that tears only bring reasons for more, and tends to create an intrinsic stoicism … but sometimes it crumbles. As I crossed the border from Texas to New Mexico, the facade collapsed and warm salty drops stung my eyes, quickly cascading down my cheeks. I pulled over. In the hazy distance, sandy red rock jutted mysteriously from the flat burned land. I had finally made it. A longing born somewhere in the microscopic cells of my mind many long decades ago, fueled with maps and stories and books. A dream I unknowingly shared with my Father. A hope buried deep in quiet spaces of my heart … a hunger to “go west”. And I was here at last.
In my teens – what seems like a hundred lifetimes ago – I read a book, “The Haunted Mesa” by Louis L’Amour. An easy read, and one of the few fiction novels I’d ever bought, it somehow crept into my spirit and ignited a curiosity about the lands of mesas & arches, of peaks & pinyon, and of ravens dancing in a sky as blue as the ocean. A desire to know the spirit that not only inhabits a landscape that stretches far beyond what the eye can see, but also moves deep within the souls of those who walked here eons ago. In my early 20’s, I bought another book, “National Parks of the West”, and it became my ‘wish book’. I leafed through it endlessly, dreaming of the day I would see those places, and a few years later I shared it with the man who became my husband … but his dreams were only of Caribbean seas and piña coladas, so vacations were spent in cabanas while I kept hope of plateaus alive in my heart. The years went by, and occasionally I’d suggest we “travel west” for something different … not possible was always the reply. A decade came and so did the separation. I got little in the divorce … but I had The Book. And the map with routes outlined and towns carefully circled … the blueprint of a long-held prayer. Now I was finally here, beginning the Ride’s journey deep into the soul of these lands I have longed for so long to see. Is it a calling? Something conceived before I was a heartbeat in the heavens? Perhaps so. I do not know. But as I crossed that line between states, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I’d also crossed a line in my own history….