« Gonna Miss My Girl »

Fifteen days is a long time to go away. So far we've only been apart for about twelve days. But this is some kind of pilgrimage I've felt I've needed to make most certainly for about five years, but in its earliest form for about 18 years. With the exception of my trip to Germany in 1992, into a world that I only vaguely knew, this is a bit more of an adventure. Particularly so because I am going alone, driving my own vehicle, and going to a place where I have done little more than read about, and will be among people I never met before... Other of my trips have been in the comfort of planes (Alaska 1994-5, Hawaii 2000 and more) or with travel partners who did the planning and hard work (Kelli on our three main trips, work trips, Keneally tour), or with a familiar host to greet me and give me a place (Steve in Germany, Shelby in Alaska). With the exception of the rites last year, I rarely drive my truck past the 150 mile mark—scarcely to the north side of the greater LA area and much farther than El Centro. But this trip is far more elaborate, making a swing through Arizona to New Mexico and a few sites within that state, and back. I guess it is the kind of youthful solo trek I felt tugging on me as early as mid 1993 when I dropped out of my community college plans between semesters, only to return ten years later, having made inner journeys but not much of the actual solo travel outer journeys. 

The layers of significance are many. The one time I know (from heresay from people with their respective axes to grind) I was in Albuquerque was the time when my mother fled California to not comply with a court order that I guess favored the old man to keep me as an infant of about a year or so. I am hazy on the details, but this was a time when she pretty much screwed her prospects for keeping me when she fled with me, out of state, to try to hide. It all didn't go so well so the law caught up and had me collected back from her. The story that was told me says that it was a messy, upsetting affair of prying mother from child. I guess it is back there in the cobwebs of my soul. I won't say it isn't operating at some level. I can imagine that such a thing is a scar that doesn't heal. If that one day isn't the cause, then the permanent fracture in my family unit certainly kept it alive. I just can't say for certain. But that was the last time I was in Albuquerque. Let's say it was a time of trials and brokenness.

I am not going back to specifically address that. There isn't anything I know that could help me retrace steps. No walking the scene of the crime or anything. But time and again in the last couple years, there has been a repeated call to get to New Mexico. It wasn't always so; other times I expected I'd dash up to the pacific northwest or to Canada, or to Steinbeck country or something. New Mexico was hardly on my radar until the Center for Action and Contemplation came onto my radar. Being based there seemed a natural fit. So I am following the bread trail from one of their programs to another. But I have had compelling narratives from two other sources that have led me to want to see what New Mexico is about.

I thought I was going to do this sort of on the cheap. Being that it is a work camp, I got in for nothing on the room and just $200 for two weeks of food. I calculated about $300 in gas at this absurd rate, and minimal road food since I really only had four travel days—breaking up the drive at Phoenix where a friend of Kelli's will let me crash in each direction if I want. I actually have not driven 12 hours at any time, so that seems reasonable. Part of what I want to do is enjoy the road and scenery. What I didn't really bargain for was that I'd sink about $700 on the truck, replacing radiator, water pump and some oil seals. All of a sudden, I got kind of dizzy last Monday when I had to pony up. On the other hand, that is relatively cheap compared to a blown radiator and a tow from the middle of nowhere. Even with all this, the travel is comparable to train or flight, but with the intended benefits of being silent and alone, and being flexible with routing, and not needing to make other arrangements for rental car or any of that.

This is spiritual liminal space, where I want to chance to let this stuff do its magic. Come what may. That is the prevailing spirit on this trip. Openness. It is the season of Lent now, and in the absence of a specific practice of denial or a new practice, this is my project—to see what the road has to say, what the pantheon of rocks and mesas and desert plains has to say, to see what working with sheep has to say. I want to stand in the field where the Very Large Array stands, spread out by many kilometers in three directions, receiving the sounds of the universe. It is a holy site, hopefully with a holy aim. It is something I've pondered since 1999 when Mike Keneally named my CD Receiving, and almost immediately I had the image of the Very Large Array dishes come to mind. I even want to see what the Trinity test site has to say about our human power to destroy ourselves, and the life we hold dear. All the more so now that at this very moment in history, Japan again fears the split atom.

Both my fathers, Lee Van Ham and Richard Rohr, talk about nature being the first bible, the first revelation of God. Rohr says that nature is the one thing that can get a man to take his right place in the order of things. Nothing else seems to effect the needed shift of attitude in the same, whole way. As much of this trip as I can dedicate to being in nature, I plan to. The plan is to be at the ranch from late 3/20 to the morning of 4/1, and then to spend Friday the 1st in Albuquerque where the CAC is based, see their operation, kick around town some, and then stay the night at their facility where I can start off and head to Trinity and the VLA, each being about 100 miles from the previous spot. I'd like to stay at the VLA until dusk if the sky is exciting to look at and photograph. And then, I'll burn it back to Phoenix to camp for the night. 

So I expect to take some pictures. Probably thousands. This will be interesting. I'll be off the grid for a while but will probably have plenty of pix to put me back in this very chair for a while, using my new Photoshop CS5! But the big stuff will be written on my heart. New scenery, new people, new experiences—all some kind of adventure I know I've needed for years and years but have only now found a right fit, and had the sense to heed the call.

But I'll miss my Kelligirl.


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