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December 19, 2022

Passing Lane Ahead

Seen by midday light, mountains and mesas are stagnant in shimmered umber, only coming alive at late dusk or early dawn; pastels breathed from a strident-colored palette: lavender, indigo, a tinge of verdigris, before aflame with citrine, peach, and rose, as animals scour the desert sand.


Out here – Laughlin, Needles, Bullhead City – Edward Abbey’s desert solitaire and solitude has lost out to the roll of dice, diesel trucks, slot machines, SUVs, and greed. Developers, politicians and corporations have won. So many others have lost.


I would like to see what it might be like, say, five hundred years after the removal of man – eradicated by his own whimsy or succumbed to natural disaster. I would like to see the highways paved over with sand and sage, the casinos haunted by bobcats, wild pigs, skunks, and other shadow seekers. I would like to see the unnatural edifices and abodes of mankind become the natural environment of the desert’s future. I would like to see the high-rise hotels and casinos – their windows broken out by storms and disintegration – become the aeries of hawks, eagles, vultures, and the waterfowl of the Colorado; if it can survive the damn dam-silting of the water unwise.  Yes, I would love to see it . . .


The eddied and current-shimmer of the moving Colorado moves me also. My eye is captured, hypnotized by staccato facets of its diamond chips; hundreds of carats per second streaming by with the sun angled low; hundreds of thousands of carats per hour siphoned off to slake mankind’s insatiable thirst; hundreds of millions of carats per day lost to the gulf sands before kissing the salted lips of Baja.


*      *      *


Wrinkled and calloused hands of an old man grip the wheel against the buffeting winds as the car runs after cloud shadows, trying to stay penumbral relative to the surrounding world. Scorched by sun splashes between islands of shade, life is only hot or cold by comparison.


On the side of the canyon road another dead wild burro thins the herd, culled by speed and inattention, both the burro’s and the driver’s. Merely another example of the onrushing clash of nature and modernity; yet he tears up at this sight of death, this death site. Sometimes, in the past, some canyon denizens erected memorials to occasional dead burros, talismans to wildness, Thoreauvian stelae. Not so much anymore. Soon all that will remain in the canyon will be the asses of the future rather than the asses of the past.


© the author

by Rick Hartwell

Rick Hartwell is a retired middle school teacher (remember the hormonally-challenged?) living in Southern California with his wife of forty-seven years, Sally (upon whom he is emotionally, physically, and spiritually dependent), two grown children, a daughter-in-law, two granddaughters, and sixteen cats! Don’t ask. Like the Transcendentalists and William Blake, he believes that the instant contains eternity.

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