08.09.2009 – 13.09.2009
Wadley: Círculo Completo
Again, with the rain and cold. I'd hoped that once I got back to the sacred desert known as Huiricuta by the Huichol Indians, where I began this spectacular journey, the Great Spirit would smile upon me and the weather would be good. I thought perhaps I’d get one more lucky break on this trip… that my ride from Zacatecas back to Wadley on the way North to the Texas border would be a good one. Why I thought that, I can’t tell you. Maybe it was because I felt like I’d endured so many unpleasant terror rides already, and I deserved a nice easy ride.
Then I stepped back and gave myself a swift virtual slap in the face. Why did I feel like I’d earned anything at all? There had been nothing sacrificed. Nothing really labored or even offered. It was the rainy season in Mexico, so what did I expect? It rains during the rainy season. That's why they call it "the rainy season."
I’d made it this far and had escaped some fairly dodgy situations completely unscathed. I should be utterly thrilled that I’d made it this far in one piece with some magnificent stories to tell, and that soon I would cross the border back into Texas. Besides, what’s the problem with a little rain and chilly weather? I’d already endured much worse already and I shouldn't be dwelling on the minutia of temporary discomfort.
It was about that time that I pulled over just out of Zacatecas to gas up before heading toward Huiricuta. Almost as soon as I’d given up on self-pity to simply accept the hand I’d currently been dealt, that the clouds began to part. Sunshine started streaming down and washed the entire desert landscape in fresh desert hues. I asked the fellow filling my tank details about the free highway I was about to take toward Wadley and how long he thought it would take to get there. He asked me how fast my bike would go. I told him nearly 200km per hour at maximum throttle. His eyebrows raised and told me I’d make it easily in an hour and a half. I asked, “By the map it looks like easily three hours… are you sure?” He confirmed the estimate and added that the highway is straight, flat, no curves, and empty.
Oh yes! It probably wasn’t the smartest decision I’d ever made, but for an entire hour I maintained 115mph and passed only one pickup truck along the desert highway. My being was again completely immersed and present with the road and my surroundings. The cool, dry desert breeze to my back… little puffy clouds floating above in an ocean of royal blue…. the bike’s motor at an steady drone that served as mantra…. and again, I felt that sensation of the “me” not even being there at all. It’s hard to describe what that feels like. But, I now know it’s not necessarily imperative to have the help of peyote to get into that sacred mind space.
As I passed the one and only pick-up truck on that highway, I noticed it was full of people under a large plastic tarp. As I passed, I noticed three of them had cameras and were trying to take photos of me passing the truck. I smiled.
Don Thomas was pleased to see me, partly I suppose because there weren’t many rent-paying bohemians passing through lately. And partly because I’d once again made it back in one piece and he wanted to know of the places I’d been this time. He told me the whole place was empty and handed me the key to my favorite room with the blue deer painted on the wall.
It wasn’t long before another bohemian traveler showed up. This time, an Argentinian that turned out to also have an incredible fascination with photography. I showed him the ropes of Don Thomas' place and told him about the farmer who comes by once a week (today) with fresh fruits and vegetables for cheap. He didn’t know what peyote cactus looks like or how to clean it, etc. So I agreed once again to indoctrinate my fellow would-be peyotero on to how to cut a rug with Señor Mescalito.
All went well after I’d answered about the hundredth question about photography and stated I’d answer just one more before we had to focus on getting our minds clear for the peyote “ceremony”. I can’t really have the kind of experience I'm after when I’m functioning as a psychedelic tour guide because I’m always looking after the inductee and making sure they’re doing ok with the trip. They usually follow all of my advice and there’s rarely a problem. But, I try to keep my head focused on their having a great experience instead of my own. I suppose that’s my little way of “paying it forward.”
It was a great afternoon with perfect weather. The Argentinian mostly wondered around making photos in the desert. When he came back to show me what he’d captured, I was blown away. All of this time I’ve spent in the desert, I never thought to focus on the main thing I was trying to avoid, i.e. incredibly sharp cactus thorns. The thorns or “espinas” in Huiricuta are particularly brutal. Well hidden, and perpetually finding their way completely through your boot’s sole and or embedded deep in your hands and legs. Over the years, I’ve learned to keep the unwanted barbs out of my flesh, but I’d never thought to turn my lens to what I’d always feared most… the freakin' thorns. What a revelation!
After a good day of rest, I went back out to the desert to work on my stone peace sign and confer with Señor Mescalito alone. The Argentinian wanted to experience spending several days alone in the desert and so we bid each other farewell. I’ve done the several days in the desert thing before and decided I preferred to sleep in a bed and not wake up with nose, ears, mouth, eyes, etc. full of fine desert powder when I woke up in the morning.
To my surprise, my stone peace sign was indeed very much intact and someone had spelled out about my peace sign in the same white stones I’d been using, G-R-A-C-I-A-S. Again, I smiled and spent the remainder of the afternoon adding more stones to my peace sign while I practiced forgetting the “me” as I focused on J. Krishnmurti’s line “the observer IS the observed”.
Just as I was completely getting to that transcendent place and focused on the mountain the Huichol Indians call “Quemado”, I noticed the clouds seemed awfully darker than they’d previously seemed. In a short time, they got significantly darker and more ominous. They were definitely advancing toward me and no longer looked like a distant storm that would simply miss me, but a giant storm that would engulf the entire desert. The Eastern horizon was completely blackened with cloud and I could see a thin line of what looked like fog at the base of the mountain.
Strangely, I was not even the slightest bit afraid. I finished the part of the peace sign I was working on and evaluated the horizon one more time. The thin line of fog was much larger now and definitely not fog, but the powdery desert dust being pounded up into the air several meters of hard rain. The entire sky looked like Armageddon was upon me. The sound of thunder rolled like giants playing marbles with planet-sized boulders. Lighting shot all along the mountaintops and I decided I might ought to go ahead and start walking back to Wadley in seek of shelter.
Normally, I would have been in a panic at this point. But, I wasn’t. I walked calmly for the hour it took me to get back to Wadley. I’d completed the section of my peace sign that I wanted to get done before heading back to Texas and managed to get back to Don Thomas' compound, take my hammock down out of the lone mesquite tree outside my room and move my bike to a place where the kickstand wouldn’t sink into mud when the storm hit.
I lit a couple candles in my room and waited for the desert storm onslaught. The wind roared and I could barely see anything out my door through all the dirt in the air. I wondered if maybe I should look for better shelter that was more sturdy than the adobe room I was in. Only, everything in this town was basically made out of the same stuff. Lightning cracked, thunder rolled right over my room like it was going to crush anything that wasn’t a mountain. Still, I remained perfectly calm.
At one point I even wrapped a shirt around my face to filter out the fine dirt that was flying everywhere and walked around in the storm to soak up some of the palpable, mystic energy. I wondered what the poor Argentinian must be going through alone out in the desert, but what could be done? I had no idea where he was and the storm was already bearing down all over the entire desert.
Instead of hunkering down under shelter, I walked calmly out into the storm and almost as soon as I’d got an unsafe distance away from my shelter… the wind died down, the clouds began to break open to expose a golden sunset spraying it’s last rays across the desert. Just like that. So surreal and stunning. I then woke up out of my “calm” and hurried back to my room to get my camera. As I focussed on grabbing a few photos by the desert cemetery outside of the town, I thought of the Argentinian still out in the desert and how relieved he must feel that the storm had at least been short. And, how he too was being treated to such a magical display.
The next day I packed up the bike and bid Don Thomas farewell until the next time. The ride to the border was mostly an easy one and this time I’d taken a new route through a canyon pass just Southeast of Linares. An absolutely amazing route with dramatic views and constant curves that eventually wear down your strength, but the views give you another kind of energy that tends to get you through it. I wanted to stop and photograph just about all of that route, but I also wanted to save something new to shoot for my next journey into Mexico.
I made Nuevo Laredo in time to find a cheap room and watch the sun set from a cool swimming pool. As the sun set I thought about the journey and all of the spectacular vistas I’d seen and all of the way-too-close calls I’d had.
I wondered why I’d put myself into many of those often unpleasant situations and decided… good and bad, there was no denying… that I’d certainly grown some and I'd not only explored more alien Mexican space, but had also plumbed new depths of inner space.
There was no question. For more than two months I had truly lived.
As the sun sunk past that last sliver on the horizon and traded out the gold for a lavender twilight, I thanked the Great Spirit and we smiled.