Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Deconstructing the mystery

"When the mystery of the connection goes, love goes. It's that simple. This suggests that it isn't love that is so important to us but the mystery itself. The love connection may be merely a device to put us in contact with the mystery, and we long for love to last so that the ecstacy of being near the mystery will last. It is contrary to the nature of mystery to stand still. Yet it's always there, somewhere, a world on the other side of the mirror (or the Camel pack), a promise in the next pair of eyes that smile at us. We glimpse it when we stand still.
The romance of new love, the romance of solitude, the romance of objecthood, the romance of ancient pyramids and distant stars are means of making contact with the mystery. When it comes to perpetuating it, however, I got no advice. But I can and will remind you of two of the most important facts I know:
1. Everything is part of it.
2. It's never too late to have a happy childhood.” 

- Tom Robbins, 'Still Life with Woodpecker'

As the last few hours of this past weeks roadtrip came to a close, and I lazily slouched in the backseat of the car with my sunglasses on, in that satisfied half-revery composed of equal parts joy and exhaustion, I found myself reciting this passage -one of my favourites written by American author Tom Robbins-, in my head. Personifying not only one of the most poetic and blunt written voices to come out of the USA in the past 30 years, Robbin's perfect articulation of the outlaw, the freak, the insatiable wanderer and rogue, the fuck-up, the wild-eyed unwashed romantic wayward desert hobo, all seemed perfectly appropriate and representative of all that this past weeks sojourn to the American Southwest, encompassed.

I in fact awoke this morning in Las Vegas at 6 am, and it is now nearing midnight back home in Calgary - I ought to be sleepy and happy to be back in my own bed , yet the awakening of the mystery, as Tom Robbin's might put it, has placed me in that usual post-trip semi-manic hyper-high state that can only be satiated through incohesive writing, a stiff drink, or a late night walk outside under a waning full moon. I have drank too much lately, and my feet are tired, so, here goes the act of writing:

The barren desert landscapes of Utah, Nevada, Arizona and California burn still so freshly bright in my travel retinas; it is no accident that such landscapes seem ripe for all manner of UFO observance, and a veritable cult of supposed 'alien touch down' sites, replete with kitchy roadside cafes featuring silver spacecraft sculptures, or 'martian' BBQ beef jerky, have flourished throughout the area. These places seem too extremely haunting and ridden with mystery to be enjoyed only by humans - if aliens do exist, you can bet that they are too are in awe of the strangeness and vastness of the desert, I am certain. The jawdropping Monuments of Navajo Utah, sticking up like oversized red chunks of petrified wood on a plate of perfectly flat sand; Driving the narrow dark road into Joshua tree National Park late at night, with no light pollution to dull the stars shining, such that I made a point of getting out of the car and sitting down right in the middle of the road, the cold concrete below and the full moon alighting the entire eerie landscape like a flashlight from God; The glimpse of our first saguro Cacti, tall and outstretched like statuesque prickly cowboys, at sunset in the south of Arizona; All the twists and turns on highway roads, random truckstops and latenight burritos, the sub-sea level desolation of Death Valley's sand dunes, a vulture circling overhead hungrily...

What is this mystery and where does it come from, why does it hit me so hard, and how can I keep it alive in my everyday, non-desert-wandering life?!? These are the questions that my sleep deprived and sun baked brain asks itself as I sit now and type on the keys. Questions of permanence and solitude and love and connections and mystery ; all the best sorts of questions, I do suppose.

I have been so fortunate to have traveled to some of the worlds most beautiful, mysterious places, yet the whirlwind of sites that my friends and I managed to see on this trip nearly blows every other country out of the water, in their au natural, wonderous state. There is something so pure, timeless, and dare I say, 'primal' about being able to get in touch with the mystery, through nature. I am normally a sucker for the castles, churches, mosques and sacred spaces built by man -the influence of religion and history being the mysterious pull that draws me like a moth to a flame. In the deserts of America though, the mystery is evident mostly through the hands of nature; A giant canyon that appears out of nowhere, a gigantic hole in the earth, that gives palpable context to how deep and huge our rotating ball of earthly carbon actually is - and to know it was created simply out of the erosion of millions of years of rivers and tributaries???!! This is the kind of thing that gets my mind all worked up in a tizzy and makes me act out like a character in a Tom Robbin's book.

America is a fascinating and friendly place, with so much subtle nuance and mystery to be found in between the glitz and neon and plastic artifice: I feel really grateful that I, along with my three fellow outlaw gypsy diva friends, got to chisel away at a bit of it together, screaming along to Lady Gaga in the car, howling in our own born-this-way way, an homage to all things sparkling and fleeting, mysterious and beautiful and strange.

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