The Sounds of Silence
October 14, 2019 – Gleeson, Arizona
Getting out of Washington was no easy task. On top of his torn rotator cuff, Brent had thrown out his back and the slightest movement was causing him pain. Summer was over, and the dry warm weather had turned into cold, wet drizzle. Most of the campsites at Penrose Point were now unoccupied. We managed to put new sides on the trailer, then stain and urethane the plywood in between rain showers, but I honestly didn’t care how the trailer looked. Each delay fueled my yearning to get to Arizona. On the evening of the 4th, Brent went to bed early, and I started filling the truck with all the shells and rocks we’d collected on the beach—got them all in with some room to spare. Brent had suggested we put all the heavy stuff in the truck to ease the weight of the trailer, but poor Betty was so low to the ground, she looked like she’d drag over the slightest bump in the road.
When I bought the Ford Ranger (Betty) I thought she had a 6-cylinder engine, but it turned out to be a 4-cylinder. The Gypsy, as we call our trailer, had gained a lot of weight since we bought her—she was wider around the middle, and packed lots of extra lumber inside. But at least she wouldn’t be packed with the heavy stuff.
We decided to take the back roads instead of the highway. It would add extra time to our trip, but would give us a much more scenic and relaxing ride. Besides, we weren’t sure if Betty could keep up with the cars on the highway. It’s a little humiliating being passed by semi trucks. One thing we didn’t foresee was the mountainous terrain. Instead of driving over the mountain ranges, we seemed to be literally following them the whole way down. Once we reached the top, it was deceptively flat until we had to make the descent. Everywhere we went, people made the same comment as they looked incredulously at our small pickup and makeshift trailer. “That’s a heavy load you’ve got there,” they’d say. But Betty could handle it. On the downside of the hills, we’d step on the gas, going as fast as we could to gather momentum for the uphill climb.
Brent likes to drive at night, and I don’t blame him. By the time we reached Reno, the daytime temperatures had soared, so nights were more comfortable to drive. I figured he’d stop by 11 or 12, but he wanted to keep going. It was 2 am before he quit driving, which was fine if you get to sleep until 10:00, but by 7:30 or 8:00 the temperature in our sleeping loft was unbearably hot and I had to get up. We slept at Walmart or truck stops—no sense in getting a campsite when you arrive that late.
Three and a half days after we left Washington, we pulled into my property near Gleeson, Arizona. Gleeson is a ghost town in the Southeastern corner of Arizona at an elevation of about 5,000 feet. Summer there can get uncomfortably hot, with temperatures in the 90s, but winters stay relatively cool. Once the sun goes down, temperatures dip to the 50s, so sleeping is comfortable. In January, 29 degree nighttime temperatures are not unusual and it can snow once or twice a year.
It’s another world here, one that’s closer to the America of 200 years ago than it is to anything I’ve experienced. Rolling, scrubby hills dot the horizon, with the occasional house perched on top. Though the trees (mostly mesquite and scrub oak) are short and stubby, the silence goes on forever. There is no traffic noise, no airplanes flying overhead. Sunrise and sunsets are spectacular, and the nighttime skies are dotted with thousands of stars. Our property and the acreage around it once belonged to a cattle ranch and cows roam freely through the area. It’s part of the purchase agreement and gives us a break on our taxes. Loki loves it here. He’s fascinated by the cows and can sit there staring at them forever. One of our neighbors cleared out a small space for the trailer near the dirt road to my property, but that’s not where we’ll stay. The other side of the property, which is harder to access, is close to the well and power lines and there are lots of beautiful spots available for the trailer. We just need to decide on one, then figure out how to access it.
Ed, my neighbor, invited us to a cross planting the other day in Douglas, Arizona near the Mexico border. It’s a group of volunteers (including Franciscan monks and Native Americans) who plant commemorative crosses near the spots where immigrants have died trying to cross the desert. I was surprised that Brent agreed to come, since he’s not exactly pro-immigration, but he joined in the ceremonies. Ed’s daughter, who is a devout Christian, remained on the sidelines.
I’m happy to be living near Ed, one of the wisest, kindest, and most interesting men I’ve ever met. It’s been almost four years since I’ve seen him, and he looked frailer and a bit sadder. He’s 86 years old now and suffers from macular degenerative disorder. It’s hard to realize by looking at him that he has lost 85% of his vision. He walks without a cane, still plays the drums, and lives in a beautiful home that he built himself 30 years ago. Recently his daughter moved in from the Midwest to take care of him and I’m sure he’s frustrated that he can no longer drive or get around by himself. I share coffee with him in the morning, greeted by the two pregnant donkeys he recently saved from a rescue shelter.
We’re slowly getting set up, though don’t want to put in anything permanent, since we’ll be relocating soon. We bought a couple of privacy tents and staked them down carefully since the wind can get intense up here. One houses a makeshift shower, which works well, though we’re not heating the water yet. The other is the “loo”, a wood box with a toilet seat that Brent put together so we no longer have to use the bushes. There are lots of mesquite trees on my land and they’re painful to rub against. Sharp spikes dig into your flesh and if you don’t pull them out right away, they rake through your skin. I’ve learned to look down when I walk since the desert is home to rattlesnakes and scorpions.
It feels amazing to have a place to call home. There’s no park ranger telling us it’s time to leave, no loading and unloading boxes, and plenty of blue skies and sunshine. Best of all, we have friends and neighbors to support us. In two days, I’ll head to Hawaii to celebrate my granddaughter’s birthday. Brent will join me in a week or so. Meanwhile, Kevin, our resident road digger will be making a path to our new home site. Can’t wait to see what it looks like when we get home.