A trip! A strange, bright, stressful trip! A surreal trip! Dirt and rocks and clear thin sunshine! Blood relatives! Pardon the food metaphors! I’m a cook now! More of this story to come later!
The kind of travel you pay for is just as stressful as the kind of travel you do for free. I don’t care if the air is pressurized, heated and cooled, or if you sit for fourteen hours in a soft seat instead of carrying a pack five miles in the dead of night. Either way, traveling is hard. But at least with the free kind of travel you get the fresh wind in your face, lots of walking to ease the sensation of slowness and deep sleep in forgotten groves of trees, waking with only the sun on the leaves and the distant sound of cars. At least you get to see it all pass by, and you’re not paying for any of it, so you don’t mind so much when things go wrong, connections are missed, favorite sunglasses are lost over the lip of some red rock, into the churning mess of a deep hole you used to swim in as a kid. The waters are crazy with spring runoff. The whole world seems like a gift.
We just listened to a terrible book on tape. I’m hoping it doesn’t taint my writing style. The narrator’s voice still rings in my head, driving me to whimsical adjectives I might not normally use. And I already lean heavily on adjectives. Too many cooks spoil the broth.
The book was terrible but we let it echo through the rental car anyway, the narrator’s voice hypnotizing us as we drove through canyons and flat towers of rock, all the way to Denver over the rocky mountains, meadows greener than I had ever seen them, paper birch trees flipping their leaves over cabins making it seem like this was some place that I might want to live, even though I know that I hate the desert and it was only this green now because of climate change, a late spring like chemical gas in bag of salad mix.
We missed our flight. It took us longer to get to the Denver airport than we had planned, and we stopped and visited my Grandparents on the way out of town, driving way out into the desert on a gravel road, up on top of some mesa that reached for the sky, bright altitude making me feel hot and weak, looking out over the sagebrush where once herds of wild horses ran. My Grandparents live in a house with drab vinyl siding that they built six years ago, fleeing Grand Junction in the valley far below when the pumpkin fields around them turned to subdivisions, spoiling the perfect arc of the sky and offending the wild asparagus and anthills like piles of turbinado sugar. They weren’t bothered by the new buildings themselves. My Grandpa was fond of all things built on laid concrete and cheaply sided, and he assembled their garage himself over the course of a summer, calling me out to help lay chalk lines or hold up a board for him. But they wanted their drab outbuildings to sit alone on a broad sheet-cake of alfalfa fields, and so after the weed-choked pumpkin fields became postage-stamp lawns they folded their dusty things and headed up on the mesa, buying up 35 acres of burnt property and hiring someone to dig them a road. “Lone Eagle Drive”, was what my Grandpa named it.
We’d packed up our hotel room that morning, said goodbye to our two queen beds, one hard and one soft. The wedding had been on Saturday, now it was Monday. Sunday was spent doing god knows what, even now when I think of that time all I can see is a rumpled bed, but that is the way my memory goes. Thankfully there were frantic notes in the airport, pages of lined paper in a spiral notebook, Nicole and I blearily reciting the details to each other as we waited for our plane to hop into the sky and lumber over the great Nevada desert.
The wedding, that will come later. I have to check my notes.
We left town and headed to my Grandparent’s place, our last day in the desert. The sun was brighter than I had ever seen it. The world was like a big picture window that finally got cleaned. There was so much light! We drove along long walls of rock, the river to our right. It was churning and filled with mud, just the way I remembered it.
The air was still and thin, when we finally stepped out of the rental car. There was my grandfather, wearing a white cowboy hat like you see in mexico and big aviator glasses, standing in the dirt in front of the garage. He looked shorter than ever. In a minute my grandmother appeared, out from the tall plain house, eyes all red from glaucoma. A little different, but over all they’d barely changed. It was me, apparently, who had morphed into something alien, although I felt more like myself than ever.