Our three day Valentine’s plans have been dramatically changed, but we have been provided with a perhaps more rich alternative. Here is Part I:
While enjoying a large cup of apple, cinnamon and almonds concoction that DF had made up, we feel the warm intensity of the sun on our nude backs. It is beautiful. I suggest a hike. We’ll head north into the desert, just head out.
Shoes on, we slide through the rusty barbed wire fence and off the property. A bottle of water and cameras are all that we require.
We climb a creosote covered ridge not expecting to see anything in particular, perhaps a vista, rocks and more creosote. There, we find two women, who are walking and looking down. Atop this hill people have been setting up monuments out of the rocks. Some appear to be just someone believing that they are improving nature, like a rock garden, or changing the décor, or making organized sense out of this chaotic world. Others are for worship. Circles, mazes, cairns are with favored rocks of all colors shapes and sizes. This is what some people, generally naked people, do on a Sunday morning.
(Remember, you can click on any image to make it larger and more clear.)
This hill looks out across miles and miles of distance in every direction. It is wide open spaces. It is freedom. There is also a quiet spiritual quality about it.
I’m reminded of the vastness of space. After a few documentary photos of the cairns and patterns, we again begin our walk in earnest.
What is our heading Captain?” asks Chekov.
“Out there,” replies Captain Kirk.
I hear from the voice in my head, “Make it so.”
My feet pick up, the back straightens and I am propelled toward the next discovery.
There are many different varieties of rock here. This has been a volcanic region, laced with mineral formations from the springs. It has been an ocean making deposits, a vast flood plain and now, a barren desert. A paleontologist at last night’s party boasted of finding a prehistoric camel out here. Never knowing what I may stumble upon, I do find a handful of interesting fun rocks, sparkling green, red, orange and pink. I take them home.
Every so often there stands a taller than usual barrel cactus, alone and surrounded by creosote bushes. These are like beings owning their hills, kings on the mountains, as if possessed in a life of a spirit.
Behind us, across the Gila River Valley, the clouds are getting thicker and dark.
The sun is blocked eventually. We come to what will be the last ridge of the day. As is the plan, we look to see what is on the other side of the hill in front of us. There is a valley out there. There are trees lined up along the riparian wash that runs through it. There lies our next hike, on another day. We can wander walkabout for miles here…naked.
Back at the Ranch:
Wandering through the forest of tamarisk and mesquite, we decide to take another fork in the trail.
There is a brightly painted cloth as we approach the large swimming pool and we investigate. The owner appears as we walk up. It is a colorfully painted teepee. He explains that it is moist and needs to dry. I suggest the basketball court, which is filled with sun, has less sand, grit and no percolation. We help him move.
At that time, just off of the basketball court, I see a canvas bell tent. I have been looking at these on the internet and I’m curious. The owners provide a tour. I take in the space. It comes from a Phoenix manufacturer. I’m excited. I’m planning to spend lots of time in the mountains, writing, hiking and living at peace, naturally. One like this, with its wood burning stove, just may be the home away from home.
We are about to spend the rest of the afternoon in the water of the pool and its hot tub. Children are playing, adults are resting, nearly all blissful and nude.
There is a pile of old cattail reed floating in the pond. Three women are gathered around it. They are weaving/braiding the material into long rope-like strips. When I ask, they explain that they are creating shade hats with the water soaked material. Before long, more people involve themselves in their own projects. A very pregnant woman is teaching, guiding the others through the process and answering questions. Another woman creates a basket for her water jug. There has been a gathering of primitive arts enthusiast nearby and several have made their way here after that event. I begin to notice some naked people are putting on leather skirts and other handmade clothing and accessories. The conversation is interesting.
In another corner of the pool, two women converse in Russian. A small Pomeranian dog sits quietly on one’s lap. They are just outside of the hotter area. The dog appears to be enjoying itself. Even the dog enjoys the warm mineral water. We can’t help but laugh.
DF finds a stray water craft. A pillowed flotation ring suspends a mesh bottom. It is a perfect device to soak in these waters. I massage her feet. It appears that she has lost the ability to leave her floating perch, but that is okay, I’m not going anywhere, either. From the moment that I sat down in these waters, I felt that I had come home to roost.
We swim a couple of long laps across the length of the gargantuan pool. For the most part, we simply remain in the hot mineralized joy of the hot bath.
The sun begins to set. The friends from last evening’s party arrive to visit. A double rainbow forms to the east above us.
At one point, the clouds turn dark. It begins to rain. The contrast of cool drops of rain on the head and shoulders while sitting in the hot pool is sensual. As I watch the droplets hit, making thousands of rings of ripples, steamy mist begins to rise from the waters. The rain comes and then it goes away. Colors and beams of light escape through the clouds, which are off to the west across the pool. The clouds begin to take on golden colors where previously there were the silver linings. They reflect in the waters of the pool.
A large flock of starlings becomes a formation, dancing above the silhouettes of the barren winter mesquite branches that line the pool. We are not going anywhere until this show in the setting sun is over. The pregnant woman tells us that she is due in just a few weeks. She states that if only she could, she would just sit where she is braiding reeds, naked in this wonderful water, until she gives birth.
At dark, we have to face the inevitable three hours home. We drive off through Safford and out on the lonely dark highway on a Sunday evening. The stars that were particularly bright last night, as we walked to bed down in the yurt, are obscured by clouds. The road is darker still and the moon is just a sliver. As we move along at 80 mph, the clouds move across this sliver, unveiling the bright qualities. It is as if huge spotlights are beaming upon her surface as they pass over it. That is all that we see out there in the dark.
We find our way home.