Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Up the Arroyo, Part IV

               It wasn't all that bad, they decided at each turn. At least one person, however, was unknowingly succumbing to a slight bit of heat stroke. It approached unnoticed. There was very little shade in this part of the hike. All four began to feel the need to "have a discussion" around 1:00 p.m. Joel kept pushing for a continuation toward the great reward, of course; but where a convergence of trails met -- one from the left, one from the right -- at a pleasant, palm-shaded and breezy setting, another unspoken decision was made: Sit down. As they rested for a bit, Joel named the spot "the convergence of two ecstasies," amusing himself as always, and insisting, "I really, I really do, I think I see some petroglyphs right up there on the side of the hill -- let's get there." He was ignored. Nate, Takiya, then Joel all remarked on what each in turn had had for breakfast. Nate, who had brought along a full gallon of water and some oranges, lugging them all the way up the trail in his backpack, brought everything out and lunch was served. Laurie had kept begging him to let her carry the water, because surely his 64-year-old back was not appreciating the assault of being bent inward right at the lumbar region. But he, the good Marine (and he was), would have nothing of that.

               Laurie was not completely present any longer. She tried a bit of orange and gave it away, no hunger anymore. How heat stroke feels was not lost on her, but at this point she couldn't have cared less. She began to lean forward with head in hands and eventually to wander ahead and hang on the face of a cool boulder against her forehead, becoming intimate with the rock as she splayed out both hands on it and spoke silently with the breezes in the high palm fronds. Upon inquiry, Laurie said she felt fine. But in reality, she wanted to be alone with Nature in the worst way.
               Joel, the desert expert, had a very clever little electronic GPS device that fit in his pocket. It was like Little Red Riding Hood for tracking and backtracking on trails. He began to study it, thinking that they would want to use it getting back down. Soon, Nate, Joel and Takiya announced, "Okay, let's head down; Joel, shut up." Laurie wanted, as badly as air, to get away from all humans, their voices, their very presence, in fact, from her own self. She said to the others as they beckoned expectedly for her to follow along, "No, I'm staying here right now. Please just leave me alone," her face and closed eyes still plastered against the boulder.

               Nate was frustrated and pissed off. He knew his wife's intransigence, the same as his own; and he was willing, with defiance, to let her stay and "go to hell for all he cared." He never said this, but he thought it in his own fatigued mind and simply walked away with the others. It would be obvious to anyone that this is not done when out in the wild, in the heat, with the snakes, with no water, no food, no sunscreen, and no directions. But nobody in the group was feeling particularly clear at the time Laurie pushed them away, and they just left.

               It didn't take long. Laurie sat and listened to the breezes and the bugs, being as silent as possible. Suddenly, as usually happens when real silence is met, a loud inner voice blasted through her mind like fire from a gaping mouth in the distant mountaintops. She was up and on both feet in a nanosecond, the perceived voice admonishing, "get going, wake up." Not violently, just with absolute authority.

               She stood, uneasily at first, and looked down to the left and to the right. Conflicting emotions cluttered her like Lilliputions: betrayal, confusion, fear, alarm, guilt, uncertainty, elation, excitement...and a bit of anger that not a single human body could be seen as far down as she stared. Not having expected to be left on her own, Laurie had no choice but to start walking; first to the left because it appeared that they had come up the right, rocky side of the arroyo (which they had). But that felt completely wrong and unfamiliar. She turned back and headed down the right side. But...this appeared to be a completely new and different trail. Ummmm, Laurie hummed. She yelled out Nate's name and then Takiya's. No answer. Fear lingered near the back of her mind, but wonder and excitement were mounting with every step.

The Guide
               Suddenly, she spied a blue ribbon attached to a tree on the right side of the trail next to the rock faces. She remembered that the old man had mentioned something about azul mas arriba ("blue more up," basically), pointing up the riverbed. It was a bright blue and she saw it only from the periphery of her visual field. Just like every thought, all was becoming peripheral, nothing was straight on. Laurie had no idea what she was doing or where she was headed. It even felt unnecessary to repeatedly yell out Nate's name, as though she was somehow interfering with Nature's voice.

               At one point, Nate yelled from nowhere -- not close, but not far -- "Just keep going downhill, and you'll be fine." That was buoying. Very buoying. This did feel like the right direction even if unfamiliar, so for the next half hour or so, she ceased the calling and listened closely to her own instincts, feeling it was a most excellent and exhilarating exercise. The feeling grew as she found more and more blue ribbons, still only from the corner of her eye. The arroyo itself was her path, and she bounded down, wondering why they hadn't come this so-easy way in the first place. Laurie still held her bamboo stick, using it in hopes of creating that musical, penetrating reverberation that someone may hear.

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