Pilgrimage; or, the creek and the peak

I finally bought the tickets. In July I am going on a semi-irregular pilgrimage — two pilgrimages strung together into one, actually.

First I’m going to Illinois, to Ingersoll Scout Reservation — home. Sometime in the midst of whatever camp staff reunion activities they have planned, I’m going to steal away to Beaver Bend, that 90-degree crook in the Cedar Creek. I’ll sit on the rocks. I’ll scuff at the ground, imagining a fire ring constructed with rocks we dragged up from the bank. I’ll climb the goat path to the Artesian Well. And so on.

Then I will go out to Las Vegas. I told Joe that I’d arrive on a Friday morning. That’s sort of true. My flight arrives just before midnight on Thursday, then I’m renting a car and driving to Death Valley. In the twilight I’m going to climb to Corkscrew Peak.  I don’t know what I’ll do there, maybe just sit on the rocks again. Maybe I’ll read some Desolation Angels there — “And I will die, and you will die, and we all will die, and even the stars will fade out one after another in time.” — which seems fitting because I’ll be starting from Jack’s hometown. Or maybe I’ll read a bit of Desert Solitaire — “The desert says nothing. Completely passive, acted upon but never acting, the desert lies there like the bare skeleton of Being, spare, sparse, austere, utterly worthless, inviting not love but contemplation.”

These are places that, fundamentally, seem to remain constant, though my memory of them stretches and distorts. These are places where I go to measure time and my passage through it. Forgive me my anxiety. These trips are too few and far between. Besides, who knows if this will be the last? Perhaps I should be ashamed of my nostalgia for rocks and rivers, peaks and creeks, things and places. I’m not.

(And in both places I have something to leave behind.)

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