Wednesday, July 16, 2008

St. Anthony in the Desert

"I heard you're building your home
deep in the desert....
Hope you're keeping some kind of record."
Leonard Cohen
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 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.


Saddle Tramp said...

TR . . . Welcome back! This one really resonated with me. Visions of: The Desert Fathers. Edward Abbey. Colin Fletcher. Cadillac Ranch and Cortez. Monk Thomas Merton digging Lenny Bruce (speaking the truth) , Coltrane and The Tao. Climbing The Seven Storey Mountain. I now trail off with Van " Into The Mystic".

Living like the wind.

With No Direction - No Home

Split the wind and do it again


P.S. Jack Kerouac has been On The Road for 50 years now and his senior, Jack London's The Road has been on it for 100 years. Both sharing the same anniversary year.

Saddle Tramp said...

Burger addendum:

Lest we forget . . . Tommie's Famous Burgers. The chili burger that stays for days.

-ST From Julesburg, CO rest area and a monument to The Pony Express. A short lived bit indelible icon. Heading back west. AdiĆ³s .

Saddle Tramp said...

TR . . . You can shoot me now or shoot me later. Excuse me for 3 in a row, but before you hear from the great state of South Dakota. Lest we forget " Crazy Horse " , albeit all extant materials. A work still in progress .Does this count in the category you intended? No offense intended by me. Your best post to date for my money. Thanks TR . . .

-ST Lost before Found

Tom Russell said...

I think I met that guy (Horst Weigholtz or something) that was carving the Crazy Horse monument in South Dakota. Now his son is finishing. It was 1956 or 59. I musta been three...long story. And yes, "Into the Mystic" goes well with Merton's Seven Story Mountain...the folk version of Van Morisson and Merton, for my money, is Steve Young. Check out his new live album: Stories Round the Horseshoe Bend...also an album by Moondi Klein called 2:10 Train...sings like an angel.

BlackJackMama said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Neil Crabtree said...

Today's post at Believable Lies welcomes TR back from Europe, and describes an affinity between music and lit that we might share.

Welcome back, Big Guy. The European trip sounds like Adventures in Semi-Paradise.

jeffreyjeff said...

Ahh...another mention Of Cormac McCarthy. I'm quite curious. Did you know him well when he lived in El Paso? What do you think of his work...which is your favorite?
"The Crossing" is the finest peice of literature I've ever read. I drove 25 miles on a dirt washboard (and back) to see Cloverdale NM, like some fool on a pilgramage.
Those "horse thieves from Boquillas" could have rode right out of a McCarthy novel.

Saddle Tramp said...

TR . . .

Skeleton Canyon
Ghost Town
Rodeo and Road Forks
A Lordsburg Truck Stop and a bargain priced
Don Edwards (best of) with Hildago winds blowing
and El Paso behind me
Texas Canyon ahead

-ST From the Omaha Kenworth waiting in
a hot humid lounge with a cowboy
bull hauler from Yankton, SD and a
mechanic telling me about riding his
green broke 2 year old Paint mare
hitting a hole and all 4 legs going up.

Unknown said...

I used to see Cormac in the book store and at Home Depot. I recall him telling the salesman: "Just consider me from outer space, cause I don't know anything." And we'd talk about food on the road. I have a photo of me and Cormac and Joe Ely, who's wearing a Mariachi outfit....El Paso 1997. TR Tucson