Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The morning news

We’d been away for a few days, and rolled in long after midnight. We were weary from the drive so went straight to bed.

When we first moved to the Mojave a year ago we were dumbstruck. First, we had that new homebuyer’s daze, “My God, what have we done?” But there was something else, on top of that. We were overwhelmed by the beauty and the space. Every morning I’d awaken around 4:30 or 5:00 a.m. I’d throw a blanket around my shoulders and walk down the driveway, the sand crunching beneath my feet. There’s a point in the driveway where a creosote bush obscures the single light burning across Highway 62. At that point there is only dark, pure dark, and I can imagine what it was like to live in the 1880s or the 1620s when people lived more gently on the land, when people expected there to be land to live on, when people weren’t scrapping for the crumbs of tiny houses, and small lots, mixed use, urban infill developments on high density transit corridors.

I awakened before dawn for a year, getting up and walking down the driveway before the sun came up. Now I sleep until the sun crests the tiny guest dome east of the house. It bursts into our bedroom like that frog in Bugs Bunny, the one that sings show tunes. It’s enthusiastic and loud and hectors me relentlessly until I rise.

The morning after the long drive the sun woke me up. I made coffee and with cup in hand walked slowly down the driveway. The sun hit the sand and cast long shadows, easy to read. I scanned the patch in front of me. In that sand I could see the traces of several creatures: the chain stitch of a quail, and perhaps baby quails; a long, thin, continuous wave, perhaps a snake? I looked for footprints along the side that might indicate a lizard, but seeing none, think yes, perhaps a snake. I tease apart a tangle of bird footprints and find a larger deeper track. Could it be a roadrunner? I see tracks of a heavier bird, three toes in front, one in the back. It’s not as big as a raven, but if one of the toes was obscured you could mistake the track for that of a roadrunner. I note the larger bird. I see another track that I believe is a roadrunner; the distinctive ‘X,’ italicized as if the track itself is in a rush. My heart beats a little faster. A roadrunner seems like a good omen. If a roadrunner makes your land its home, you’re doing something right.

I walk farther down the driveway. I see fingertip-sized depressions in the road. The sand looks like the top of a focaccia, dimpled and browned. These are the prints of cottontail rabbits. They are tiny and light. I see a heavier track marked with back feet about four inches long: a jackrabbit.

I walk on. I see my husband’s footprints from days before: the complicated cross-hatching that could represent the corporate structure of a company that makes athletic shoes, and strives to give the illusion of horizontal, egalitarian management structure while maintaining an iron-fisted and hierarchical feudal governance. The wind the past days has softened the prints and they’re on their way to disappearing altogether.

I walk to the road. No one has turned into the driveway in the last few days. No one has been on the road at all. That’s good. I slowly turn, raising my gaze to take in the mountains, the trees, the humanless expanse before me. I feel that this is how people should live, with plenty of space. I breathe, slowly and deeply, and I feel sorry that as people we bought the promise of big families instead of big close communities, and I’m sorry that the world is overpopulated and people are forced to live on top of each other.

Somehow I’ve escaped, to a different place and time, a place where a woman can wake up in the morning, have a good, strong cup of coffee, and read her driveway in peace.