Santa Rosa, NM – afternoon
First of all, two apologies.
The first goes to everyone looking for an update when there wasn’t one here. I made two abortive attempts to write one yesterday, but hated them. We’ll talk more about this later.
Secondly, I’d like to publicly apologize to New Mexico for callously clumping it with Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas as “those big useless square states” (although to be honest, Texas had some good points and Oklahoma wasn’t _too_ bad; I guess it’s really just Kansas I’m pissed off at). New Mexico is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.
Now, I’d seen pictures of mesas and buttes in National Geographic and stuff; big old two page fold-out pictures of some natural wonder caliber butte. Somehow I ended up with the idea that there’s, like, six of these things holed up in national parks throughout the southwest. Not so. Turns out they’re all over the place: you can’t swing a dead armadillo without hitting mesas and buttes (yes, I’m now acquainted with roadkill on the half shell). And they’re just… really pretty.
See, this is why I keep throwing away updates. I cannot communicate. I have several fantastic things I want to tell you about (I watched a lightning storm for more than a hundred miles, I looked down into the “Blue Hole,” a natural spring so clear you can see the bottom, 81 feet below, I saw jagged sandstone rock faces with more reds, browns, and pinks than I knew existed, and I have an SVGA graphics adapter…), things that will stick with me forever, and what do I come up with for the update? How do I express the awe and wonder, the feeling of being larger than life in the face of graphic evidence of just how insignificant I really am?
A girlfriend or two ago, I was asked why I tended only to write songs just after I’d broken up with someone. I answered that it was because the language of happiness and joy was so under-developed when compared to the language of misery and loathing. I wondered at the time, and still do, if I really meant _the_ language or just _my_ language.
Whichever, looking over my updates, it appears little has gotten better. I seem able to describe the things I hated so much more vividly than the things that changed me for the better.
For eample, the thunderstorm. I first saw it shortly after I left Amarillo. Now, this might sound strange, but I’d never seen a thunderstorm before. Obviously, I’d been _in_ them, but you can’t see them from underneath, it’s like looking at the back of the Mona Lisa. And even if you could, it’s all wet and noisy out there, so you’d just go indoors, anyway. But this time, I saw the whole thing in the distance; thunderhead, lightning bolts, hazy, foggy sheets of rain. It’s kinda flat out here, and I figured that it must have been ten or twenty miles away.
Turns out I was off by, oh, an order of magnitude. I drove for almost one hundred miles watching this storm take up more and more of the sky in front of me. Lightning changed from tiny flashbulbs to incredible pillars than looked tangible enough to actually support the thunderhead. And if you’ve never seen a thunderhead, I’m not going to be able to describe it. A huge black anvil that goes all the way up to God.
And as I kept driving, and it kept consuming more and more of the world that existed for me at that point, it became obvious that I was heading directly through the middle of it. From Texas, it was just this little thing, you could hold it in your hand, a perfectly formed, tiny little model of weather that a particularly ingenious earth science teacher might have whipped up in a beaker somewhere. Almost two hours later, it was on me, over me, around me… blotting out the sky and collapsing all my horizons on top of me.
Part way there, I had pulled over in a rest area and wasted some film trying to get pictures of lightning (clearly, this Ansel Adams fellow is a charlatan using whiteout in the developing room, but that’s not important right now). The storm now looked about the size of a large painting, as viewed from the middle of an average room. It was approaching sunset, and the thunderhead had already thrown us into shadow, from fifty or more miles away. It had gotten noticeably colder, and the wind had picked up. The only sounds were engines going by on the Interstate, but even those seemed eerily swallowed up by the air.
Presented with this spectacle, offered the chance to gain some kind of perspective on a larger level than I ever had before, what words of wonder, awe, appreciation, and terror came to my mind?
“Son of a bitch.”
That was it, the sum total of my feeble brain’s reaction to this living natural wonder. I got back in the RV and continued helplessly towards the thing, and my brain repeated, at intervals, “Son… of a _bitch_.”
Fast forward, the next day (today, as it turns out) and I’m standing on a rock that juts out over the face of the Blue Hole, an artesian spring sixty feet across and eighty one feet deep, with water so clear you can make out details all the way down. Scuba divers come from all over to be certified here.
So I’m staring down, through who knows how many ages of geological time in the rock walls, into a deep blue pool that looks like it could be the body of either life or death, take your pick, and what am I thinking?
“Son of a bitch.”
It was a slightly different “son of a bitch,” a lighter, more matter-of-fact one than the confronting-mortal-insignificance “son of a bitch” from the night before. But still, there it was. I’m reminded of at least two different comedians who had routines about the multiple uses of the word “dude,” depending on inflection. Matter of fact, there’s a scene in the movie _BaseketBall_ where the entire conversation (except the punchline) consists of various phrasings of the word “dude.”
But I’m disappointed in myself. I expect better than that from me. Of course, this is the United States in the ’90s, so I could probably just blame my parents and the public school system. Too bad I didn’t go to private school, I could probably get pretty litigious about the whole affair.
Ah, well, trying to move forward I realize, that, however it started, I _did_ tell you about the Blue Hole and the storm, didn’t I?
Well, son of a bitch.