Well, so much for my blase attitude about this trip. Oh, my.
After leaving Quartzsite, I took a leisurely trip along busy highways and mostly deserted byways, stopping at such bustling metropolises as Ajo and Why. I stopped at Why, hoping to find the answer to all the whys I have been asking the past few years, but all I found out is that you have to buy special car insurance for a trip to Mexico, but no one could tell me why.
In the middle of a long stretch of empty desert highway (perhaps fifty miles along the Barry Goldwater Air Force Range), I saw a not-young woman walking. She was pushing the sort of cart that people who hike across the country use (because no one can carry all the necessary water for desert stretches) so I pulled off to the side of the road, which spooked her because she stopped and made as if to head away from me. I held up my hands in the surrender position, so she stopped and let me get close enough to ask if she needed water. Poor woman wasn’t wearing a hat and was bright red from the sun. I asked where she was going, and she replied, “Asia.” It took me a minute to realize she meant Ajo. I tried to put myself in her shoes. If I were doing a long highway hike in the desert sun, would I have been wary if someone stopped to see if I needed help? Perhaps. But that doesn’t matter. She so obviously wanted nothing to do with me, so I got in my car and headed down the road to my planned destination for the next couple of days, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.
It seemed so very far from anywhere, but once I arrived, I realized it wasn’t far from anywhere. It’s right here.
After I set up my camp (the tent looks different because I am not using the rainfly. It’s not supposed to rain, and it’s not supposed to get cold), I went for a stroll around the park in total awe. I felt as if I were meandering around a desert botanical garden. So many lush cactuses and succulents!
Often during the past few months I felt out of place, as if the people who rented the room to me resented my presence, but this land belongs to me. (Well, you too. I am willing to share.) For the two nights I will be here, I will have the biggest back yard imaginable.
And tomorrow I will go exploring.
(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)