I had a cold but nice sunrise, and after my coffee I had to find some facilities, or at least some open desert. I opened Janet’s curtains and hustled up the road to the state park where yesterday’s scouting had discovered a porta potty. It was so nice up by Fort Rock that I took out my yoga mat, faced it to the rising sun, and did some yoga until the tips of my fingers were too cold. With the breeze it felt below freezing.
Lying on my stomach to do cobra pose, I had an up close look at the little plants and the natural desert floor. My eye stopped on a tiny grey-green plant, with a even tinier fuzz on its tiny leaves, all by itself in the coarse sandy, pebbly dirt. It had four little leaves, each the size of the head of a pin, all together it was a little button so small that you wouldn’t see it if you stood up. I thought, it is as serious about its business there, putting down a tiny root and hoping to grow in the cold and dry soil, and later in the blazing hot and dry soil, until it could make seeds and be a parent plant, like the one it came from. Very serious business, the meaning of life. Just happening there without anyone noticing, in all its complexity. Maybe something will eat it, probably someone will step on it. And to think of how much more complex a human baby is and how precarious until it gets grown enough to become a parent human…I had one of those moments: that so much goes on outside of our awareness, and for no reason that any of us can really say.
Why we even ask the reason, why we are self-aware, is another mystery.
Anyway, I was ready to hit the road, and as soon as I was driving toward the Cascades I could see tiny dry flakes of snow. I stopped at Crescent to top off the gas tank and ask about conditions in the mountains. The man said I’d better hurry as the storm was headed toward us, and so I left for Willamette Pass.
We came to the flashing lights for a snow zone, and a couple of trucks putting on chains, and hoped I wouldn’t get a ticket for not carrying chains. Janet has pretty good tires, and a nice heavy engine over her rear axle, which is the powertrain. We passed a passenger car that had somehow managed to run itself sideways into the ditch, but they really had to work at it. There were flaggers on the scene. But I didn’t see any other westbound traffic with us until nearly Oakridge, out of danger on the other side of the summit.
I was glad for a tiny bit of adventure challenge, since my friend had texted that her husband said there were warnings for the pass, and they hoped I’d make it through before the storm hit. It does a body good, and right now I’m reminding myself of Tom Sawyer, in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn–one of the several books I brought to read. He and Huck Finn are having an unnecessarily troublesome adventure digging Jim out from the slave cabin. I do think it is a personality trait of some people to actually prefer some harrowing uncertainty in life. Such people can become authors. Ha.
And it felt good, after feeling sad, that my housemates actually were worried about me and actually wanted me to make it back. I feel like they have to be getting sick of sharing their home with me for the indeterminate future.
So then I took Janet to be washed, so it wouldn’t be obvious that I had just been on hundreds of miles of desert back roads when I get to work. I came in to a steak dinner made by my friend. I admit I am nervous about going into work tomorrow morning, after taking two days off with a feigned illness. It is a nice bit of synchronicity that Mark Twain just had Huck Finn talk about how useless a conscience is, when it bothers you about things you shouldn’t feel bad about. I’ve never heard a writer address that, that I recall.
Huck says “…I warn’t feeling so brash as I was before, but kind of ornery, and humble, and to blame, somehow—though I hadn’t done nothing. But that’s always the way; it don’t make no difference whether you do right or wrong, a person’s conscience ain’t got no sense, and just goes for him anyway. If I had a yaller dog that didn’t know no more than a person’s conscience does I would pison him. It takes up more room than all the rest of a person’s insides, and yet ain’t no good, nohow. Tom Sawyer he says the same.”
P.S. The boss didn’t say a word about it.