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Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
"No, really!"

My Favorite Bit of Paper Cup Philosophy

The Way I See It #76

The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring Has Sprung and I Sprang Right Into It - Part 1

I am not sure why the heart of darkness felt so lingering and draining this time, but I fairly limped out of it. In Las Vegas, we turned the corner from winter to spring, seemingly overnight. The calendar said March 20th was the Vernal Equinox and Las Vegas paid attention. The extended forecast shows no days of inclement weather. Outings are planned. The gray pea coat will make a trip to the dry cleaner and be placed in the closet, under wraps, until it is needed again.

For a woman who did not go outdoors on dry land between childhood and the age of 50, I have made up for lost time since 2002. In addition to camping and hiking and walking many miles every day of life, I go on the occasional outing. I have visited many a backwater on the backsides of California, Arizona and Nevada, sometimes walking or hiking while waiting for the cyclist to catch up to me, sometimes on a solo voyage for the pure enjoyment of it. The places I visit are not likely considered destinations by many, but I rarely fail to be charmed by something I see or experience. I rubberneck while driving in on the highway or down the main drag (if there is one), taking in all that I can. And I've become adroit at discovering the answer to the question of the ages: "What's shaking in these parts?" I am indulged in requests to stop the car so I can take a picture of something that makes me laugh out loud or scratch my head. Once I was a world traveler. And now I simply get around. Yeah, it's a Beach Boys song.

It was a gloriously warm, not hot, day. The sky was full of smeary looking clouds and some other junk, so the light was poor and flat, but I didn't complain. The air movement could only be categorized a breeze, not hurricane force. It was as good as it had been for a long, long time. The drive to the speck on the map was a fairly long one, but pleasant. I didn't feel rushed. I didn't feel cold. No phones jangled in my ears. I relaxed and enjoyed myself tremendously, savoring time spent away from the two different sets of four walls where I dwell most of the time. I felt all of my senses come to attention and my brain sharpen up. I drank in everything I gazed upon, and some of it was damned funny. I'd welcome the reader to join me and experience some of what I saw on my pass through just the latest little hamlet.

There are three tiny towns (with population of 5,784 in the 2000 census) situated in the 40-mile long valley that sits at 1,265 feet above sea level. I wouldn't have thought it would be so low. And it is greener than I would have imagined. Parts of this valley have been used for agriculture and I can see why. Obviously there is water available here and I saw lush green growth everywhere. There are huge and ancient trees both standing and downed, with petrified root systems gnarled in the air. Scattered across the valley floor are enormous date palm trees with dead fronds hanging so thick they look like lion heads. Approaching from the highway, I crossed the Muddy River and craned my neck to see if it actually was that. Yep! Muddy.

Reader, it has been suggested that I am easily amused and that is true. I can have a good time with whatever is at hand and my eyes were scanning the landscape looking for fun. It didn't take long. I saw the spaceship from a long way off. The sun was glinting off of its silver dome. Spaceship? This is not Roswell, New Mexico! What the . . . ? I gawked out the window looking for aliens hiding in the brush. None ever showed himself, and as the spaceship drew nearer, I spotted the sign that told me that was no spaceship at all. But it did tell me why the valley is so green and why it can support agriculture. There is water here!

Absent any spacemen to amuse me, I continued toward my destination. There was only one viable business to be easily seen - The Muddy River Bar & Grill. Business did not appear to be booming. I saw about ten other commercial buildings and suites, almost all vacant. They were contained in a one-block area that I suppose is the commercial center of this place. There was no grocery store, no gas station, no convenience store. I'd seen a sign by the side of the road that made me sorry I'd spent so long in the chair with Christine the previous evening. I'd have been pleased to do my part for the local economy and I'm sure Stephanie of Styles by Stephanie would have taken good care of me and my hair. It didn't seem there would be a long wait for service.

Rolling down the highway a bit farther, I spotted the sign that pointed me to the place I aimed for. It had a soft, sweet name evocative of newly arrived spring and I was to spend a soft, sweet time there. I did what I always do first - I drove in a big circle taking in the sights and clocking distances between things. I did this twice. After the second time, I knew what I wanted to get out and see. I knew where I would set out on foot to put some more miles on myself for the day. I knew where I would eat my picnic lunch and I spotted a public restroom which is a rare commodity in some of these places.

My first stop, now that I had the lay of the land, was an unusual one for me. They looked lovely, so dark in their pen with the light blue sky and the green, green grass. They drew me, but there was a problem. I am afraid of horses. They are very large and they have big teeth and I have a scary horse story to write about sometime - an unintended childhood event that rendered me forever frightened of horses. I stepped out of the car and watched these animals from across the road. One can always jump back in if any sudden, menacing moves are made. I spoke quite softly. "Hey, horsey home dudes, it's spring." They moved! Closer to the barbed wire fencing. They were interested in me. Just not for dinner, I hoped. These animals made it so clear they found me intriguing, I couldn't stay on the other side of the road. I'm all about connecting with others, including animals, so I took a deep breath and crossed. I talked to them for a long time. I wasn't brilliant, but they won't tell that. I felt deeply peaceful talking to animals, looking into their (enormous) eyes and they into mine. I decided. I was going to do it. I touched each of them, stroking their hair softly while continuing to speak to them. They touched me deeply. I don't think I'm afraid of horses any more. At least not all horses.

The sign was posted at the end of the horse pen. It made me muse because I'd already seen the size of this community. This was no imposing monument sign, but rather one that put me in mind of a piece of metal patio decor. I drove at about a 25% grade up a road that was better than a Jeep trail, but still a dirt road. When I got to the top, I thought, "There's no cemetery here." It was just a bare mesa with natural formations, rocks, sand and the odd bit of scrub. No emerald lawn anywhere in sight. Why would anyone put up a nice metal sign like that? Just to trick city girls who find cemeteries peaceful into driving up a mean, sharply angled dirt road? I'd already put the car in reverse when a little fluttering red and blue object caught my eye through the brush. I got out to explore and I found the cemetery. For here, right in the natural desert setting, were eight residents and holdmarkers for two wives who have not yet expired. Tiny American flags fluttered (the red and blue that had caught my attention) and slightly faded artifical flowers in every hue were in abundance. I was struck by how many of the departed were young - younger than I. Three out of eight. The graves were spread far apart, so I wandered awhile, reflecting that to be placed in the desert once I have left my body would be OK for me. I'd rather have my ashes spread at the petroglyphs, but interment up here on the mesa in the sun would not be a bad final resting place at all. It pleased me that Mickey has a bighorn sheep's skull placed near his headstone. In fact, nearly everything about this quiet, sunny, slightly breezy place pleased me. I stayed a long time. Peacefully. Contemplative.

Reentry to the ho-hum, ho-hum is highly overrated. By midday Monday, I was harried. Eaten alive by an unappreciative general public. I had to force myself to concentrate from time to time as I wanted to slip back into my daydream about a quiet, warm and peaceful time spent "away". Not "here". There is much more to show and share, but I believe I will do this in chapters. I want to savor it a little longer.

The wind came back last night. It screamed through the "breeze"ways in my community. Perfect name for those channels that amplify the noise as the gale rattles the windows. The blinds in my bedroom rattled all night, despite double paned windows with no known breach. Virginia Woolf trembled as she is terrified of the wind, so I made her a little bed in the bathtub and closed the bathroom door. At 3:00, I got up to walk. The chinook was terrifying. I plunged out into it and walked more miles than many would attempt, but fewer miles than I expect of myself. I have a triggerpoint in the arch of my left foot. I learned I have a little health worry to address and, although I had not felt any symptoms before I was told about it, now I suddenly felt tired and weak. It's in my head, I am sure, but it's bloomed. I became a little depressed, a little whiny. I was glad that I was by myself when I spun on my heel and headed home because I do not feel very good about myself when I am less than intrepid. Today I was a wind wiener. But I will dream of beautiful days to come. And tomorrow will be a better one.

In my ears right now: An old favorite, rediscovered. Terence Trent D'Arby.

Something that charmed me:
That little glimpse of gentle spring charmed me. Perhaps it charmed me a little too much, as I'm having trouble dealing with just slight annoyances. One gets crotchety.


  1. Leslie - Such a lovely outing. It sounds like you were alone. Terence Trent: a combination of Stevie Wonder and Prince? I like him. Never heard of him before. (your picture of the third gravestone covers up "unappreciative general")

    Things that charmed me: "wind wiener," Leslie making friends with horseys, "smeary clouds", misreading the first headstone so it read "hore it."

  2. @ Kass ~ It was a beautiful day. It's given me a terrible case of spring fever now that I've returned to less favorable conditions.

    That's GOOD about Terence, Kass! Very good observation. I like how he uses language. His lyrics aren't presented like a long, straight line of words. He puts inflection on odd syllables and the lyrics undulate.

    We might be looking at monitors with different resolution, but I can't see that any of the photos are obliterating words. If I see it when I get home this evening, I'll have an anxiety attack, but I can't fix it now because I can't see it.

    You charmer! I detest being any kind of wiener. I'm not known to tolerate wienerness of any variety in myself or others. Spine up, dammit! No guts, no glory. "Smeary clouds" is a phrase I've used since I was a child. When the sky looks like someone put her hands in the white paint and smeared it all over the blue paper. Re: the Hortt headstone - yesterday I was playing another version of the WV game (god, I'm like a dog with a bone!). I attached that picture to an e-mail I was sending and said, "When Robert died, I hope it didn't hortt."

  3. The picture-covered words are probably my computer resolution or the fact that you use html to tweak your posts. I've found that if I use anything other than blogger's exact template or 'compose,' it can mess up a bit.

    It hortts me just to think of your email friend's reaction.

    Did you know I had a wiener dog when I was a kid?

  4. @ Kassie ~ I think the obliterated words are some form of what you suggest there, but I'll be curious to look on my monitor at home to see what shows up.

    I was chastised (jokingly) on e-mail: "Les, you''re like a dog with a bone! But FUNNY." Now talk about mixed messages! Spank me and laugh at me in the same e-mail? How is a girl supposed to know what to do next?

    Tell me about your wiener dog! Did you know I never had a mammal for a pet as a child? Uh-uh. They weren't having it, although my Dad became a dog lovere after their divorce, so I think it was more my mother. Birds, fish, turtles - yes. No dog, no cat. Pets were a gift we gave Amber from the day of her birth. Children need pets. Real pets. Especially isolated, lonely children.

  5. Smeary looking clouds. I like that.

    Speaking of aliens, ever been to, or close by, Area 54? I believe that's in Nevada. Seriously. I don't believe they actually have UFOs there, but they could be testing advanced aircraft. Camping out there in the desert, you ever seen anything weird in the sky?

  6. I don't see smeary, I see cirrostratus, the cloud changing from pic to pic. Cloud Wiener, I am. I am reminded of the long Sunday afternoon drives of my childhood and my children's childhood, sadly missed in this economy of $2.50 gas. In my ear: Day tripper, yeah!

  7. @ Kirk ~ Area 51 is out at the Nevada Test Site and they did/do exactly what you suggest: test aircraft, etc. I've never been out there. One doesn't want to get too close! It's about 80 miles out of downtown Las Vegas and I imagine it glows in the dark from all the detonations over the decades. At that trashy Bonanza Gift Shop I love, they sell vintage postcards showing some of the mushroom clouds out at the test site, taken from downtown. It's pretty shocking to see the cloud and think, "That's 80 miles distant and look at the size of it."

    I've never seen anything odd in the sky while camping, but I did see something unusual one June in my own neighborhood here. Although I almost always was accompanied on my walks at the time, I was solo that night. It was dusk and I turned in from the main street to our community. Some neighbors were standing in their yard and we spoke. A very large object went streaking by, very fast, very low and very close - between home and Red Rock about 7 miles away. It had a lot of color to it, red and blue and some hint of flames, maybe afterburners. I was not impaired in any way. I was returning from miles of walking. My vision is well corrected with my glasses. I am not delusional. The neighbors saw it, too. The next day I contacted reporters at the newspaper and monitored the news. Never a mention of it. I asked in every way I knew how to ask, "What the hell streaked across the sky in Summerlin last night?" I never was able to learn a thing or even get an acknowledgement that an aircraft had flown past. But then, they also don't report about dead bodies found on the backs of office buildings here, either.

  8. @ Tag ~ Oh, you show-offy weather guessing cloud wiener, you've stolen my innocence! I didn't want to know the word "cirrostratus". I wanted forever to think of them as the "smeary clouds". I'm kidding! You know I like learning new things. Thank you. Clouds and weather did not grab me at school. I didn't learn them well. But now, knowing that something I internalized, "smeary clouds", is called cirrostratus, I'll likely retain it.

    You caught the spirit of the outing, Tag! Just get in the car and go somewhere. Take a camera. Take food that won't spoil and that's incredibly easy to eat from a bag. Take an open mind. Take a sense of humor. Plan to have lots of conversation with oneself. Appreciate beauty in all of its forms.

    "Got a good reason for taking the easy way out . . . "

  9. I love Terrence T D....many moody evenings have passed to this theme...if you like him you might like McAlmont and Butler - this song can pull me right up out of a Terrence and leave me soaring in those "smudgy clouds":

  10. PS, that whole album is great, too, but if you want to linger in the Terrence mood - Antony and the Johnsons Hope there's Someone is my suggestion:

  11. @ Rachel ~ I just played the McAlmont and Butler ~ I liked it! I'll go try the other recommendation now.

  12. We've got topsy turvy spring winter weather here as well. Tough to live with!

  13. @TOB ~ OB, I'm on record on numerous blogs with this: March ~ in like a lion, out like a tiger. Good to see you here! Good to see you blogging. Enjoy your well-deserved spring break. I'll just keep hoping for sustained spring.

  14. Hey, Les, out of all the wonderful details in this blog I shall focus on the cemetery.

    I love cemeteries, too. Perhaps because they remind me that I am still alive. I get a bitter sweet chill every time I try to imagine the lives of those buried there who have gone before me.

    One year, many years ago now, my husband and I took a long trip through Victoria into NSW and onto Bega, where several of my husband's ancestors are buried. His great great great grandfather, also a William H came as a convict to Bathurst in 1822.

    My children hated the journey and recall it often now, how they insisted on staying inside the car, windows wound up even in the heat, to keep out the flies, who had settled in their droves on the cow pats - meadow mayonnaise - in the fields that surrounded the gravestones.

    There in Kameruka cemetery I first came across little Lydia H, an ancestor from the late 1800s who died at two and a half years of age after a pot of boiling water fell on her head.

    I decided then that although I love the name, Lydia, I am glad I never passed this name onto any of my daughters.

    Thanks, Les, for a wonderful journey through the desert to places I have never seen and will most likely never see.

  15. @ Elisabeth ~ "Meadow mayonnaise"! I'd never heard that and it made me laugh out loud.

    I thought my meander through the cemetery might appeal to you. On my first trip to the UK, I was so drawn to the cemeteries, my dad, stepmother and husband thought I'd slipped a gear. They fascinated me! At least part of this was due to the times that the deceased had lived. Remember, I hail from a country less than 250 years in existence, which is nothing there.

    One of the most moving experiences of my life was standing in a tiny graveyard in Blaenau Ffestiniog in northern Wales. I was surrounded by many departed who bore my family name. It wasn't coincidental. These people were my ancestors. I have a corresponding spirit to your Lydia. Someone whose DNA came down to me. Her name was Violet and although I would never have considered giving my child that name in 1990, today I almost wish I'd named Amber that. [At least it's another color name, right?]

    I do something unusual (for me) in cemeteries. I am a person who does not care for numbers and math. I do not understand or like or trust numbers. I'm not good at math beyond the most basic level. I don't feel compelled to become better with numbers since I'm simply not interested in them. I can do what I need to do and that's good enough. But when I stand at a headstone, by mind snaps to attention and crunches numbers at an amazing speed. For some reason, I am strongly urged to quickly calculate how long the person lived.

    Walk through the deserts with me, Elisabeth, and I'll teach you all I know about it. I'm lucky to know it as well as I do!

  16. Thinking about cemeteries...I photographed an entire one, as in every single grave and head stone, to research the families who lived in the town I'm writing about. funny thing is I'd forgotten all about the photographs until just now. Thank you. And I have written about a cemetery before. Gosh, I have a bad memory. If I don't have a reminder in front of me I forget a thing exists.

    I'm so glad you like "Yes"!

  17. @ Rachel ~ we're ALL bombarded with too much. Information, demands, expectations, hurts. It's no wonder some of us have to be obsessive note-takers to remember anything.

    One "holy" place that I love to visit is the crypt beneath St. Paul's Cathedral in London. There, underground, I commune with the celebrated departed: Florence Nightingale, Wellington, Lawrence of Arabia and Admiral Nelson. But the memorial I love most is that to Sir Christopher Wren, the architect of St. Paul's. His is a fine, life sized bronze likeness of the man in repose. If I remember correctly, his epitaph is presented in both Latin and English [it is, I just Googled it!] and is quite simple: "Reader, if you seek his monument, look around you." Meaning "really look around at this incredible structure that he designed in 1668. There are always fresh, single flowers placed across the hands of his effigy. The attendants remove them after an hour or so . . . to make room for the newly arrived ones.

    But you also know that I am charmed by little ersatz final resting places in the desert . . .

  18. I was just rereading this post and thought, hey, I have some photos you'd really love, of graves no less. Then, what do you know, here'a a comment from me saying exactly that - again! My memory really is duff!

  19. @ Rachel ~ It's OK! You're among friends here.