This summer, the summer of 2012, I was supposed to be “at liberty.” I wanted to explore what liberty means in the practical sense. I am not at liberty most of the time. I have a job. I have responsibilities. I have a household, a pet, a parent, water bills. So, liberty as a practical state of living has not been an option in quite some time. My first stab at trying to be at liberty involved planning a camping trip to Chaco Canyon in northern New Mexico. I felt this would be the perfect place to contemplate my life as a part of the cosmos. I had seen a PBS special about the Anasazi peoples, and they showed the villages and they showed the “clock.” The Chaco people created a clock that tracked both the movement of the sun and the moon. In the television program it looked remarkable, subtle, simple, and beautiful. I made up my mind I would go there. Originally I planned to go during Spring Break, but that didn’t work out. I ended up going at the beginning of the summer.
Two other things happened in relation to this trip. One, my dear mother expressed a desire to join me. Now, my mother was a great camper in her day. She and my father used to love to go camping. I never liked it much as a kid. It always struck me as difficult and dirty and (sigh) a little boring. Suddenly I wanted to go camping as part of my assertion of freedom, and now my mother wanted to go along. Some people might think I would react with resentment to mother’s interest, but I was pleased to have her join me. I figured it would be fun to offer her the first camping she had done since…well…since 1981, the year before my father died. That meant I had to purchase two tents, cots, sleeping bags…a long list of things.
The way we had it figured I would drive, and mother and I would camp out the first night at Chaco, then my brother Brian(who lives in Aztec) could come and visit with us at camp the next day. He would take mother to his house while I camped out another two nights. That way mother got the camping experience, but she also got to visit with my brother in the new home he had purchased. I considered it a nearly perfect plan.
The second thing that happened was not my fault. It turns out that the weekend we had planned to camp at Chaco was the weekend of the annular eclipse. I could not have chosen a worse time to try and get a spot at the camp site than that weekend, but before we even got to camp, there was the “unimproved road” that led across open country for thirteen miles. I learned to drive on unimproved roads. I know what they are like, but there has never been and there never will be a worse road than the one from the end of pavement near the Nageezi Trading Post to the paved entrance of the Chaco Canyon National Park. This road was made to tear the transmission out of a truck, to batter the shocks, to destroy the alignment. There was no speed at which I did not have my fillings shaking out of my teeth. No matter how fast or slowly I drove, the ride was torture. To make it worse, the shoulders of the road were pure powder, so deep that venturing on them would have sunk one side of the truck to its axle. By the time we reached the park, I wanted to punish all the residents of the Four Corners. I wanted to scream at some official until my blood pressure took off the top of my head.
We stayed to watch the eclipse. We snapped a few pictures of the ruins. We left. I cursed the whole way out. Once we reached pavement again, I told mother, “Call Brian’s wife. Tell her we’re coming a night early.” God bless my sister-in-law. I know I wasn’t the only one cursing that road that night.
Tomorrow I explain Heather’s Day Care.