When the going gets tough, the tough get tougher. So last weekend I went to Joshua Tree and spent the night under the stars. Yup. That's right. Tarp. Sleeping bag. Sheet. No tent. No bug repellent. No padding.
Take THAT Nellie Olson.
I went with my friend Mr. Adventrepreneur (that's gonna really hurt when I have to type it again and again) and we arrived late on Friday night. It was very Blair Witch: Sable Crow and Mr. Adventrepreneur parking the car in a deserted parking lot, loading up their packs, and hiking miles in the dark with two flashlight jerkily lighting the alien terrain. Our directions (from a friend of his) were not so clear, but delicious in their possibilities. It was like following a treasure map:
"Park at the far parking lot, but don't take the main trail. Follow right-hand trail about a mile to ruined house. Find path behind ruined house and follow to secluded valley for camping."
It was better than an away mission on Star Trek. The sky was insanely clear and there was a meteor shower that night; they were sometimes so large that they left streaks in the sky, like night-time contrails. I saw the Milky Way reach up and over the black Joshua trees around me, high above my head, then plunge into the horizon beyond. It was staggering.
We woke with the sunrise at 6am, gathered our things, and started our hike. I've always been prejudiced against the desert. Too dry and colorless. I prefer old-growth forests, not redwoods, but branching deciduous trees and thick undergrowth. So imagine my surprise to find life and color in this waterless grave. What struck me was that this was not just any life--it was hard, tough, strong life. No wimpy green here! Here, in this desert dry, even the color works hard against the heat and dust. There was life, and it wasn't easy. It was inspirational in a way I hadn't expected. It was beautiful in a way I'd never seen.
I've been reluctant to write, which is my explanation for the long stretch of two weeks that's gone between this and the last entry. Too much to address. Too afraid to open up the old wounds. My journey work--my adventures--haven't just been physical; they've also been emotional. Nightmares stalk my sleep. Elevators go up, up, up from labyrinthine parking garages only to open on black, angry skies and shattered glass towers. Babies cry and things crawl under my skin. I am angry in these dreams: determined to fight the ghosts I face, with fists or words or just by making it through to morning.
Not surprisingly, I've been walled up lately like the Gates of Mordor. The walls are high and dark, and war trolls storm the battlements.
My heart lately
It is not a pleasant place to be. I had a conversation tonight with Ms. Peace Corps, a brilliant and attractive friend of mine from high school. She lives in NYC now, and we were talking about dating. I told her a few days ago that it feels like most of my emotional progress comes from breakups. I said it was like fission, this terrible release of creative and destructive energy; I said that I wanted growth in the future to come from fusion, instead. I dream about a self-sustaining, rather than destructive, system.
Nuclear Fission = Not so good
Nuclear Fusion=A harmonious, self-sustaining system
She shared that this concept intrigued her, and she began to observe where HER progress occurred. She also shared what I called the Power of Primacy: that our first experiences--especially in love--color and shape our future experiences. She provided an example: If I were rejected by my first love, then that's how I'd see love for the rest of my life; it would be my emotional foundation. If--on the other hand--I had a successful love and broke it off, then I'd have a very different foundation. This idea, too, intrigued me, and has started a whole new line of thinking.
It's now very late for Sable Crow, who is squawking away when he should be sleeping, or at the very least enjoying one of the books I'm currently reading:
It has everything a guy could want: handsome and charming vampires, high school drama, and the subtle threat that is love.
On one final note, there were some special guests on the hike, sharing a meal and clearly a pair. They were quite happy to see me, as I was to see them.