Four hundred and twenty-seven miles. Let’s call it twenty miles per gallon. A bit more on the way there, a bit less on the way back. Downhill, wind at the back, the windshield like an IMAX film playing nonstop. Winter fights dirty. All shades of brown on brown on brown littered across the landscape limply lit with rays that lose their daily battle with the cold. Smoke vortex from structures filled with huddling clusters. Slight wind and the blanket pulls tighter.
Before me lies the expanse of charred blackness. No fellow humans in sight. Silence and isolation. Rubber soles on the dusty path, gathering splintered chards of once burned fuel. Powder on gloves, exposed skin glowing red like the fire. A frame here, a frame there but this mission isn’t about image. This is simply about looking, seeing, thinking and wondering. Sometimes the point is to not make a point.
Nomads. Semi-nomadic. Warring. In our own, modern way we carry on the tradition. Warm Springs, Mescalero and all flavor of Apache. Written over by Catholicism. Then written over again and again and again and finally written over with revisionist history and the kill-all progress we can’t seem to find a way around. Pithouse to above ground to wood frame to Winnebago.
We can’t know in the time we have. We just can’t. Impossible. To know requires time and commitment that most of us will never actually understand. Most of us have potentially never known the know. We move too fast, have calendars color-coded for chaos and find every invention to keep us from knowing the know. We view what others have done, seen and known and we adopt a short term sense of knowledge that isn’t really ours.
To begin to know requires the begin to sit. Sit and stare. Sit and stare and think. Sit and stare and think and process. Sit and stare and think and process and wonder. I realize how fortunate I am. Fourteen stations of the cross picked off one by one as the terrain changes and the lungs burn. The view from up top is worthy of a relayer and long sit. Binoculars scanning a landscape virtually unchanged. Virtually, but changed, still. Chards and sharpness revealed when the rains come. Secrets untold.
Writing, message, artwork. 20,000 plus of them left on the stones. Patterns of war, creation, art, family, and history. These old stories will outlast us all. As the light fades and fails we power on the torch. Winter wind forces tears from the eyes. There is no place I’d rather be.