“Instead of loneliness, I feel loveliness.”–Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire
I awake with a buzzing feeling that urges me to leap out of bed and run out the front door. It’s worth it. The sun lights up the sky in a panoramic rainbow of colors. With no other nearby buildings other than the small cabin and larger barn, Lucky 13 Acres welcomed me to this remote corner of northern Arizona with a Bob Ross episode all to myself. Matty, Roam and I leaped over fallen piñon logs, cacti and the occasional animal bone. This spectacular place is where we will call basecamp for the next….
The morning ranch rituals continue as follows: wake up with the dogs laying on top of me (often with a strategically placed bum in my face) at the glint of first light. Turn on the stove to boil water for the first cup of coffee before heading out to let the dogs pee. Usually by the time I hear the tea kettle whistle it’s time to go back in a make myself a single pour over cup of coffee (slow, but there is nothing better) and then take the cup back outside to watch the electric kool aid acid trip light show that is sunrise over Sedona. My front porch directly frames a view of the red rock oasis with the Bell Rock vortex at bulls eye. Matty and Roam race around the yard chasing birds, rabbits, deer and the occasional javelina.
In February these mornings were quite cold, or rainy, and I bundle up in many mismatched layers with a pair of gray galoshes to splash around in the thick desert mud that sticks to just about everything in an impossible to remove way. The desert is a habitat that always reclaims what belongs to it in the form of dust storms, flash floods, migrating sand dunes. I feel the mud holding me and the dogs tightly. This is where you need to be.
The pace of each day marches quicker towards spring, a rhythm you can also move to if you dance with it at the start of each morning. I feel the temperatures warm as peel off one extra layer each day), the flowers bloom, birds chirp and pick at the trees (including the most brilliantly mowhaked red bird I’ve ever laid eyes on) more critters out in the yard and coyotes singing louder than ever. Eventually the desert heat rises and makes me beg for a cool breeze. I spend more and more of my days after that first cup of coffee outside on the porch, in the dirt yard and exploring the trails and hidden secrets of the Coconino National forest that pushes up directly on the property boundaries. By mid-March leaving windows open is not enough. I move my room outside.
“There are lonely hours. How can I deny it? There are times when solitaire becomes solitary…and the inside of the skull as confining and unbearable as the interior of the house trailer on a hot day. To escape both, I live more and more in the out-of-doors. I dragged the wooden picnic table close to the fireplace and this became my office and dining room. Finally I set up a cot and my home without walls is complete. I can sleep at night with nothing but space between me and the stars, comforted in the knowledge that I am not likely to miss anything important up there.” (EA, Desert Solitaire)
I wake up on the ground. The familiar feeling of being home. I spent much of my childhood and teenage years sleeping outside under the stars in my backyard in the desert town of Riverside, CA. I always slept better outside on the ground all alone (sometimes my Mom would join me to chat until we drifted off to dream world). The rich black dirt, sludgy like coffee grounds and the deep aroma of Eucalyptus trees that drew my eyes up from the ground towards their skinny tops towards the clouds and to the place where dreams live. It’s okay to live in the clouds, there your neighbors are dreams. They live in even the harshest and thorny of places, poking and prodding at you to set them free.
“But how, you might ask, does living outdoors on the terrace enable me to escape that other form of isolation, the solitary confinement of the mind?” (Ed again)
Outside the four walls of any structure my senses come alive. I hear the silence, eyes focus in on the darkness lit up brilliantly by the stars and moon (no lights needed), the cool breeze brushes my cheeks and I can feel the beat of my heart playing to the tune of my breath. When I step away from the constructions of the modern human world I am filled with the ancient memory of simply being an animal in outer space. How amazing! My eyelids fall shut in contentment and the smile, perhaps the most special of human abilities, grows across my face. I feel right at home in my dust covered skin.