I should have been writing – fulfilling promises to virtual friends and imagined readers. Instead, I was camping.
In the Colorado desert, the sky was dust and gold, especially at dawn and dusk when the light caught and the air tumbled.
The dust was everywhere and in everything; it crept and crept, being places it shouldn’t, defining shapes, building landscapes and skylines. We camped in the dust, setting up our tent along side countless others. A caravan. At least 30 individuals from Crested Butte had wandered along with us into the desert that weekend. It began with a facebook post, somewhat random acts of fate and minds aligned, calling everyone and bringing them to a small, dirty space.
Dogs raced about the campsite, makeshift and scattered. The neon shades of tents clashed with the gold of the dust and the sharp yellow of the sun burning against the trees and rocks and sand. Trails were carved throughout, bending and arching up makeshift mountains and tracing narrow ridge lines. There were bikes and fires and beer and cheap whiskey.
The mornings were early and slow. A steep hill stood between us and the only restroom for miles. Many attempts were made in bare feet, still half drunk, and hungry at dawn – few were successful. Most fell and pushed their bikes up the steep incline.
The first night, a dog named Olive Oil dug a hole in our tent.
She ran free and returned often, exploring the damage. The owner of Olive Oil was far too relaxed about the hole. He offered us whiskey.
The dust crept in throughout the day and night, staining us and everything with us a slight shimmering.
At dawn, we biked. Up Prime Cut, over to Joe’s Ridge, along Zippidy Do Da, and down countless other erratic holes in the land. Like water, filling ruts and tracing corners deeper up and then down until the mountains and ridges were a maze of bodies and sweat. Like sugar, taking pictures in the dark, tracing words in flashlights and then dissolving.
I should have been writing.
In my youth, I stole the words of others and hid them in books and on napkins. I crept, like the dust, inserting myself between window panes and imagined conversations. I extended the lives of momentary characters, imagining their realities into fiction and then, bringing chaos and sound to create poetry.
There is no need to write them, these neon strangers passing the whiskey from one mouth to the next. Around the fire, full of dust, the red veins in our makeshift mountains caught in the black, there were stories that I didn’t write or steal, words that I let sit in the sand until they were buried in more words and more sand.
Because we write with more than words.
Colors or sounds, forgotten moments and fires, the taste of someone else’s sweat, sugar, and dust.
We are always listening and misremembering histories, slipping into the present. Scattered words and pieces of stories, lost and gathered, stitched into a mismatched tapestry of ski bums and rejects, wandering the desert, looking for nothing, running from nothing, simply bathed in dust.
They are no mine, but they are me.