“I don’t know if you believe in ghosts, I’d hope you’d haunt me if you were one.” – Ramshackle Glory.
I spent a day in Joshua Tree.
I strongly believe that we find things “beautiful” mostly because we are told to do so. I for one, prefer contrast. Green trees and lakes are awesome but they get boring when they are surrounded by constant green trees and lakes. Same goes for Joshua Trees and rocks. Super cool for a few minutes but when that is all that there is to see, well, it’s all there is to see.
Joshua Tree is a national park that looks pretty much the same as the back side of Utah Hill. There are big Joshua Trees and some rocks. I took a bunch of pictures in color but I’m pretty sure they look like they are in black and white.
If there is one thing that KB and I know how to do well, it’s to play hard. We hit the ground running. My amazing wife had her list of things to see and do, and we did them. We hiked, biked and climbed Mount Ryan. And as the sun was setting we were feeling pretty euphoric. We were hoping to get some climbing in the next day and were heading into town to get some ice, hit the local watering hole for some food and beers and then head back to watching the stars around a camp fire.
We hit that dreaded border of where cell coverage becomes available and, of course, our phones blew up. Kathleen had a few voicemail messages and dialed up to listen.
I’ve never seen someone cry for hours, convulsing out of emotional pain to the point that they are physically shaking. I quickly learned how difficult it is to watch my spouse sob in anguish and know that there was nothing I could do but hold her. And me holding her was not doing anything to console her. Here we were in the midst of the desert, my wife on her knees holding her head and sobbing on the side of the road. My look of shock and awe at her emotional outpouring probably appeared to those driving by, that I had done something horribly wrong and was now trying to make it right.
My brother-in-law Gary died.
I have little experience with death. The only person that I was close to that has passed away was my grandfather. I spent my childhood listening to him and my father banter on around the bed of a truck. He was always there. His death wasn’t sudden and it wasn’t sad to me. Maybe I just blocked that time out of my brain, but the only thing I can remember is figuring out the angle that my dad and uncle Monte needed to cut the boards to make the ramp so he could walk out of his house.
I didn’t spend much time around the house. I couldn’t stand to see him that way. I remember being asked to take photos of him a few days before he died. I’ve never been good at still lifes and that’s how I felt. He was just laying there.
Kathleen on the other hand has had too much death in her life. In the past decade her father has passed away, her boyfriend and now her brother. I have nothing that I can say that has any meaning when confronted with that juxtaposition. It’s too much contrast.
We drove the road from town to camp three times yesterday night. We never got any ice, but we did eat at the watering hole and I did have a beer. Sitting alone at the table, while KB was outside on the phone, wondering how, what and why, the only thing I could fixate on was the sign that was directly in front of me. It said, “Live in Peace.” I thought it was ironic that we always hope that people rest in peace once they are gone, but we never think to hope they can live in peace while they are here. And how few of us do.
Monday night we sat around the fire and looked at the stars. KB educated me on the names of the constellations. I never knew the names but the ones she pointed out were stars that I had always noticed and knew they were there. Now I know that the three stars in a row are called Orion’s Belt and the cluster that looks oddly like the big dipper but you can hardly see is known as the Seven Sisters. For thousands of years we have been looking at those stars. And by we, I mean the human race. Someone gave them names that I didn’t know, but I was looking at them too.
Tuesday night we sat around the fire and looked at the stars. I knew the names of the constellations but the only thing I could think about is how everything is constantly changing, except for the things that are so far away that we can’t really tell they are changing. The only constant for us homo sapiens is so far away.
And Gary was solid. Gary was Gary. He lived the lifestyle that he wanted and you pretty much knew what you were going to get, Gary. I only knew him for the past six years, but I’ve broken down in tears multiple times while trying to express what I’ve been holding back for the past 24 hours. Death is final and we move on, but the pain that is left behind is a sharp contradiction to the experiences we enjoy before the final adventure.
I’m not sure that there is any after life in the sense that religion tries to instill in us. I prefer to think that we die. And in the same vane as a 5 minute dream that lasts for hours, our final moments are our heaven. More importantly, we all live on in the communal subconscious that is the human race. We live on in memories.
RIP Gary. Trust me man if you could come back and haunt a few people, they would be stoked at the prospect. You are missed.