My car wouldn’t have made it. It would have bottomed out. My friend Brandy and I had to practically idle her Subaru Impreza down the rocky dirt road leading to the gate of the ranch, flinching every time we heard a clang from underneath the car.
On our way in we passed a two-story house with deep porches on each level. What struck me was the two beds, neatly made, with wood-carved frames and headboards out on the upper porch. That’s where Doc sleeps. Every night, he told us.
Doc Clyne was kind enough to open his ranch he’s tended for decades to about a hundred of us to hear his son’s band, Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, play music for us all weekend.
Doc is a sweetheart of an old man who’s quick with a smile and a dirty joke. He’s about as crusty as the dirt on which his cattle graze. That’s not speaking ill. Doc would laugh at that, give a wink and say, “Sounds about right,” before walking away.
After nine months of quarantine, I needed some time away from my big city. Away from the chaos of the impending election. Away for anything that resembled a news outlet. Just a large piece of land, good music played late at night and a lot of good friends six feet away from me.
The weekend was three days. We stayed four. It wasn’t enough.
There was something my soul needed in being out in the middle of nowhere. It was a calmness I hadn’t felt in a long time. It’s been a long year.
Our last morning was quiet. I woke up shortly before the sun and stepped outside the tent, with a blanket draped over me to keep out the chill, to watch the sun come up over Apache Mountain.
I saw a dark-haired girl walking past us a ways away and waved her over. She had come down with some friends. I adored her immediately. She had let her hair go gray a while ago. She’s still young enough to be able to pull that off. I’m stuck in this weird place where I’m too old, yet too young to go naturally gray.
When I saw her on Saturday afternoon wearing these enormous tortoiseshell sunglasses, I knew she was my people.
Emma came over to check out our sizeable tent. She told us she was going to be camping for the next 8–10 months. She works for a non-profit that no longer has a physical office. So long as she has an internet connection, she’s fine.
As I’m standing there listening to her, the sound of roosters crowing behind me near the ranch’s bunkhouse, it’s just made sense. Of course. Living in a tent for nine months just no longer seems odd.
As we headed back out the dirt road toward the pavement we saw an old truck heading our way with heeler dogs peering out from the bed, practically standing on top of the truck.
We recognized the driver immediately.
“You girls staying for a few days?” Doc asked when we stopped as our cars met on the narrow road.
We told him we were heading back home and he told us that next year, we should just plan to stay the week. That sounded like a fine idea. I didn’t want to go back home. I didn’t want to go back to the office. I wanted a few more days of cold mornings and Sonoran sunrises.
Those few days on the ranch adjusted something in me like that moment you crack your back and feel like everything lines up again. It reminded me that there is a world outside of windows where there are no windows, just space. Quiet. Stars in the sky you can actually see.
There’s something we get from land we can’t get from anything else. There’s a beauty there that man can’t make. Sure, we can plant trees and build houses but it’s not the same.
There’s a connection that goes beyond what we find in people. It happens on a two beer hike when a stampede of cattle veer and cross right in front of you.
We all need this from time to time. We need a chance to strip life down to see it for what it really is: raw, natural, beautiful, and surprising as a cattle stampede.
We need to go back to where we come from and where we all end up. The dirt of the earth. We need to find what our soul loves and what is important in the grand scheme of time. Invoke the spirit of Henry David Thoreau. He was on to something.
When we do this, we change. We reset. I came out of that long weekend with a shift in perspective I needed. I’m not built for a life of never-ending to-do lists and busywork that fill our time but not our hearts. There are more quiet mornings with beautiful sunrises ahead of me and I want to see them.
Doc and Emma are on to something, too. Maybe life is meant for us to fall asleep under the stars more often only to wake up filled with wonder instead of anxiety. Sometimes, we all need to go back to the wild to keep that part of our soul from withering away.
*From time to time, I just get itchy. The older I get, the more it happens:
I’m a Woman and I Don’t Want It All
As a matter of fact, can you take some of your crap back, please?