Frank Lloyd Wright once said, “That if you took the United States and turned it on its side and shook it, everything loose would end up in Los Angeles.”
Frank had a point.
I left LA.
Left the city, its non-safety and it’s noise. It was time to go. I left the glamour, if you want to call it that, and all the accouterments that go with show biz. I left because I needed silence. Introspection. I needed to travel. I needed to understand. Not just what happened, but myself too.
I just needed time to think. When you go through a catastrophe as I had, you tend to become conservative. Remember Jack Crabbe in the movie “Little Big Man?” If you don’t you should. There’s time when you just got to lay down your guns. That way you won’t get shot.
You know, it’s difficult to create something truly remarkable when you’re static. When you stay in one place. There’s a psychic redundancy that’s unavoidable when we become stationaryor too stationary. I wanted to avoid it. Without diversity there can be no beauty. Without beauty there is no life and no creativity. Perhaps that is why I travel so much. When you go out into the world, you learn new things and confront new ideas. If you’re lucky, you meet people carrying their own ideas forth in such a manner that if you take the time to engage with them and learn, you’ll come away with original concepts all on your own.
That’s what I did.
Travel is essential to growing. It takes you on a trail that even if you’ve planned each and every mile, you still don’t know the “true” road until you’re on it. It’s the one not at the edge of the field, but the one going through in the field that matters. You just can’t know what the outcome will be. You can say, “I need to get from here to there, and that’s it!” But it doesn’t work that way. You don’t tell the road how and where you want to go, not this kind of road I’m talking about. No, it tells you where it’s going to take you and sir, well, you’re just along for the ride.
I travel mostly alone. Usually, I go by plane, sometimes eight to ten flights a week. There’s fatigue, but there’s also a strange energy in it all. The people I meet and with whom I connect, the places and the possibilities, the personalities, and the fellow adventurers. It’s all part of a larger scheme written in the wind, for sure, and not necessarily in the mind of a mere man. Remember the song? “Cast Your Fate to the Wind.” Well, I was flying with the breezes and that’s a natural fact. Did I know where I was going? No, I just moved forward with the wind at my back. I know it sounds corny and “old westy,” but that’s what I was doing and exactly how I felt.
So it’s no wonder I chose to take the less road less traveled, as the famous author once said. I did it alone, but I had my dreams as my companion and as company they have a way of steering you and advising you along the way. Always remember to their quiet voices because they are never, never wrong.
At the edge of the Cleveland National Forest, southeast of LAX, I left my car on a high and bushy deserted hillside road. I think it was the lonely E Grande Road. The desert far below seemed to encompass everything. On the right, a curved side of Lake Henshaw showed itself from beneath the hills. And the mountains in the distance were clear of clouds. The sky was blue pearl.
I took the phone, map, compass and the backpack, stuffed only with the things I absolutely needed. Going down the hill, I turned and took a last glance of what I knew. Then, with blood pumping hard I strolled down to the desert toward the mountains ahead.
The surface of the Earth was a barren and cracked wasteland. Devoid of obvious life, the yellow ochre ground was cracked like lightning made out of shadows stomped an imprint designed to last for centuries. And, it was dry. This went on for some distance. Off in the horizon I knew there was a road or highway to town of Ranchita, my eventual destination. I was crossing straight into the Anza Borrego Desert, which, aside from the Sahara can be, foot-for-foot, one of the most forbidding and inhospitable stretches of real estate on planet Earth. That, and Death Valley some 200 miles northwest.
The map and the compass kept me on point, but being in such a land for the first time was both astonishing and puzzling so I had no landmarks I could rely on other than my gut intuition and the bliss of warm desert air, heavy with oxygen.
It took me a few hours to cross the cracked landscape. I passed a couple of county roads and finally came to CA 79. There, I turned south to looking for the San Felipe Road.
After hours of walking on the dusty and cracked soil, it was strange to have asphalt under my feet again. The flat and blackened surface was blistering hot beneath my boots. Almost enough to melt. It was winding through hills and packs of squat trees. But as I walked, the trees were fewer and fewer, as the reddish desert was taking over again, leaving only scattered water-parched bushes hoping for the miracle of a rainstorm, which of course never came.
Now, I think it’s wonderful how an unmarked, untraveled and invisible path can finally take you to something known... to the Road.
When I stepped atop the Montezuma-Borrego Highway, my mother came to mind and her sweet and kind generous nature accompanied me through that deserted land. Thinking of her, as I walked on the long and empty road ahead of me, was reassuring, comforting, and in a strange manner, fulfilling. Her name is Sissel Elisabeth Wiik and she was a speech therapist. As a single mom, she raised my sister and myself. She was incredibly encouraging, pursuing and exploring any interests I had with great enthusiasm. Her mantra was simple and she told me repeatedly: I could master anything I would set my mind on. Sissel Elisabeth Wiik helped me master many things. And it didn’t matter what the obstacle was. She assumed correctly that no obstacle could not be overcome. She is the strongest and most selfless person I know and she became my spiritual guide in a land where there were many, many spiritual guides just awaiting an apprentice to mentor through life. It is, after all, on the borderland of Carlos Castenada’s famous journeys.
Ask anyone who has traveled through these desert-parched lands.
After many hours I entered the town of Ranchita. Remember the old American folk song, “Thirsty Boots?” Well, that was me and how I felt. Ranchita was a large town, difficult to describe, with it’s one storied houses. But, it felt peaceful. I happily remained there for the night and had the best sleep I had experienced in years.
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