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Reflections in the Silver Cup


Shiprock from Beclabito, NM–an iconic image from childhood

Whenever I can, which means when time is not of the essence, and it rarely is anymore, I drive the back roads. I especially detest driving on I-40, which is the most direct route to many places for me; it is croweded with 18-wheelers serving the country from East to West and back again. As I take up my nomadic life, I've become even more committed to not using the Interstates. I used to take I-40 to the Mesita exit, 40 miles west of Albuquerque, pick up Historic 66 and drive it to Continental Divide (the actual name of a place) where 66 ended, then pick it up again at Iyanibito when driving to Gallup. Now I go through my old stomping grounds of Cuba, NM, then Crownpoint, Mariano Lake, Pinedale, and Churchrock–an extra 71 miles and so worth it. The drive is relaxed, never once touching an Interstate and offering vistas of great beauty.


Sunday I left Albuquerque for Flagstaff, Arizona and took a most satisfying, round-about route, first to camp at Quaking Aspen in the Zuni Mountains for one night. I got in a couple of short hikes before a welcome visit from my brother Rick. We chatted at my campfire while he fixed his supper (I'd already eaten), and before he left, he played me a three-number concert on his mouth harp--a Celtic piece, an Inuit number that was hauntingly gorgeous, and "Amazing Grace" by request. I delighted in the stars above the pines and had another walk in the morning.


I had some errands to do in Gallup before taking off for the home of my friend who lives in Tse Daa K'aan, just east of Shiprock. From Gallup there's no Interstate, so I took the most direct route–NM Highway 491, previously named 666. I love this highway, as the entire road represents memories, among them: Tohlakai, where my father was missionary for six years; Sheep Springs where we turned off every summer to go to Cottonwood Pass Campmeetings; Toadlena, which is the address that appears on all of my University of New Mexico transcripts because my parents lived there after I left home; Table Mesa with its redundant name where we had a picnic on my 4th birthday. Gloria and I talked shop (writing) and many other things, including shared memories. We ate dinner at Mikasa Japanese restaurant in Farmington and afterwards walked Main Street downtown.


Yesterday I headed for Flagstaff, traversing the Navajo Nation through Beclabito, where I played in the red canyon with my friend Marlene and ate her mother's fry bread; Teec Nos Pos, which I think of as "home-not-home;" on through spectacular country like Antelope Canyon, which I'd driven through before but didn't remember and was blown away all over again.


Due to an unusually wet winter in the Southwest, the roadsides were lush with rabbit brush, saltbush, yellow daisies, sunflowers. There were fields and fields filled with young rabbit brush (also known as chamisa) where there had been none before. As always, when driving through places I know well, I saw things I'd never noticed before. One of the oddest was a pair of stairs going up a rock outcrop somewhere past Tohatchi. It made me wonder what was so important about getting to the top of that outcrop, and who needed the stairs. A story there. The Nation is also peppered with what missionaries have left behind--roads and buildings ending in "ministry," "revival," "campmeeting," "mission." Creative names like "Glory Road," "Heaven's Door," "Prosperity Gospel Chapel." Yet another story.

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Cheyenne embroidered me an inspirational sign that says, "Doe the Next Thynge;" nevertheless, anxiety overtakes me at times, and it leads to procrastination. Next week I'm heading out on an eight-night trip in the RAV4, and I wanted very much to have my sleeping platform and over-the-foot shelf built and installed by then. My anxiety verbalized like this: What if I measured wrong? What if the person who's going to cut my plywood at Lowe's measures wrong? What if the traffic on the way to Lowe's is too much? What if the store is filled with people? What if... what if...?


Finally, on Sunday morning, when I knew traffic would be light en route and in the store, I went with my carefully laid out drawings and stepped up to the contractors' desk, where the clerk called a young man named Josiah to help me. As we walked back to the saw, he told me that he'd been off the last three days, and as always, he returned to find the lumber shelves in disarray. My confidence in him shot up because I think someone who likes order in their workplace was likely to be painstaking about my job. And then he used the word "deemed." Having a good vocabulary and being unintimidated to use it in the lumber department of Lowe's didn't mean he would be skillful at ripping plywood. It did, however, say something about his intelligence, which gave my confidence another boost. He also knew it was important to have good relationships with his coworkers (stated as we chatted about chatting while working).


Josiah helped me select a sheet of maple plywood that had been sanded on both sides and would require less hand sanding, so I'd only have to work the edges. I also had him cut some 2x2s. While he measured and remeasured and thought and cut, I went around the store picking up other things I needed: a new drill bit, sandpaper, screw eyes, a bucket that would fit my new toilet seat, Reflectix for making insulated privacy covers for my windows. 


Yesterday was building day, and I commandeered Catherine's covered patio as my workshop, her wrought iron table covered with my canvas tarp as sawhorses. I started early in the morning to beat the heat, but with snack and lunch breaks, I didn't finish until 1:30, by which time the temp had reached 89º.


My first step was to make the sleeping platform, which now allows me to sleep on the level (so to speak). A wonderful feature is there is underneath space for storing my small aluminum table, my privacy tent, and hopefully a fold-up chair (the one I bought a few weeks ago ends up not giving me enough low back support after driving hours.


After the sleeping platform came the over-the-foot shelf for additional storage. I had to recharge my drill at one point, but otherwise, all went smoothly. I must confess, however, that it is not the beautiful product my friend Cara or my brother Bob would produce. It is functional. And the wood is pretty. For $8, I got 8 baskets at Dollar Tree, and they are fastened to the shelf with bungie cords attached to screw eyes on each end of the shelf. These baskets will be for nonperishable foods and useful odds and ends. Under the shelf, next to the bed is my camp kitchen. Another boot box or maybe two (haven't measured yet) will stack on top of it as my clothes drawer(s). Boot boxes are good because they're shallow, so they don't require a lot of digging.


It's starting to look like home.

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