West, West, Wanting, Waiting, West

4 Feb

Arizona HighwaySeveral years ago I was told by a psychic that in a previous life I was a Navaho  woman living in the South West. Then the psychic identified Noah’s birthday, said that I would soon move someplace warm, and that a person named Casey, who worked with silver,  would be very important to me. Driving across New Mexico and into Arizona, Previous Life was Writ Large in the pre-historic structures around me.  Mile after mile of unearthly earth, the  rusty red shapes formed over two billion years ago seemed both fluid and ur-matter.  PlayDough of a divine force.

Truth be told, I wasn’t just thinking about geology on the drive between Amarillo and Albuquerque. I was also thinking about the flashing “E” on my dashboard.  E for “Eventually She Dies In the Desert.” Returning to my Navaho roots. Just as I was praying to God to show me the gas, Natasha called from Beverly Hills.   I described where I was, told her I felt like a horse with no name, but couldn’t remember the lyrics to that America song. “…Like a horse with no name/ It felt good to be out of the rain/In the desert you can remember your name/’cause there ain’t no one to give you no pain,” Natasha warbled.  “Ok, now sing “Running on Empty,” I demanded. “NO. Wait. Don’t. Sing that song about the oasis in the desert.” But she didn’t; she’d lost interest in singing me through New Mexico.

I did find gas shortly thereafter and just about peed my pants with joy; fortunately they had a bathroom at the “Flying J.” AND the bathroom had a scale that, for a quarter, would tell you your weight and fortune.  I hadn’t gained or lost weight, and the fortune read, “You will leave your past behind.” This was a fortune?  I was disappointed it didn’t say, ” you will leave your behind in the past,” but decided that what the fortune scale meant to say was “Great Things Ahead.” (“But won’t happen without gas, Moron.”)

Back out in the desert in  the Prius with no name, hurtling along at 80 miles an hour, I started to think again about history, and past lives.  This volcanic landscape was a palimpsest–centuries of American history and  millions of years of topographical goings-on, layers upon layer of drama and weather. And then, of course, I was back to me, my drama, and weather, the layers of regional history that were mine.

I fell in love with the South West almost twenty-five years ago. My mother treated me to a trip to Santa Fe right before I got married the first time.  It was March and pretty cold, but we swam in the heated pool, drank margaritas, and went to the amazing museum of Mexican art. (She liked Day of the Dead art before it was in available in every Target from Philadelphia to Seattle.) A last single-mom/single- daughter trip, or so we thought.  One night she drank a little too much gin and we had a nasty conversation that had to do with her loneliness, my immaturity, and both of our anxieties about my up-coming marriage. We were in a beautiful patio at an expensive restaurant, and just when our spat seemed likely to get ugly, Brian Dennehy showed up.  “Oh. My. God. Girl, look it’s Brian Dennehy. No. Wait. Don’t look now. NOW.” That ended our spat.  I wanted to matchmake; he would be perfect for her!  But instead we watched him chew steak, appreciating our detente.

The next time I was in the Southwest was with husband number two, in Sedona.  We hiked, swam in the pool, drank margaritas, and one night we had a fight that had to with my loneliness, his immaturity, and both of our anxieties about our marriage. Brian didn’t show up. The fight continued.

The next time, I came to Arizona alone. “In the desert you can remember your name ’cause there ain’t no one to give you no pain.” I treated myself to an appallingly expensive spa where I practiced yoga, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, drank kale juice, and went to a workshop where a (different) psychic told me why my second husband and I couldn’t make it work, and then she spread out a fan of cards for me to choose. I picked, turned it over: SEEKER, it said. I remembered my name, yes indeed; then I went back to Ithaca where weather and drama ensued and I  forgot my name.

The fourth and most recent time I found myself in this rusty and redolent region was last summer. I spent my birthday in Santa Fe– with the genius.  My favorite weather:  hot, cloudless, arid. We spent the day looking for a cowboy hat for him.  He had a performance that night. He was brilliant. The next day, we drove to Albuquerque  where we fought about my loneliness and immaturity. We didn’t discuss anxieties about our relationship. But was probably the spooky subtext.

Present time: just as I was getting close to Albuquerque, it started to pour. A hard, dark rain. I was worn out from driving and thinking about my rocky (get it?) past. Noah called.

“Mom! Howareya? Whereareya?”

“Hey Honey, I shouldn’t be on the phone, it’s raining here and there’s traffic.”

Then, I kid you not, Dear Reader, there was a rainbow. Big fat mesmerizing arch right out of a children’s book. It stopped raining.  I stayed on the phone, listening  to Noah chew on some ups and downs transpiring  in his life in Sunnyside, Queens.  My boy, a world away, talked me into Albuquerque.  Both lonely, we.  Both a little immature.  He spoke in one of his goofy voices, a character we call “King,” who is ancient and wise and acts on pure Id. “Be Good, Kirsten,” said King, “Last time I was in Albuquerque I got arrested. It involved some bad men on horses.  And strippers, of COURSE strippers.”  We hung up and I made my way into a Hilton Garden Inn I’d spotted from the road. Hauling suitcase, gym bag, and two computers across the parking lot, I stopped when the late afternoon sun emerged from behind curtain of  clouds that were surging from one notion to another. My upturned face smiled back.

I had a salad delivered to my room, watched decorating shows, fell asleep by nine.  In the morning I heard the message  bing on my phone. It was 7. The message was from the genius. I hadn’t heard from him since October. It had a formal and apologetic tone, wishing me well on my journey west and wondering if we might sometime be in touch.  Albuquerque palimpsest, I thought, lying back in bed. What’s the writing on the wall, in the rocks, phone, airwaves? He was about to get on a cruise that last January we took together–he performing, me taken along for the ride. One night  he invented a story about ocean ghosts haunting our cabin: “Beware the sea spooks, my dear” he’d said. I loved that.

I drove out of Albuquerque feeling the dusty fingers of a few desert spooks. I’d responded to the message, saying it was not unwelcome. On the way to Flagstaff I drove through more miles of gorgeous western space: humps and lumps and arches and naves of a world built by heavy-handed giants. BELIEVE IN AMERICA pronounced a billboard. “I do! I do! ” I sang out. A commentator on the radio was saying “Just stop reading the New York Times!” “I will, I will, ” I shouted.

“You will leave your past behind.” We’ll see about that: Loneliness and immaturity behind, ahead. Layers of forward, backward–heading West, a palimpsest. A person named Casey, works with silver?


4 Responses to “West, West, Wanting, Waiting, West”

  1. nic February 4, 2013 at 5:56 am #

    Wow. wow….

    You ‘re amazing at weaving patterns, textures, layers….grouping life’s like items….
    Lingers with the reader.


  2. Elaine Mansfield February 4, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

    Easy to lose things in that big desert–things we want, things we don’t want. I wonder if you’ve made it to LA by now. Waiting to hear about Casey or any adventures that come along.
    I saw fox tracks in the snow yesterday morning–and mice and rabbits and deer and coyote. Snow helps me keep track of my neighbors, so it isn’t all bad.


    • kwasson2012 February 4, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

      I love that line, Elaine…snow helps me keep track of my neighbors. How is the writing going? I made it to LA, and love it here. Hope to get that blog up today! Kirsten ________________________________________


  3. Mary Holland February 4, 2013 at 8:35 pm #

    I just got back from Chicago, where we were lucky if there was not a – next to the temp and I finally discovered why people wear earmuffs. It’s because if you don’t, your ears will fall off. I still have mine (ears; never got the muffs), but barely. I can hardly imagine the places you are describing in this posting, or the always-sunny-60s nights in LA you must be having now. I can totally imagine, however, how good they are feeling to you, since you’ve made your transition into them, and its willingness, so beautifully clear in these postings. I think you are really there. So glad 🙂


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