Spend enough time in the wilderness -- or what passes for wilderness in these United States -- and grim reality begins to fade. Let's see, we're fighting wars where? There's still Iraq (called Eye-rack around here); Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya . . . Yemen, is that an official war yet? Hell, everything, all the clandestine crap, the hired-hand killings, all the stuff that sustains the insatiable greed of the military-industrial oligarchs, it's all war. War's our bidness, Bubba, and don't you ever fergit it.
But out here, I'll try.
We mount a vistaed slope of pinion, juniper and Mormon tea. Brandi, a rambunctious pup who's trying to learn, between bouts of mischief, to be a trail dog, looks for something to chase. Finding nothing, he decides to run around In circles while I rest on the fallen trunk of a juniper, savoring the view of distant valley and more distant pink and gray cliffs. I imagine this tree was standing tall and green and lush with berries when Silas Smith and his scouts passed by here in 1879, looking for a shortcut across the Colorado River. When Brandi tires, and flops down beside me for a drink, we consider the next leg of our morning walk.
It's so quiet that even I, thanks to my high-tech and even higher-priced new hearing aids, can hear the gnat buzzing two feet from my head, looking for an unbitten place to have lunch. You pay a price to walk in places such as this, but the precious silence alone makes it worthwhile. Thirst-slaked and bored, my companion begins to dig in the dry, red earth. An abundance of ornery critters is part, too, of the price of being here; wouldn't want my curious pup to get acquainted with one the hard way. We move on.
Half a mile further on, we gaze down into a deep gulch, carved by snow melt and spring and autumn rains to nurture the green valley below. I can see a negotiable route down to the dry bed, and back up the opposing slope to an inviting plateau. Once, and it doesn't seem all that long ago (but it was), I'd have gone that way without hesitation, maybe even raced my dog to the other side, but that wasn't an option now. My tired old legs had just enough gas In the tank (I hoped) to get me back to the campsite. We had walked somewhat farther than I intended, and it would be uphill all the way back.
Brandi led us home. Like all good trail dogs, he stops periodically, turns, and waits for his Geezer to catch up. "How was your walk?" the Boss asked when we returned. "Piece of cake," I said. "This is my favorite place in the entire world." When I'm not near the girl I love, I love the girl I'm near.
We were low on some supplies and would normally have driven to the nearest town to replenish them, but they'd lost one of their own in one of our wars, and the memorial service was to be held this day: businesses were closing and mourners were coming from miles around. They'd wave flags and the high school band would play the Marine Hymn and some Sousa, maybe, and they'd say how proud they were of Our Troops over there fighting for democracy. Over There. Endless war can seem right, and heroic, even, as long as it's always Over There. Last time I looked, only one member of Congress, and no senior administration official, had close blood kin among Our Troops Over There. Still, said the clerk at the local hardware store, who knew the dead local soldier well, "it's better to fight them Over There than here at home."
This is a beautiful place, undisturbed, sparsely populated and lightly visited. Brandi's snoozing at my feet. We're at peace here in our shady place, but the sun is high in the sky, and soon we'll have to go out into the blazing heat, another of the costs of experiencing silence and beauty.
Even in Paradise, reality intrudes.
Bahrain. I forgot about Bahrain. The CIA is on the ground there, isn't it ?