A Canopy of Stars
As I left San Diego toward Yuma, Arizona in the summer of 1990, I felt a certain weariness of soul shed from me like an old garment. The night was clear, the sky black as onyx, and the stars like shards of glass painted in big brush strokes over its curved vault.
The ascent was steep as my truck wound its way up the Laguna Mountains to the crest on the Continental Divide. I pulled over and got out on the shoulder of the road to view the heavens. I had never seen the likes of it—the Milky Way so vivid, the constellations sparkling on and off. The hills were covered with aromatic sage, a holy plant to the tribal communities whose reservations I had passed. I said a prayer of thanks and collected bunches of white and purple sage for my new teachers. Back inside the cab of the truck, my body was refreshed by their pungent fragrance. Ahead of me was the Imperial Valley on the vast floor of the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. The road plunged down the other side of the mountains from 8,000 feet elevation to below sea level.
The cool night air of the mountains vaporized in the warm, dry desert air. As dawn cast light across the valley, I began to make out row upon row of sturdy corn and later a multitude of lettuce heads, spreading their leaves over the irrigation canals that fed their growth. A flaming read ball appeared over the horizon, blinding my sight. Then I breathed in the smell of my new home – a peanut like, earthy fragrance of heated soil, stone, and wind.
So it was that my body first made acquaintance with my new home. It was in that final stretch across the valley that I first understood the reality of my decision. Doubt crept in. Was it just serendipity that brought me to a hot desert, and an ugly town, to study with people whose own sense of the world was utterly unknowable to me? Was I crazy? Probably.