Even the best path can involve a little bushwhacking
Chapter 2. The dream is dreamy but not without its pain … I decided to rent the ’74 Shasta RV for $75 a month. Kasey Cox and his dad, Mike, spent a Thursday evening sipping beers and fixing things up with me in front of Kasey’s house, extracting more wasp nests and basically tightening loose screws on the vehicle. It feels like my family is moving me into a college dorm all over again: Fun, exciting, scary.
Around sunset, Mike leaves Kasey and I in the gravel driveway. For a moment the two of us stare silently into the faint, stretching light beams dissipating into shades of purple over the Grand Hogback and sheep pastures. Pink Floyd lyrics rise in my thoughts – “The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older, shorter of breath and one day closer to death …” I can’t help but sing the words softly into the fading summer breeze as I face my winter coming on living in the Shasta. A short, honest discussion of life and death passes between us, between glances at each other and the horizon. Another moment of silence follows and a neighbor family of Kasey’s walk up the road. The parents are each pushing a stroller. A tow-headed little girl waves an American flag taped to the end of a stick. We chat and the girl starts pulling her mom’s pant leg: “Can I tell them …?” The mom nods her head and the girl steps forward, clutching her flag pole. “Blue died,” she said, looking back to the second stroller that looked full of blankets. We pass well wishes to the burial party and they move on to find a place by the river. And how ironic, I notice in retrospect, that such a sequence of events flowed together as if on cue, as if emphasizing a grand message that can only be shown and not told. I shivered, waved goodbye to Kasey and unlocked my Subaru wondering what else the morning – or even that very evening – might bring to my life.
Ten days later, an enormous clap of thunder wakes me from my second night of sleep in the camper. Rain falls on the hardshell like piss from angry gods. The roof immediately starts to leak around the broken air conditioner -a steady stream pours from its plastic vents, splattering books on the table and soaking the carpet in a matter of minutes. At least my bed is dry, but it’s hard to go back to sleep. I feel like an idiot. I knew the roof needed attention, but I hadn’t guessed so much. And now not only am I wet and isolated in the Flat Tops – the RV is also having engine problems (took me two days to drive it an hour into the mountains from New Castle). Despair came with the rain, breaching my previous confidence like a torpedoed submarine, and for days it was hard to see beyond the sobering torrent in my face.
Still, my plan is to finish the remaining months of my seasonal job while “practice-living” in the RV. Come November I hope to park the metal box in the remote desert – just for the hell of it, to see if I can stay sane and produce more writing than I ever have before – until my job starts again in the spring. The vision seemed so simple, but now I’m taking things day-to-day and the desert seems a long way off. Apparently part of my adventure will include an element of building my own shelter, almost from scratch, it seems.
However, for all the comforts I have given up there are new ones. One of the best is the fact that each day I come home I drive through the rock climbing haven of Rifle Mountain Park. I can even stroll down the deserted canyon by moonlight after dinner, whistling classical tunes in the still night. To hear my notes of Für Elise reverberate through the box canyon in its illuminated state of silver and shadow is to feel my tiny presence magnified to a grand scale. It’s about as close as I can come to hugging the stars. On one such night, I ran into a climbing buddy from South Carolina I hadn’t seen since last year. Jason gave me company and conversation while he fried an entire package of bacon by headlamp. We discussed my problems and I began to see they were all small, fixable ones – challenges, but certainly doable; I was closer to my vision than I had felt. I walked home, whistling, and that night I had a dream.
The dream was full of hardship, but it was not a nightmare. There was a vivid car accident, for example: we slid off a mountain road at 70 miles an hour; we all survived without a scratch but I was at the wheel. Ultimately my friends and I pulled into a great party. Every loved one I ever had was there, including my good buddy, April E. Clarke, and her boyfriend (also my friend), Russ, who was playing jovial tunes on a small piano. (Hot dang! I was in a Snoopy New Year’s episode.) The place was hopping. Then all the hands began to hold champagne glasses high. April clinked hers with a fork … My head shot off the pillow and plowed the low camper ceiling as my 5 a.m. alarm split the darkness in a shrill beep. … I went to work happy, hopeful and awake.
Derek thanks his friends at Rosi’s Cafe for keeping his batteries charged. His column appears every other Monday and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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With some students performing below their actual grade level, Garfield Re-2 School District leaders spent Monday’s board meeting asking themselves how they can improve the district’s quality of education.