“Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”
― G.K. Chesterton
From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Wednesday, August 12, 1998.
Dreams of the South Rim
The last week has been so difficult I keep escaping by thinking about what I want to do for vacation this fall.
I am drawn inexorably toward thoughts of Big Bend. The river, the desert, the mountains. The backpacking, a long uphill hike from The Basin trailhead, up and up until the very world itself ends in a spectacular and remote sheer wall down to the blasted desert almost a mile below.
The South Rim. It may be the best campsite in the world, the most special of special places. I can sit back in my desk chair and close my eyes and….
I see the lava, flowing up from fissures. Liquid heat born in the oven of the earth. It flows, it cools, it forms a layer – a huge cap. The years accelerate and the land all around wears away leaving this dried massive layer behind. Red-Black-Purple rock, shelf, cliff, mountain. Tilted slightly, the edges cracked away forming a huge precipice.
Now I sit on the top edge of this sheer mountain wall, a shotglass of Tequila in my hand. The setting sun glints off the gold liquid. It cost a lot, a price of sweat and weight, of other things left behind, to get this liquor up here. Yet it is a fermented child of the desert agave, it is at home here, the land of spikes and rocks.
The very earth is being eaten by black-purple shadows – crowding the yellow sun from the steepest canyons first, then the shallow arroyos, then the eastern sides of the hills. I toast my shot glass to the last red rays striking the highest spires of rough rock and drain it down.
Night comes quickly, the cloudless sky loses its glow faster here than in the city with its opaque air. The desert night sky is a vacuum, pulling heat upward; I can feel the cold – see the warmth rising – given to the rocks by the sun all day and pulled back by the moon at night.
It is amazingly quiet. The only sound is made by the slight breeze as it moans softly, pouring over the giddy edge.
In the distance, to the south, I see a small cluster of yellow lights. This is the only mark of man visible in the darkness. I feel some kinship and imagine for a moment the people living in that rocky, hardscrabble ranch. Their children play in the Mexican dust. The feeble sounds of a radio would be heard there – too far for TV, no cable reaching there. The lights look weak, yellow, pulsing; they must use a diesel generator.
I pull my pack open and replace the shot glass and the aluminum flask. The night clanks as I assemble my tiny gas stove, my Sierra cup. I pour out some murky water I collected in a plastic bottle from a puddle down in a deep canyon this morning. I strike a match and yellow flames flick from a puddle of fuel until, a Whoosh! of blue flame as it primes and kicks in.
I boil my precious water and drop in a tea bag, squirt in a dollop of honey from a tiny squeeze bottle. The cup’s wire rim is hot on my lip but the bitter tea gives a welcome taste of civilization as I sip the boiled liquid.
“Buenos Noches” – “Good Night” I silently say as I tip my cup towards my unknown friends thirty miles to the south, on the other side of the Rio Grande.
And a piece of flash fiction for today: