PROMPT: MOVING ON
PROMPT: MOVING ON
I KNOW I AM NOT LOST
I looked out the motel room’s window into the dying night. I could sense the Badlands out there calling to me. I remembered wandering alone out there last century. There had been a living silence to that distant desert night.
Pilots call the Badlands barren, dry, and rugged. It only seems that way from the airplane’s cockpit. Its best parts are just spaced out some over place and time. I was lost in that time for a heartbeat to the moment in my walking to what folks called civilization. That night had been so quiet and still I heard the rustle made by the wings of ravens as they flew overhead … at least I told myself they were ravens.
I remember glancing down and realizing that I was standing in enormous dinosaur tracks. Feet dead over 140 million years ago made those impressions. Those huge reptile kings thought their reign would never end. Reigns always do. I could bring to mind the taste of those pine nuts I crunched for a midnight snack on that long ago walkabout. The nuts, of course, could not nourish me. I fed off of different … food.
The Badlands weren’t as remote as they once were. Maybe no place was remote anymore … except maybe the soul of a man to himself.
The Badlands had seen a lot of human traffic for all its remoteness these past thousand years: Anasazi, Ute, Navaho, and Lakota Indians. Then, there had been conquistadors, Mormon settlers, Gold prospectors, and now Hollywood film crews. Everybody passing through leaves a mark … and the Badlands replies in kind.
The weather extremes are drastic: Drought and downpour. 105 degrees in the August shade and 10 degrees in January’s bright sunlight. A spell of dust storms is capped by a week of icy gales. Wildflowers in spring and aspen trees in fall seem poor reward for black widow bites, the sting of a rattler’s fangs, and even flies that bite.
Yet, I loved the Badlands. There is something here that renews my spirit when New Orleans has all but drained it. It is the land. Each of us is a tuning fork for some kind of locale. I was born in the open country of the West Texas of 1799 and spent my first fifteen years there. I spent the happiest days of my life on horseback, evading Comanches and hunting the deer that fed my family.
I lost my family … my innocence. I found my … destiny in the Pajarito Mountains of Sonora. I became one of the first Texas Rangers.
Though I still wore the Silver Star on the underside of my coat lapel, I didn’t fool myself into thinking I was still a Texas Ranger. But I am most comfortable under the wide skies of wild country and in the sprawl of raw desert. It’s where I go when I am unsettled, confused, or bruised of heart. New Orleans does that to me quite often. My wife, Meilori, does it even more. She wasn’t speaking to me … again.
It’s enough to be in stark places like the Badlands of South Dakota, to be alone awhile in a place where all I can hear is the lonely wind blowing, where all I can see is the earth stretching all around me into the far distant mountains. I look up into the wide embrace of the endless night. Life sings to me again, and I know I am not lost.