8. When I find myself in an eddy, it’s time to rest and write
My friend Marion shared a lesson from her experience on a 16-day rafting trip through the Grand Canyons. “One afternoon we almost overshot the last pull out, and the guides had to row mightily to make it into the calm waters of the eddy and then to shore. It can be hard work to get out of the rush of the current, to safety and rest.”
Sometimes I need to work hard to get out of the strong currents of my life; other times, I find myself thrown up on an unexpected beach.
Today I find I have time to write from an unscheduled eddy, also known as an RV park in Van Horn, Texas (on Interstate 10, 140 miles east of El Paso but west of almost everything else in Texas). I had planned to pull into Balmorhea SP (between Van Horn and Ft. Stockton TX) yesterday/Friday to swim at my all-time favorite place. Balmorhea, built by the CCC, is the world’s largest spring-fed swimming pool; the San Solomon Springs flow at 15 million gallons of water a day and the water temperature is 72 to 76 degrees year round. Treat yourself to a glimpse now and a swim whenever you can fit it in. http://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/balmorhea
“How-some-ever” to quote Brer Rabbit, instead of continuing on to swim at Balmorhea, I took the time to have a flat tire along Interstate 10. Then I took time to wait for a kind mechanic with an easy smile to find me, put my spare on the ground, and send me on my way. Next I took time to stop just before dark at the first available RV Park to work out this detail of having no spare tire while traveling alone across remote stretches of desert. Then this morning, I learned that in Van Horn, there are no tires to match the others on my RV and that the larger dealers in Ft. Stockton are closed today/ Saturday. And so instead of bolting out across the country, I sit in an RV Park carved out of the desert, with mesquite close by and blue-purple mountains on the horizons. I enjoy the gritty starkness of the desert; there’s an openness in the long views and strong winds that are good for my soul.
With my last blog, I explained that I had driven too hard, too far, too fast – through Idaho, Montana and Wyoming to spend time in Colorado. So it was that I pulled my RV into the Boulder County Fairgrounds in Longmont, CO, too tired and in dire need of a “time out” or eddy in which to rest. I guess my fatigue had something to do with me not having done the hard work earlier to get out of the current to rest, something to do with fear I’d miss something if I hit the pause button.
There are few campgrounds near Boulder or Denver, and those are expensive. The fairgrounds worked well for me; the spaces are small with only water and electricity; the price is reasonable. I watched some of the 4H horse competition and visited the adjoining Longmont Humane Society, just in case they had a German Shepherd I couldn’t walk away from. There are many dogs there; the facility is clean and well managed; I left without a dog.
I write extensively about my large male German Shepherd, Bruin, in Footprints on My Soul – journal of a Circuit Court Judge. He lived to be 11 years old and left a huge hole in my heart and life. Two years later, a friend sent me a picture of Grace, a small-built Princess who graced my life until she died at age 12. Roxie was a Dutch Shepherd who was with me too briefly and died in April of 2014 at the age of 13. I’ve known for the last few months that I’m ready for another dog. Recently, with a laugh I told my buddy Joe, “I won’t be surprised if I just walk around the corner and find my next Shepherd.” But my dog wasn’t at Longmont.
I was in the Denver area for nine days and spent time with special friends. I went to the Quaker Meeting in Boulder, one of my favorites; I played with my nieces in Golden, had my heart broken, moved the RV to a farm on the eastern plains where my buddy Joe is staying, and spent not enough time writing or playing with my camera.
When something is happy or sad – joy-filled or painful – my gypsy reaction may be “Wow! I think I’ll leave now.” And so I after nine days, I pulled the rig from Colorado to Storrie Lake State Park in Las Vegas, NM – one of my favorite places. But perhaps because I was trying to outrun that broken heart, or because the guy in the RV next to me came over with a beer in hand to beat on my door because he wanted to talk, or because shortly after that several loud motorcycles pulled up at his rig and they rode off together, with beer in hand. For all or none of the above reasons, I didn’t stay at Storrie Lake; I left early the next morning, heading to City of Rocks State Park, in southwest NM (north of Deming, NM and south of Silver City). City of Rocks is my absolute favorite place – a place that has been pulling on my heart for months.
I’ve lived in an RV for 10 of the last 15 years; though I own a very nice house in Florida, I do not need or want a home without wheels. I don’t want a house cemented to the ground, surrounded by grass I’m supposed to water and then mow. I prefer living small, with fewer things. Financially it makes no sense to keep the house AND the RV, so I put the house on the market just before I left in June. I’ll return to Florida to my favorite job assignment as taxi/homework monitor/play mate for my granddaughter during the school year, but the job description does not require I own a stick-built house.
As I was driving southwest towards City of Rocks, I got a call from my realtor. I pulled over in a gravel parking lot by a chili stand in Hatch, NM, and we went through the details of the offer to purchase she had just received. She made the few changes we discussed and prepared a counter offer as I continued west. At City of Rocks I leveled and unhooked the RV, plugged into electric and set the AC blowing; then I went on-line and docu-signed the final agreement. We close the end of the month, and I need to adjust my travel schedule a bit.
After I hit the “send” button on my computer, I began to breathe deeply and enjoy this most amazing “eddy.” I stared without words at the rolling hills, scattered rocks, and dark blue mountains so many miles away. I felt such relief, peace to simply, finally be there.
City of Rocks was formed by a huge explosion more than 34 million years ago known as the Kneeling Nun eruption. The park is a fantasy land of wind and water sculpted pastel rock columns, resting on open plains, with mountain borders. In a visceral, animal way, I need that expansiveness.
The next morning I watched a man walk from his van to his car with a black and tan German Shepherd off lead. I’ve had German Shepherds most of my adult life, but have never had one I would trust to stay at heel off lead. In fact, I had trouble walking them at heel on lead if they got distracted. Later when I went out to the trash can, the wife was sitting at the picnic table with the dog. I began with “What a beautiful German Shepherd and so well-mannered.” She laughed, “I wish I could say it was our training. But it’s just how Misty is.” As I began to pet Misty, the woman dropped her eyes and her tone changed, “I hate to admit this but we have to find her a new home.” There was a long pause; my head and heart were spinning. Then she went on, “My husband is not well and is going into hospice in a few weeks. He doesn’t have long. I can’t help him and give Misty what she needs. But I can’t believe I just told you this! We’ve been watching for a special home for her for a year, but I’ve never told anybody we were looking. We’ve met lots of people who talk about how pretty and well-mannered she is, but we haven’t met anyone we could trust with her.” I went back to my rig and returned with pictures of Bruin, Grace, and Roxie. She offered me Misty; she cried; I cried. Her husband came out; we talked more. And we agreed I’d take Misty for the next few days to see if it would work.
While at City of Rocks, I spent many hours watching the light play around and through the enormous rock formations; I found many figures hiding in plain view in the fluffy white clouds – blink and they’d change shape; I stared across the desert as the wind rustled; I studied the far horizons. I breathed. I sat. And of course, I walked Misty a lot. She can spot a bunny or lizard 100 yards away. She loves kids and is easily bribed with treats. She has no hip or spinal problems so she can jump and run like none of my other Shepherds could. The only issue is she is 9 ½ years old, so she too may break my heart, leaving too soon. And that’s a risk/reality I’m willing to accept.
I went to my first Quaker Meeting five years ago in Silver City, so going back to the Gila Meeting was a bit like coming home. After Meeting, I had lunch and dinner with special Friends, Marion and Jamie, whom I met at that first Quaker Meeting. They are each gifted cooks; their meals are beautiful, healthy, and delicious. A great treat, since I don’t cook.
Marion and Jamie drove down to City of Rocks on Wednesday to tent camp in celebration of her 65th birthday. Mother Nature made it a bit spicy, adding a thunderstorm and hard rain to their plans. We were able to almost finish our grilled hamburgers before the bottom fell out; we bolted to their small truck where we stuffed three adults and one wet German Shepherd. Between us we balanced plates of left-over hamburger out of Misty’s reach and then retreated to my dry, spacious RV for only slightly wet hamburgers followed by birthday cake (chocolate zucchini with walnuts and apple sauce) and some to-die-for ice cream. After dessert, the rain had slacked off some and they bravely returned to their tent, in spite of my offer to let them have my queen-size bed with me on the comfortable couch. It rained a half an inch that night (a huge amount for the desert) but had stopped before sunrise. Only some of their stuff got wet, and they had many more tales to tell. The next morning we did a three-mile hike up a near-by mesa for expansive views that included purple-blue mountains seated in Mexico. What a gift! Time with intentional, gentle friends who both share and challenge my world view.
On Friday when I loaded the motorcycle and hooked up the trailer to leave City of Rocks, Misty’s people remained steadfast in their decision that she is better off with me. Neither my head nor my heart can wrap around the words they used to justify their decision to let Misty go. I offer other options that would allow her to stay with them; they do not agree. I have to remember that I’m not in charge of the lives of others.
So Misty and I take off on our next adventure.
I decided to return to Florida early to work on the details involved in selling my house and had planned to go from City of Rocks to Balmorhea State Park (in western Texas on I-10, between Van Horn and Ft. Stockton) for the first night on the road. And that brings me back to where I began this blog – Saturday night in an unscheduled eddy that looks like an RV park in Van Horn, Texas, waiting for early Monday morning, when I’ll head to Fort Stockton to buy a tire for the RV. Hopefully I won’t be there too long and can continue my journey east. BTW, the most eastern mile marker in Texas on I-10 is #888, at the Louisiana/Texas border. Van Horn is at mile marker #140. So I have a ways to go. If I go that way. I could also head south out of Fort Stockton on Hwy 285 to Del Rio and then take Hwy 90 to San Antonio, to get back on the most boring Interstate there. But I need an extra tire, for backup, before I get that adventuresome. There are remote stretches on Hwy 285 with no radio stations – much less cell phone services. So why go that way? Because the world is beautiful there.
images in driftwood
seed head beside a pond in Longmont, CO
a rainbow my first night at City of Rocks
the view out the back window of my RV – City of Rocks
magical rock formations and mysterious clouds
a cactus the size of a pool table
Misty is regal
Misty quickly claimed the couch and my heart
on the climb up the Mesa with City of Rocks below
Marion and Jamie on the Mesa
Marion swore she was in Heaven
wonderfully gnarly tree on the hike up the Mesa
cactus bearing fruit