Before I left Tucson, I felt a bit of trepidation about continuing my quest, but as soon as I got on the road, the worry left me. Still, I didn’t feel quite easy, but the uneasiness had nothing to do with my journey. (My books were republished, and certain issues showed up in Grief: The Great Yearning which upset me because as I’m sure you know, that book is very personal to me.)
Since there is nothing I can do about the book now, I tried to get it out of my mind by playing tourist. All along the highway to Benson were billboards screaming, “What’s the Thing?” One billboard claimed that the thing was a mystery of the desert, so I stopped at the tourist trap (a real trap — although the stuff in the store looked like it could be native artifacts and crafts, almost everything was made in China) and paid my dollar to see the thing.
The exhibit certainly didn’t improve my mood. There were several buildings of dusty antiques, a car purported to be one Hitler rode in, bizarre driftwood and tree root sculptures, and a hand carved life-sized tableau of people being tortured.
And then there was the thing. I don’t know if it was real, don’t know why it is a mystery, don’t even know what the poor thing is doing on display, but it looked like a mummified woman with long limbs and a small head clutching a baby.
I started crying for the poor thing (though if it’s some sort of hoax, my tears were absurd) and walked away without photographing the exhibit, but eventually I went back and took a picture because what is one more indignity added to so many?
A little after heading back down the highway, the rhythm of my journey lulled me into a more pleasing state, and by the time my tent was set up at Chiricahua National Monument (the camp host came and introduced himself, and I inveigled him into helping me with the rainfly), I was feeling peaceful and blessed.
(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.”)