Of Bats and Belief

My storytelldear friend Baba and I were traveling the desert… 3 weeks, no phones, no major destination… just desert. We motored thru the west Texas landscape watching dust devils and calling in storms and up onto the plateau of New Mexico, and into the four corners among mesas, buttes, canyon and sage. The sound of tires on asphalt, the deep thrumming of the engine, the wind humming in our ears all competing with the music of Miss Pickle on a road trip.

One night we set up camp on the north side of Lake Powell. The day had been adventure- enough for most people to live thru. We crossed the Escalante, down into a canyon and up again on washboard  roads and down a harrowing, hair-pin turn, boulder-strewn, a drop of 1000 feet to open desert below. We ran across the flat land, discovering we no longer had brakes after precariously easing down the side of the cliff and bulldozed our way thru sandpits to the edge of the Lake Powell. A second symptom progressively worsened just before the last leap of faith down the cliff. Once the engine was turned off, there was no starting it again, the solenoid on the starter was fried.  There were no inclines to drift down allowing me to jam her into gear and force the engine, no crawling underneath to tap the started into submission. It would take assistance of a driver passing by to jump-start. And out here on a lonely cove of Lake Powell there was no one in sight.

We had no fear left that day and set camp along water in the desert with a grand dinner and a bottle of wine. Just before sunset I looked out at the lake and the angled shafts of sunlight and mentioned my disappointment in the lack of bats at our recent abode on the edge of  the Grand Canyon. My game has always been to sit at dusk and play with the bats. Tossing pebbles up in the air and tempting the bats to swoop down in front of me. Oh well. I poured a glass of wine and started to get a fire going for dinner while Baba floated along the shore. Suddenly, Baba exclaims “Look at these interesting little birds”.  Hundreds, flitting up and down, swooping before our faces, flashing past our heads as dusk descended. Not birds…bats! Bats by the thousands taking advantage of water in the desert which begets algae… which beget insects, (mosquitoes)…which begets…bats… which begets Life.

Baba and I laughed and marveled.

We sat down to dinner, the final rays of light dissipating. The contrast of buttes and water. The lake beginning to shimmer in starlight. The crescent moon, early setting, would find it’s rest behind the butte. It’s shape so delicate and curved to one side that as it set, it looked ready to recline into the landscape for a sweet night nap.

I looked at the moon and quietly spoke, ” the only thing better would be a shooting star”. As I finished my spoken thought, a blazing star with a trailing tail dropped over the moon and into obscurity behind the butte.

Baba looked at me, both of us now standing, breathless at what had just befallen. “Joannie, if you ever… from this day forward doubt your power… DON’t!”

I am a story teller and I found my power, again. Baba is often my interpreter in moments like these. Having a witness, a cohort, a believer  is the best part of the travels.




Miss Pickle and My Search

March 21, 2017

I have to admit – it is awkward. It is awkward to go down the road in anything other than my Westy. I had to find her a new home and move on. ( that is another story for another time) .  I am now traveling in a new mode and I find myself turning back the clock a little to tell you all about my search.  Here goes….
22 years with Miss Pickle is hard to beat. I have been spoiled. I know to not dwell too long on this subject, for to do so would send me spiraling into tailwinds and tailspins of nostalgia, joy, loss and grief. So many memories-adventures, both humbling and character building.

Hmm… Character. Would that be a noun describing me or Miss P? I once had a friend that looked at me with concern and compassion and stated ” Joan – you are not your van”. I suppose, for many people looking on, that at some point, the character I am became inextricably entwined with my 1978 Volkswagen Westy. She was the iconic green with orange canvas. A powerhouse of metal shaped like a big box. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but to many of us, not just a vehicle of transportation, but a way of life. A way of believing and creating. A way of showing up in the world with fewer restraints and “shoulds”. To those on the outside, looking in, a Westy is an unspoken dream. The freedom to believe we can explore and set aside the world we are told to believe in. I have trouble with that world – it is obvious to everyone that knows me. I don’t fit in, or perhaps I should say I fit in this world from a very different perspective. Rules? I get them, I know they exist. But however hard I try, I don’t seem to follow the path, achieve the sense of satisfaction, reap the rewards of society as we know it. Wow, that sounds like an ego. Sounds like a luxury problem. What it does tell me is the there are many sides to us that live in a very complicated world where choices begin to define who we think we are, sometimes burying who we really are and always will be. I guess that is why when driving down a desert highway with a little music vying for attention over the rumble of engine, the drone of tires on pavement, that it becomes a meditative state. Hour after hour the thrum of life is channeled thru this hunk of metal. The VW Om. Once you have tapped into that state of being, it is hard to go back.
But I digress ( which, as everyone that has ever sat with me around a camp fire, or tequila will attest) I can go on! The story will wander.
So here I begin to tell you the stories of a VW van named Miss Bertha Mae Pickle. Make of it what you will. It may touch a spring that trickles within your being. It may just be a moment in your day that sends a a tickle of amusement, it may inspire you to step outside your daily world And take a chance, make a choice…many of us have. And we are still here!

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