We're the only people for eight or ten miles along a two tire track that wandered through the desert, sometimes almost disappearing among the rocks and sage brush. Most people wouldn't even call it a road. But it brought us far from people.
It is so quiet I can hear myself think. The only sound is the buzz of two flies investigating the red monster of the truck. Even the wind is so gentle I have to concentrate to hear the quiet shusshing Far, far over head, so high I can't even see it in the clear blue a plane passes with a sound so faint it is only a distant drone instead of the usual roar. If I were in town I would never hear it, but here the silence is so deep the sound travels from the vault of the sky.
I can see across the canyon to the rock ledges on the opposite wall. The are so even and straight it is easy to imagine they are the remains of the cities of ancient giants--the monster gods of the pueblo and Navajo, the kachina and the yei. I know these formations were created by tectonic forces and the effects of wind and water on the stone, but they look as though some huge hand stacked them like children's toys or carved them as enduring sculptures. In the forty years since I first saw New Mexico they have never ceased to amaze me.
Notah, Kerra and Seth are hiking on the canyon slope behind me. They will bring me back strange rocks or broken shards of a pot abandoned by some roving gatherer or, if Kerra's sharp eyes spot it, a broken arrow point or a flake where a paeolithic hunter stopped to make a quick blade to dispatch his kill. Ocassionally they run across tumbled villages or house sites with the accompanying debris of the people who lived there. They take a couple photos to send me and mark them in their memory. More often though their finds are simply scattered across the desert. I wish I were thirty years younger and a hundred pounds lighter so I could climb with them. But at least my knees work and I can walk in the desert again.
A few minutes ago I walked around the flatter area here where the truck is parked. The clumps of old juniper trees exude an resiny fragrance if I brush them and I walked among clumps of bunchgrass and old tumblweed skeletons. The ground was sandy with shale-like rocks here and there.
A ways down from where we parked I found the old remains of a camp fire. The ashes were beaten into the ground by rain and weather; the couple of burnt sticks were half buried in the sand. Someone else a long time ago had set here and maybe enjoyed looking out across the open space as they sloped away before them. I could imagine a lot of different scenarios about the circumstances that brought someone to this spot.
When I walked back to the truck I came upon a clear dog track in a bit of open ground. It was huge. almost as large as my palm. (Keep in mind, my hands aren't very big, but still) I smiled at first, thinking Bella had left her mark in this place. Then I realized that it wasn't a new track. It was hard, pressed into mud sometime past!
My first thought was: wolf. Then I laughed at my imagination. I'd spent too long wandering around making up stories about wide spaces and campfires.
I came back and sat down.
Now I'm eating my banana and playing with my kindle. Bella and Thain are back from their jaunt with the family so I guess they'll soon be back.