I touched down in Vegas. A White Ford Utility Van swooped me up and off we went. Mike is the ramblin, gamblin gypsy soul I met back in Winter Park, Colorado. A Minnesota boy livin' on the road. Throughout the years we'd adventure into the woods whenever timing and convenience allowed. We've spent our moments climbing fire towers, wandering the Superior Hiking Trail and exploring Stillwater and other Minnesota finds.
Winter was on the horizon, so I thought why not make a trip to the desert before the cold set in?
He welcomed me into his home. A built out van fully dressed in character. Tibetan Prayer Flags entangled with Christmas lights hung above the plywood memory-foam bed. A straw hat on the dashboard. Rocks & crystals in every cup holder. Plastic totes filled with kitchen supplies and laundry baskets full of rock climbing ropes and carabiners. A mini book shelf stocked with an Edward Abbey Quote Journal, Thoreau's Walden and a few of Kerouac's favorites. The floor was covered with a dusty striped rug and a gallon bucket lined with grocery bags hung on the door as a garbage bin. Red curtains broke up the space; driving in front, living in back. Shoes and hats dangled from the passenger seat. Every inch was resourcefully endowed with simple living.
We spent our days crawling up, beside and on top of the rocks. From red, to orange and yellow, to whites, pinks and browns - the landscape was a rainbow of erosion. Years of change captivated in wide open spaces. Within one 30-mile stretch we saw the ecosystem change tenfold. I had the luxury of window watching. Arches and canyons contrasting the bright blue sky. Dirt & dust. Grass & shrubs. Pandorosa Pines, Douglas Fir & Aspen lined trails. It's funny how you notice the familiarities of home no matter where you go.
Per usual, I denied any insistence of having a plan - stubborn & steadfast - we floated on with ease. Without much conversation we landed wherever the dirt road led. Backroads as our driveway, each day holding a new home-away-from-home. Once we arrived to the new abode we'd pile the brush up for a cozy campfire. Hobo dinners and BBQ sauce filled the air. Thanks to daylights savings the evening fell slightly after seven. Darkness became the coyotes cue to cry. Staring deep into the hot coals, as the guitar hummed chords I hadn't known.
The desert is a different land. Hostile yet Holy. The air is thin and full of dust, though easy to breath. The space is silent, yet full of insight. You sit down and you see nothing, you hear nothing, yet you find something. No cell phone or calendar or clock screaming at me to do this or that. A routine consistent with following the sun; up with her glow and out with her disappearance. Time - time to sit and stare. No agenda, no expectations, yet all was exceeded. These experiences are subtle reminders to live in the moment. To be present with the company that surrounds you, the environment that houses you, the heart that holds you.
The week boasted a plenitude of these very moments. Much of life is surface level - until you decide to consciously dig a bit deeper, get your fingernails a bit dirtier, callous the palms and question the obvious. These wide spaces left little room to hide and the camaraderie enabled the same welcoming openness. A humble acceptance to be as quirky with company as I am in solitude. Gratitude, true, wholesome, loving appreciation filled me up as I hiked my pack on my back. A hug and see you later before returning to the Las Vegas Airport.
You meet people in life and each one of them teaches you something. You can love them, hate them, admire them, miss them. They can excite you, inspire you, push you, challenge you, frustrate and irritate the living hell out of you - but they've stumbled in your life for a reason, even if only temporarily. Everyone and everything you see is merely a reflection, a mirror into the soul you call your own. And by being true to the experience, being aware of your surroundings, being receptive to the symbolism you commence your own meaning. And the interpretation you create emanates through your thoughts, actions and ultimately defines your connection. Regardless of the flux of life, every experience comes and goes in it's own time, and within perfect time.
You never know what you're going to remember, or who you'll see again, or how far distance will spread, but true friendship defies all boundaries. There are certain people that resurface and their appearance changes with the circumstances. Life is busy and she just keeps moving, and at times the bustle creates a facade of emptiness. A grasping for something more, robust relationships become elusive and you feel on your own. As I touch back down in Minnesota I breathe a sigh of relief, like a whisper of wind. Relishing in the comfort of coincidence. We're never alone, connection is merely a state of mind.