Leaving Katie’s was like leaving a nest… safe and warm and completely comfortable. We started the day off with her car not starting and her cell phone getting broken, then after I dropped her off at work my car stalled out at the Jiffy Lube where I took it for an oil change. (Somehow car routine maintenance had fallen by the by after Michael died because I just never considered it after all the years our cars had magically not needed it… because he’d been doing it the whole time.)
It turned out that, at least, was a good thing because if it had done that later in the journey I would have had a difficult time. In the Navajo Nation it’s hard enough to find a place to pull off the two lane road much less to find a mechanic. They fixed the car while I met all kinds of interesting people in the Jiffy Lube waiting room.
I was filled with nostalgia when I finally pulled into Mexican Hat where it had been coming on Halloween 18 months ago when we ate at a Navajo run restaurant there a couple of times. It was getting late but I hadn’t eaten since breakfast so I stopped before heading to another much memorialized place– Sand Island, where we camped in preparation for our 10 day trip down the San Juan. Such Good Times!!!
I hastily put up the tent in the campground and by the time I’d finished the constellations of Orion (Orien) and her dog and the eye of Taurus and the dipper and North Star and really bright planet were all dancing in the sky to owl calls and geese disturbances. My spirit had been pretty riled up with the task at hand but I felt at peace being back in this stunning country.
At the Slick-Rock Grill in Hanksville after a chilly night in the tent out back in the RV park I’d enjoyed breakfast with some country music and the slick clean dryness of my body after a hot shower.
To get there I devoured the miles between me and the Moki Mother… licking up the beauty, stopping only at the Hite Overlook where the Colorado looked impossibly small and shrinking at a time it should be bounding with snow-melt.
I had a sense of something when I got to the Hog Springs Picnic area… filled with young fit outdoor adventurers. Many trails now crisscross down the stream to her.. the stream itself a trickle. I approached with a fresh sage bundle and a huge lump in my throat. The shape of her landscape, which I thought I had indelibly stored in my memory, had shifted a lot…there was nowhere that would be a good place to bury Michael’s ashes..the ground was littered with fallen shards of the amphitheater and the sandy earth was barren since no rain ever reaches the shelf under the pictograph. I sat with her for a long time experiencing stillness and the view out from this relative eternity. It was very discouraging to look at the Moki Mother. She had been defaced. Defaced by having a face added… eyes gouged into the rock and a little pucker mouth. It did not feel safe there anymore…she had been discovered by a ruthless and fickle element of my civilization. I did find a small copse of oaks, fresh green leaves sheltering me as I looked back to her outline and down to the creek and the road and across to the vast red rock and blue sky above. I sheltered there like a rabbit until I heard voices then slid down the hill to meet the new-comers on the trail.
The drive to Hanksville was far… the landscape changed from red rock to open range once I got past the Bullfrog turnoff. In Hanksville I checked at the motel… NO PETS so Selkie and I went to the RV park and I set my tent on soft mown grass. We had a cozy cold night. I had requested a dream to tell me what to do but in the swirl of dream space there was no message but I knew at morning that I will do a symbolic burial back at the Mother and return home with the ashes.
When Michael said he wanted his ashes to go there he was swimming in a sea of pain medication and it was a touch stone we both knew. It was not a lucid request. Every day I have been preparing but there is no real break in the order of this momentum… his ashes are a distraction… the trip’s purpose has been to take me through my paces and edge me closer to my own acceptance of what is and what will be to come.
Today my brother Warren came out from Florida to do what was supposed to be the definitive thing. He loves slot canyons so we hope to do some hiking. I can’t keep up with him, nor can Selkie, but we want to be together and have this special time. I’m so grateful to have him with me!