Further Conversations with Bob
Yes, Bob, Death Valley is quite a place, isn’t it? I’ve only been there three times, but it’s always held a special place in my heart.
The first time, in the early ‘70s, a couple I knew in Seattle fled winter with me in my Superman VW bus all the way there with peyote in our pockets and stars in our eyes. The trip down there was a book in itself. But the highlight of Death Valley for me took place the day after picking our way up a four wheel drive track in that bus up one of those enormous alluvial fans on the west side, taking the peyote and conversing with Mescalito all night, serenaded by the manumukh braying of wild burros. The next morning I left the bus and friends in the desert and took off up the Panamints alone, spending the day ascending 6,000’ through a mind-boggling procession of life zones to the 11,000 foot top of Telescope Peak, where snow still kept the road closed and the summit solitary. No trails, all cross country, pretty much straight up and straight down. Staggering perspective.
After sitting for six months in the depression of losing Rivendell in the late ‘70s, I hitchhiked to Death Valley from Victor—having lost my car in the bankruptcy. It was the only place I could imagine being warm enough to hang out and thaw my body and shredded heart even before that long Teton winter had ended. And that it was! Having no car turned out to be an advantage. I was able to walk into illegal places to camp without an incriminating car parked somewhere to give me away. I spent a lot of time hiding out in those badlands below Zabriskie Point—very cozy! Spent most of my time running around naked in the sun—amazing I didn’t fry myself. Or maybe I did.
Renewed, and refreshed, I still hadn’t had enough. After returning to Victor, I pretty much turned right around and hitchhiked to Escalante, where I descended the length of Coyote Gulch, from the Cat Pasture all the way to the swollen Escalante and across and up to stand inside the enormous Stevens Arch on the rim of Stevens Canyon. That route down the Dry Fork afforded me the opportunity to explore every little side drainage, including the exquisite slot whose absurdly adolescent name of ‘Peekaboo’ I fortunately didn’t know.
It was still dazzlingly wet from spring storms. Accompanying me in my Jensen pack was my trusty Canon F1 and three lenses, along with an apple and an orange for every day of the week I spent in Coyote.
Upon returning ‘home’, I ran into you in Jackson and listened with open ears to your tales of making substantial sums of money working on a portable seismic crew, which I immediately implemented for the next two years, exploring the intermountain West, and eventually touring in what amounted to a ‘private’ helicopter as a surveyor for CGG, and working each day on foot in the depths and heights of a West I’d not otherwise have seen.
At the end of those two years, I had accumulated a financial cushion which included a state of the art color darkroom and a dream 4×5 camera, the ingenious Linhof Technikardan, with five of the best lenses money could buy, bringing the weight of my pack to seventy-five happy pounds, including a Gitzo which still supports my cameras today. I hooked my faded blue ‘53 Chevy pickup with the corner windows to a loaded U-Haul and headed south on the whim of my memory of Santa Fe and Taos as a six year old child.
The third Death Valley experience took place near the end of the summer of 1990—just before starting school at the International Institute of Chinese Medicine in Santa Fe. Caroline and I had been hanging out and climbing in Yosemite and Tuolumne Meadows, and for a final send off before school, I had just soloed the east face of Whitney. Must have been July or early August. Don’t remember what we were driving, but it didn’t have air conditioning—I do remember that! Serious heat. Needless to say, we didn’t tarry. We drove down an incredible canyon where, for the first time, I was shown the beauty that could reside in unclimbable desert rock. Took shelter in the hotel at Furnace Creek for a night, but headed on out of the Valley toward home in the luxury of relative morning coolness. Reaching radio reception near Beatty Junction, we were stunned to learn that tanks were on the steps of the Kremlin, and the Soviet Union had collapsed.
Before graduating from IICM, I was booted, kicking and screaming, out of Santa Fe, ending up in Corrales from where I commuted to finish school. And three years into my practice, in September 1997, I came face to face with the Living Master of the Light and Sound teachings, Whose Inner Form I immediately recognized as the divine force Who had lovingly guided and protected me since day one. And the journey truly began.
So it would be no exaggeration to ecstatically state that, now, at the prime age of twenty-three conscious years, I am now being graced with the unimaginable fruits of entertaining His divine presence. And it’s only just begun. It never stops.
The rest is simply now.
Thanks for initiating a quick glance back. It seems somewhat parallel to the current travels of your own journey.
Oh, and forgive me for being so oblivious that I don’t recall offering you a shower during your short visit. Since the house is a construction site, and you’re living in the Toyota Hilton, it didn’t even occur to me. I guess you could call that one of the ‘drawbacks’ of bliss—if there were such a thing!
It was good to see you.
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