Civilization

San Antonio is not in the West, according to Janet’s air conditioning.

It is, however, still very friendly–and humid. The Border Patrol officer at Uvalde, who seemed to find us quite amusing, glanced into the back, asked me if it was just me in there, and then informed me that something was dripping. Yes, and will continue to, no doubt. We have passed the fabled 100th meridian.

Morning in the desert found us all alone. The other campers left, and after coffee in Janet’s nice shade, I traipsed up to the bathroom in my pink nightgown, talking to the birds (myself) like a madwoman (you know I do).

I looked around and imagined living here as people did thousands of years ago, and how they had all they needed—some deer, quail, baked roots of a spiky plant, berries from a desert persimmon, even a place to do art. Folks come here now to see the petroglyphs in the canyon. They had each other to sing and fight with, so why be discontented? I find on this trip I am tempted to think about what I’m used to that I don’t have, rather than enjoy what a place has to offer. Once I stop that, I start enjoying myself.

Walking into the bathrooms, I noticed the fine, native stone wall built to frame one half of the doorway. A beautiful project. I imagined how, if I were forced to homestead here, I would set about organizing to make a house and outbuildings just like this stone wall, and they would be beautiful. They would make this landscape look perfect to me. Those would be my petroglyphs. I would keep finding projects, and organizing them. I would make all the layabouts useful! Then we would have parties in them to celebrate! I would find out which of these stunted trees carves well, and make lintels and implements and utensils. Oh it would be beautiful. And when the purple sage blooms we would have another special celebration party, with songs and dances made up especially for the occasion. I would figure out how to cook deer and quail to maximum deliciousness, for the parties.

I am like that busybody daughter in Kipling’s ‘How the First Letter Was Written.’ I would have been a civilization builder!

I would not invent the internet, or even discover electricity, I’m quite sure. So there you have it: an inferior, subsistence culture is all I’m good for. I don’t even like counting, I’m bad at it. I noticed that at the bank. It takes a special effort to do things in a sequential order.

But a San Antonian with a vision decided that a river walk would be a party every day! And so it does seem to be. I was charmed, and glad it wasn’t too crowded, being a Tuesday. Waiting out a rain shower under cover, I knew I will never go back. Moving on.

The Alamo moved me more than I expected. The sculpted monument nearby is a paean to gorgeous male warriors, and their intense but tragic loyalty. I’m sure not the only one who thinks of Thermopylae or Troy, but here there is no Achilles and Patroclus, because they all died together.