Dusty Time Travel of the Mind

Bear and I went out to the Refuge yesterday. The wind was blowing in town, but nothing excruciating. The day was clear and fresh and why not? But it was a stealthy, evil, duplicitous wind because out there — at the far edge of the Refuge — the wind was something else entirely.

Where we walked, beside some of the large ponds, the waves came in regular sets that any 4 inch surfer could have had a good time riding. The ducks were bobbing up and down and fishing like always. A few geese had grounded themselves near small ponds and streams. Heading out, no big deal. Bear smelled the side of the road and I thought about what it would be like going back. Once in a while a gust hit — when I got home I learned they were gusting over 40 mph which was no surprise. Thinking we were fighting a losing battle, I turned around and THEN things got weird (but they got weirder later). We went roughly fifteen feet between blasts. I was grateful for being a short sturdy person. Even Bear didn’t like it. I looked across the Refuge and it was covered by a tan cloud of dust. Little by little we got back to the Bella, passed by a couple of cars, late-season crane tourists (good luck with that).

I’d parked so far into the Refuge that there was no turning around and going out the way I’d come in, so I followed the small caravan of undaunted people (two cars) who were determined to get SOMETHING out of the experience by reading the informational signs.

On the far side (ha ha) the dust cloud was so thick I couldn’t see in front of me at all. One of the other cars pulled over thinking, I guess, to wait it out (that would happen a couple hours later). I could see a few feet into the road ahead of me most of the time, but felt a little anxiety about the moment when I’d have to turn onto the main road — state highway– back into town. That road is frequented by hay trucks and semis trailering field sprinklers. All went well and within 100 yards the day was clear again, still windy, but clear.

The San Luis Valley is a wild place, and there are good reasons why some settlements survived and some didn’t. Somewhere out there is a ghost-settlement known as Rock Creek. I haven’t found it. I want to find it. It was settled by a group of “Dunkers.” But if it’s where everything indicates it was, a bleak novel could be written about that.

I also thought about what the man I met this past Sunday said about being out there being in the world before, when the settlers first came. Sunday was a postcard day, balmy, light breeze, beautiful light. Heaven. Yesterday? Yeah, Was that what the settlers encountered, too. But maybe less? With no plowed fields, a lot less dust. I encountered the dust on the end of the Refuge that abuts the recently plowed barely fields. The north end — my usual haunt — is all native chamisa and none of the farms north of there plow anything; they’re cattle ranches. So I thought, “Maybe not the settlers or the Utes and Navajo, but that was what people lived through day after day during the dustbowl.”

6 thoughts on “Dusty Time Travel of the Mind

  1. A few days back I was out at Joshua Tree National Park. There was a high wind warning along with severe thunderstorm warnings. Never say any lighting nor did any of the rail ever reach the ground. Lots of virga though. We did get wind. A couple of time it almost knocked me over. Learned later that there were gusts recorded at 60 mph.

    I had driven down Geology Road which is most sand. Upwind of the road the air was clear and perfect. The desert pavement had long since lost anything loose and what remained had been long ago hardened by rain and heat. Occasionally a twig would fly by.

    Downwind it was clouds of billowing dust. With nothing to hold the soil in place, everything went flying. Even a sand dune would have been a better place to stand. Dust storms become much more common and severe when humans get involved.

    • Yes they do. This time of year out here there can be two winds going in different directions because of the way the mountains are lined up to the west. That was part of what was happening yesterday. I’m a little angry at myself because all those years I lived in CA I never visited Joshua Tree.

  2. It was a blustery day here too. Luckily no dust storms but my legs did get pelted with some gravel. Give it another 2 weeks and all the corn fields and bean fields will be plowed and then the dirt will be flying and I’ll be glad to wear a mask!

  3. Wind must have been everywhere! I found myself leaning about 30 degrees into the wind while walking near the lake Monday. Good thing it was steady. Had it stopped, I’d have fallen over sideways.

    • That’s what I was afraid of! Bear and I stopped for every hard gust and we argued about who was going to protect whom from harm. I love this dog. But yeah, a couple times I lost my balance when the wind suddenly slowed down. I think the wind WAS everywhere!

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