HENRY LIGHTCAP’S JOURNAL

Cooler Crevasses

Moving away from matters of men

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I’d just about had enough.

I leaned back in my favorite comfy chair, the red one that creaks when I shoot my legs out across the floor. A sigh of exasperation escaped me as I put down the newspaper. I pondered what is to be done when the world loses its collective mind.

Remembering something from my misspent past, I visited the Lightcap Library, conveniently located within reach of my red chair. My finger traced the threadbare spines of many worn-out volumes and finally landed on a collection by Rudyard Kipling, as magnificent an imperialist bastard as ever adapted the message of the Bhagavad Gita. After locating my reading spectacles, I found what I was looking for. “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs...”

I pulled off my glasses, set them aside and rubbed my stubbly chin in deep thought. The events of the last few months were weighing on me like a bedload of shivering dogs on a cold winter’s night. It was high time to change my outlook, remove myself from the ceaseless turmoil of a headless world, and heed Kipling’s advice. “Good on you, Rudy,” I thought.

I rummaged through my garage and liberated an old Igloo and filled it with a troop of cold barley pops and the sublimating dregs of an abandoned ice tray. I plucked my tattered old cowpoke chapeau from the nail by the door and a moth-eaten saddle blanket. A quick twist of the screwdriver that serves as the ignition key for my hoary Ford truck was answered by the ministrations of 352-cubic inches of Detroit fury.

I pointed the weary pickup toward the desert, the depot for everything my soul required. The truck’s mismatched, bald tires dropped into the sandy floor on an arroyo that hadn’t felt the sweet heft of its motorized bulk in far too long. Mesquite and creosote raked the flanks of the truck, attempting to vandalize paint that hadn’t been there since 1976.

Eventually, the truck tossed its one singular fan belt in a pique of mechanical angst, but I was not worried. I have addressed this machine’s needs for many decades, and that too is in keeping with Kipling’s words: watching the things we give our lives to, broken, and stooping to build ‘em up with worn-out tools. That’s why there’s a pair of wallowed-out pliers in the glove box.

I left the truck where it surrendered, taking my cooler and blanket. I pushed on up the arroyo and smelled the perfumes of the Chihuahuan desert. My boots crunched in the gravel and a distant buzzing greeted me. Cicadas or snakes, it mattered not as my intentions were far loftier than theirs. I scrabbled over a small dry waterfall and slithered under some unruly mesquite limbs on my way to a small knob of rock at the top. I threw down my blanket and cooler just in time to pregame the sunset.

I cheerfully greeted the hundred-mile horizon by cracking open the first beer. There is a purity to the desert that can sometimes make my heart want to explode. It’s comforting to know that the realm of the snake and lizard vastly predates me and will most assuredly continue long past my personal expiration date. I turn my brambly face to the west, my undisputed favorite point on the compass, and reflect on the hope I’ve always felt when facing that direction. Across the valley, I can faintly discern the hazy canyons filled with shadows, the critters beginning to stir after a long day in the cool crevasses. I see a hawk tracing through the sky, and a dry breeze stirs the hair on my arm.

The matters of men are as far removed from my desert as the moon is from Manhattan. Stock markets and fake news have no place at this glorious table, where coyotes and jack rabbits hold court. I leaned back, driving my fingers into the scratchy soil, and felt eternally cool soil just an inch below the surface. The desert is still here and will matter forever.

As I procured a second round from the cooler, I thought of Rudy again. “Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it…” That’s enough for me.     

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