It was quiet there, almost silent. You could hear everything there was to hear. At the nice, calm house, planted amongst the cacti, the gargantuan refrigerator is the only unwelcome guest. It groans loudly; with its unnecessary volume, it is clear it hasn't read the room.
The desert is not empty. There is so much wildlife. There is fragrance. There is noise. All relative; a bird in a puddle like a waterfall.
Everything here feels substantial. I look at rusty old trucks parked amongst the Joshua Trees and dirt, and they are still material. The rusty gears and brakes, the woodwork. J. is fascinated by the interior carpentry. The car is still there, an ungainly souvenir at the end of the world. At the house, the concrete floor is reassuring. Living here must feel solid. You are rooted. In other places, there are movers and shakers. Here there are settlers. How does one grow, rooted like this. And why do the trees slowly form spirals.
The desert is not untouched by industry. I watched the rise of a huge, low red moon from the parking lot of a mechanics' garage. We were there for one of our tires, which needed to be treated for a caught stone. It had caused a horrible scream. This was embarrassing even in the desert. Look at that moon, I told the mechanic. He said, Yep, the stars in high summer are so low you feel you can touch them. He told me he comes from Nebraska. We spoke lightly in the mild dusk air. The side of this highway is friendly.
We drove through steep dark nothingness to Pappy & Harriet's saloon. Suddenly, a crowd. Bearded young men dressed like mechanics but they probably design graphics or manage bands. The thin girls in floppy hats are smiling, amused over spilled salsa, ladies of the canyon. We slid into chairs and one beer was enough. We were sundrunk.
The next morning, we wandered into a trading post and a leggy young bearded man dressed like a mechanic played his guitar and strolled the shop floor, which sold funny old things, country western records and army surplus clothes and salt and pepper shakers and tattered old flags. J. bought a cap that makes him look like a mechanic and I figured he just wanted to interact with the handsome man who resembled a fair-haired Townes Van Zandt.
Across the street, at Crossroads Cafe, the boys and girls look like rock climbers, and they probably are.
At the Integratron — charmingly ridiculous destination — we laid with the others ("join us!", J. joked), heads towards the middle, spokes in a mystical wheel. I argued with J. in front of everyone that he took so long taking off his Converse hi-tops that we lost our places in the first ring. Later, I was glad we weren't in the first ring. The leader, who was about to give us our 'sound bath' by 'playing the crystals', said some incredible things: You should find your own highest frequency. You may choose to leave time and place… Just tell your mind you'll be back. Just lay there and marinate in yourself.
Southern California offers ways to indulge yourself you didn't know existed.
J., an Englishman, revealed the many ways he doesn't know how to relax: meditation, hot tubs, massage. But the mellow vibes of an impromptu BBQ at Anh and Eli's are impossible to resist. We were in Mt Washington and it felt calm. We listened to Arvi Pärt and other adult sounds. Matt Wolf showed up and we laughed at things that aren't even that funny. It's all about the delivery. When Anh told us the name of her little adobe oven, it was hilarious.
We drove from the bright red sky of L.A. to the deep, bright blue Pacific sea of Big Sur.
We kept seeing two birds flying in tandem. They pair together at intricate angles across a stateless sky. We listened to the same few CD's over and over. You know that experience. Lyrics that would normally overtake me like a speeding car were now tailgating, giving me pause to consider them again. I began to think they actually have true deep meanings. Freedom's just another word for nothing less to lose.
I was happy out west, was I losing my critical edge.
California, you range heights and temperatures. In your big space, my molecules are so loose I might just disspiate. I cling to traffic reports and the uncertain brakes on my dad's car and realise I am attempting to fix myself to things. Like the two birds who stay close in the sky, which they don't have to do, for the sky goes on and on. They are duetting. I think of homesteading. The far sights and close comforts of pioneers. These roads, stretched out but never resting.