"I heard you're building your home
deep in the desert....
Hope you're keeping some kind of record."
Coming home. Flying over the scorched Chihuahuan desert. From a thousand feet in the air the desert looks like custard pudding left in the oven too long. The Mesquite trees and the desert willows are black dots on orange-red sand. Flan. Crustulant. The Sahara of the soul. Somewhere below the desert surface are the largest crystal caves in the world (thanks to Mickie Merkens for this information.) There are also ancient Spanish swords and the lost verses to "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues." The heavy pull of things mystical and historic. I'm returning - like St. Anthony - into the dry wasteland where extremes meet. Where men balance their own aridity and desire for reclusiveness with that of the landscape.
Quoting James Cowan: "A Man did not escape to the desert to find identity, but to lose it, to eradicate his personality and become anonymus." Society is the cave....the way out is solitude.
It's the cowboy way. The shifting, whispering sands and old Walter Brennen recitations.
We're flying over John Wesley Hardin's grave and the best Mexican restaraunts in the world. Now we're landing one hundred yards from the largest equestrian statue ever concoted: Don Juan Onate astride a giant Andalusian stallion. Don Juan crossed the Rio Grande five hundred years ago and brought us the Spanish horse, Catholicism, and the first thanksgiving - which took place years before the East Coast version. Old Don brought us a cornucopia of mixed blessings. He wiped out entire tribes of Indians...it must have taken a mighty large ego to survive 110 degree heat beneath that Spanish helmet. Heat stroke. The conquistadores went crazy on the deserts of the New World. Swords swinging high over heads; the desperate babbling to the gods of the Inquisition. Enter the Jesuits bringing up the rear. Then Cormac McCarthy with his pen.
Tracking or even undertsanding Mexican and Southwest history is a bit like tracking General Santa Ana's bloody severed leg through the streets of Mexico City...what led to all of this ? What does it mean? That's why we're in the desert - to make sense of it all or leave it behind. Around every corner, on the backstreets of Juarez, lurks another verse out of "The Streets of Laredo." Hell with it. Coffee up and get to work. And what did St. Anthony find as the meaning of life - after living alone in the desert for sixty years? Song! Chant and song. The stillness of inutterable speech. The inarticulate speech of the heart (to quote Van Morrisson.) Song being the only way to express the mystery of the inexpressible. The desert provides the mirror for looking deep within. So we're tracking this inner ground waiting for the winds of the spirit to blow.
Time to pick up the guitar. Two more cups of coffee. The job at hand. Welcome home.