October 13, 2009 – Heading out into the day:
We visit the Visitor’s Center in Death Valley and I buy some books. Edward Abbey is essential for the trip. We learn that at the age of 62, you can pay $10.00 and never again pay to visit a federal park. I am thinking if our elders can afford to travel to our parks, perhaps they can also afford to pay $20.00 for seven days in the park. This is hardly an exorbitant fee and in light of the age of the visitors this time of year might bring in some much-needed cash.
We drive along the magnificent Artist’s Drive stopping along the way to observe and absorb nature’s palette, the reds, yellows, oranges, and greens from the minerals in the rocks. We arrive at the Badwater Basin which actually has water, but the water is so salty, animals won’t drink it and so it is “bad,” as defined by humans. I realize as we drive along that the reason nature seems innocent to me is that it is non-judgmental. There is no judgment in the sand or dust storm, or the flood. It is simply movement, shifting, evolution. Here, each movement, shift, change, is honored as unique. The cracks in the stones are delicate like trees. We feel ourselves drying out, warming, even though it is unseasonably cold and windy. I am bundled up. October normally has an average high of 92 and has a recording of 113, but it is cool here today and dark with clouds. I didn’t expect the beauty, the color, the intensity of the shades. I feel dried out, opened, laid out as open to the air as what I see.
Humans look out of place here, in their colorful clothing, though color is here in the sky and rocks, in the shades of grays, whites, greens, gold, red. There is no blue in the sky today. We walk out on the sand of the Badwater Basin. I am blown off center. We are 262 feet below sea level and look up to where sea level is marked on the cliff. The area is too vast to get any sense of proportion or dimension in a photo. We don't even try.
We enjoy a lovely lunch with a view of the shifting dark clouds and come home to rest. I feel tired as though the cushion of moisture that waves within is gone and any attempt to push through has no reserve. My reservoir is dry. Bone meets bone. My skull knows sky.
I sleep and wake and sit outside and watch the clouds and read Edward Abbey. We could explore more but it seems enough to listen to the wind and watch the light on the mountains and the sky and the clouds. Breath is enough. I respond to what I see by opening color within, as I honor that my bones and skeleton, in this moment, are unskinned, naked as rock, bare and lifted, shifted again and again.
I feel myself dropping here, dropping below sea level. I feel heavy even as I feel swept-out with light. When I went through radiation, I learned that my heart doesn’t drop when I lie on my back, so they used a special machine to accommodate that. Now, here, I feel how much I “hold myself up.” I let go, sink, like water in sand, caught like dust in the sandman’s sleep. The wind is constant, a lullaby, and the clouds so black I am amazed they bring no rain. A 50% chance we are told even as we know a friend’s home on the hill above Corte Madera near where we live, received three and a ¼ inches of rain after midnight last night. (We did use the land line to call and check in on our trees.) My yard at home is wet with all trees standing and we are here in some sort of valley, awakening what may only awaken here, in this place that is so deep, we dive.
I watch a bird drop from a branch to the ground and hop. I’m dropping much more slowly than the bird though he/she is slow in the journey through air. The display of evolution here is tens of thousands of years, millions of years, the sea bed lifted, tilted, played with, arranged. I drop slowly, caught on the eaves of geologic time. Perhaps that is the fatigue – it’s not fatigue – it’s slowing my heart to the tempo of the earth – raising and lowering – resting and rising – all with ease – a flower opens – the moon is full and new – and the sand clumps and falls apart and the air nibbles all the while – this planet on which we feed – fed.
At sunset, we go to Zabriskie Point. We are not alone. This is the sunset spot. All couples spontaneously kiss. It is like New Year’s Eve, as though you are meant to cement the drop of the sun, the changing sky with a kiss, a pact to get through the night, the year, as lips meet to honor moisture, breath, life. You exist as do I.
It appears the majority of people here are Europeans, specifically Germans. Many travel on motorcycles. I want to be on a motorcycle. The area is vast. The noise is absorbed. On the drive back for dinner, I see a desert fox, setting out to explore. He is bigger than the fox at home.
I read Edward Abbey. He is so clear we need to walk this kind of space to know ourselves. We must get out of our cars and walk. He writes of Industrial Tourism and how cars and roads fueled the development of the park system and how now we can demand that we get out of our cars and walk and lie face down on the ground and listen to the earth and ourselves. This book is published in 1968 and may have influenced how we view our parks. Though cars still predominate, there is more emphasis on walking and knowing the land.
We hear of heavy rain all over the state of California. We watch dark clouds, and then, they clear and then, the winds bring them back. Swish, swish. I cleanse. I watch the birth of stars.