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Creek Running North
October 06, 2004
Other things about the trip
There was a very stylish espresso café in Williams, of all places. Décor out of Sunset Magazine, alternative music on the radio, wistful dark beauty behind the counter. She looked at me with something uncomfortably close to longing, as if waiting for me to ask her something important.
Mike and Liz Ketterer and I hiked a few miles up into the aspens north of Flagstaff. I'd stayed at their house the night before. Mike and I hadn't seen each other for thirty years, and we chatted about other people neither of us had seen in that long: old school stories and memories of teachers long dead. Liz was patient with our reminiscing. The aspens were brilliant, clear trafficlight yellow and ghostly pale bark. One copse in particular held my gaze, and I cleared my throat. "If it's OK with you guys, I'm just going to stay here for the rest of my life. Thanks for bringing me up here."
I looked at the ground. On a bed of yellow leaves lay a single raven feather.
And there is more to come on Sedona. But this: seven miles into a ten-mile hike, I heard a keening from the rocks. Looked up: two women, sitting in artfully arranged new age poses, one with her hand on the other's breastbone, both of them looking as earnest as all getout. My trail led to them, as did the road bearing a dozen tourists riding pink jeeps. The Keener and the Heart Chakra Palpitator paid us no mind.
I wanted to walk up to them, ask them "Hey, ladies, is this one a them there Goretexes?" But I didn't. Each to her own, I reminded myself. So they extract enlightenment for profit from our precious public lands: at least the tailings piles aren’t too bad. I kept walking, communing with the spirits of Nolina, Agave, Yucca.
I also didn't ask the Sedonans whether they'd ever spent time in the laundromat in Chinle, but that was because I already knew the answer. People are more comfortable revering the lifeways of those Indians they imagine to be safely dead. Rubbing elbows with a dozen Diné grandmothers as they fold their grandkids' underwear must be a little disconcerting to those who prefer their Indians in pastels and soft focus. I didn't go the the Chinle laundromat on this trip, but the one on Fourth Street in Flag was almost as good. Same desperate grime, same wary examination of the driers to see if I was about to bake something unknown onto my clothing. Same clientele. There was a pot of coffee, and a pile of cups. I asked the attendant - A Navajo grandmother with a bleach job and perm - how much for a cup. "Are you doing laundry?" she asked, having just watched me buy soap and make change and pick two washing machines and pour a box of soap in each and sort my clothing and load it into the washers and push a few buttons and start my wash not five feet from where she sat.
"Yep," said I.
"Free, then," she said.
Posted by Chris Clarke at October 6, 2004 10:51 PM
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chris - you make the plain, spectacular, and the spectacular, well even more so. i've missed your way with words. i love this!!Posted by: Anne at October 7, 2004 05:08 PM
A triptiche of memories.
you know, I know there were 4, not three.
I guess I'm losing it. :)
Nice images; I like how you catch those little moments that might otherwise slip by. Thanks.
And: yay, you're back!Posted by: Rana at October 11, 2004 11:47 AM
Just so you know: I had the best chocolate malt OF MY LIFE in Williams. I put NOTHING past that place.Posted by: Doc Rock at October 14, 2004 10:38 PM