More Valleys Than Hills
November 26, 2019 – Gleeson, Arizona
Winter winds tear through the mountains, signaling a change in the weather. They have destroyed what was left of our big tent, the one where we began this journey. The winds are followed by steady, pelting rain that finds its way through gaps in the tarps we set up in a futile attempt to protect our stuff. Clothes that weren’t in boxes were soaking wet, but that wasn’t the worst of it. Two days later, I discovered my precious Nikon camera sitting in a puddle of water. Normally I keep it in the car, but for some reason I’d thrown it in the tent behind my clothes and forgotten about it. It’s been drying out for 3 days now, but I think it’s beyond repair.
Brent has been working, helping our friend Dave dismantle a trailer on one of his rental properties. It’s tough, physical labor with its share of hazards. The other day, both of them fell through the rotting floor—Brent emerged with only torn pants and a sore crotch, but Dave fell on his side and broke four ribs. He’s doing surprisingly well despite his injury.
I wish I could say the same for Brent and I. We’ve been arguing non-stop, and I’m temporarily staying at my neighbor Ed’s house. No doubt this has much to do with Brent’s physical condition. He has weaned himself off both of his medications. Getting off the Lyrica wasn’t so bad since his doctor in Washington had already given him reduced doses of the drug in order to taper off, and he experienced only mild discomfort. The Duloxetine, an anti-depressant, was more difficult. He’d been planning to get off both drugs for some time, but the lack of Arizona health insurance pushed him to do it sooner than anticipated. He’s getting most of the classic withdrawal symptoms, nausea, irritability, anxiety, nightmares, and I pray they will end soon.
It’s nice staying in a warm, dry house, but living with Ed is fraught with its own issues. He’s always been attracted to me, but his feelings are not reciprocated. I see him as a friend, nothing more. I’ve told him as much, but that hasn’t discouraged him. Yesterday, I noticed he’d re-arranged the furniture. The couch had been pulled up in front of the TV, replacing the two chairs that used to be there. If I wanted to watch TV, I had to join him on the couch. At various times, he wanted to “give me a kiss”, massage my feet, hold my hand. ARGGGH. What to do?
I love Ed as a friend—he’s full of wisdom, fascinating to talk to, and very mellow. He has helped immensely with my own issues. Last night he put me into a very relaxed state and had me associate it with a word. Now, when I’m stressed, I can repeat that word to myself 3 times and my brain immediately returns to that relaxed state. Pretty amazing, and I hope it continues to work for me. But the rest I can do without.
The hillsides here are dotted with houses, but only a few are occupied year round. People come and go, some just for the holidays, some to avoid the cold Midwest winters. Many of the dwellings have been abandoned completely, wooden houses left to decay under the relentless Arizona sun. If only we could pluck one off its roost and move it over to our property.
Ed likes to say about the mountains we live in, “they will either heal you or toss you out.” There have been many, like Doctor John, who have come and gone. The ex-doctor suffered from PTSD, and recurring nightmares, pursued by vengeful ghosts for the sins he committed in Vietnam—rape, pillage, murder. Ed, who knew him well, helped build his house. There were hiding places throughout– secret cubbyholes built by Dr. John to house his guns and ammunition. Late at night, dressed in camouflage clothing, he would prowl the hills and ravines of Oakdale Ranches. No one knew where he went or what he did, but everyone feared his mad behavior, everyone but Ed, who held the secret to calming him down. Now Dr. John is gone, his house abandoned. He’s in California now, jailed with four felony counts, another casualty of the mountains.
I’m hoping Brent and I will work things out, break out of this maze of negativity we’re stuck in. Tonight, for the first time in days, we’ll spend the night together.