2021 -2022, November 24 – December 30

Post Everglades it was agreed we had to get out of Florida. Heat, humidity and population density chased us out. The better part of Florida is lost to big box sprawl and cattle ranches. Places like that sadden me. I’m sure there’s a word for feeling melancholia about taming our wild lands for such absurd uses. Progressively eating acre after acre year after year until there’s nothing left of the wild spaces.

Kurt and I decided we didn’t want to drive through Texas, so we drove through Texas. Some places are unavoidable.

We stop to do laundry somewhere in the middle of Texas. I have an allergic reaction to something. The reaction continued for some time, it might be something in Texas.

There’s a lot of roadkill in Texas. Raccoons. Raccoons. Raccoons. A pile of wild boar. A few large dogs, one far from any sign of people. And cats, a kitten. My heart.

I try to rescue a cat at a grocery store. He is sitting underneath a car staring at the entrance of the store. I think: he could be a colony cat or he could be dumped. I bring the little one some wet food. Before long I realize he isn’t alone. By the time we leave I’ve figured out that he’s part of a colony and someone who works in the store is feeding them after shift, they are one by one showing up for feeding time.

In New Mexico Kurt tries to avoid I-10 by adding an extra day to our driving, detoured for birds at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge and drove I-10 anyway. Some roads are unavoidable.

It took us half a day driving around Tucson, a Target, two coffee shops, a health food grocery, and google to find our style of coffee filter.

When the mule went galloping by the camper in full tack sans rider we knew something was up. We were out on a back road boon docking in the desert. I took a bag of apples to the people, maybe they’d be useful luring the wayward beast. I found, to my horror, an 82 year old man on his back and his wife on the phone holding the reigns to her mule. The gate they went through hit his steed in the legs and from there the gentleman was bucked off and landed on his back. I found myself a bystander in someone else’s story.

I went to reach around to the backseat and absently used the driver’s seat as leverage. There my flesh made contact with an errant cactus part. Impaling. Offensive. Vagabond life form.

Chiricahua National Monument, would you look at those rocks.

My nose is stuffy every time we get into the grasses. It clears up if we go into the mountains. Grass? Ragweed?

I drank cold coffee out of a measuring cup after refusing to follow through with pre-sunsrise photography plans. I woke to discover my coffee mug never migrated inside from the truck. And the truck was with Kurt on top of a mountain. The batteries in the camper died and with that the heat. I sat huddled in a blanket, happily enjoying my measuring cup of coffee in the quiet. Small things.

In Wilson, Arizona I sat in the dusty back parking lot de-furring Freddie one brush-full at a time, while Kurt was in the laundromat. Freddie started shedding her genetically given German Shepard coat. We’d fill up the brush and I’d toss the fur balls into the wind. When we drove off Freddie’s fur balls were tumbling down the Main Street.

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Kurt and I visited the Fort Bowie ruins and Apache Pass. We stood on the same ground as Geronimo. As carnage. As real battles between Natives and the US government. The land remembers.

I was carrying a kitten in one hand, pulling the keys out of my pocket with the other and off flew the paper money I forgot about. I gingerly chased them down in the gas station lot, jostling kitten, pouncing on each bill before the wind could steal it away again.

Oh. Yes. Of course. I adopted a kitten, Ukko DaBean from Tucson Animal Control. He was a little baby stray brought in at about two weeks old, he had to be bottle fed. One of 1100 in their foster care system. I went to the foster home rehearsed to say no. His foster picked him out for me based on personality. Set him in my arms. Bean purred and nuzzled in. I melted. Around us older glossy black kittens ran the house in busy loops.

The borderlands are different. Most of the border checkpoints we have been through have been closed.

There are areas of grass and weed overgrowth around Tucson from the summer monsoons. Now brown mounds of vegetation. Wildfire fuel.

We camped on an isolated backroad near the border for close to two weeks. It was overcast and rained for most of that time. I focused on organizing and coming to terms with the massive amounts of images I’ve created. The carnage of deletion begun▪️

2 thoughts on “Road Journal: The Desert Calls

  1. Always interesting to hear about your travels! We went on a mural road trip in the Barrio section of Detroit with brother- and sister-in-laws and there were dozens of murals, all sizes, shapes and themes. They will eventually be a Facebook post.

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Taryn Okesson: Visual Artist