I’m at a certain Hot Springs Resort outside Death Valley and let’s say the word “resort” is used loosely.

It’s the kind of room where you walk in and immediately think “A lot of people have had sex here and most of them smoked.”

Who cares, though. The room gives on one side into a hallway off of which are four or five private hot springs bath rooms that if you don’t have contamination fears, which I don’t, are kind of great.

The sliding window has no screen so I slept last night open to the night-cool desert air. There’s no food or drink to speak of (I brought plenty, camping-style myself) so I opened one of my cans of double shot Starbucks espresso, heated some water in my electric kettle, threw in some instant coffee, mixed all (twice) in my travel mug, and I’m good to go for several hours.

The drive yesterday from Pasadena was lovely. I caught up on some phone calls on the way, and though I did go the wrong way on 127 from Baker for 35 miles finding myself in the East Mojave’s Cima Dunes and having to reverse track, driving with virtually no-one else on the road—and this is the height of wildflower season—was its own kind of treat. I listened to Russian pianist Maria Yudina, one of my many heroes, who was openly Catholic in Stalinist Russia and was once summoned by Stalin himself in the middle of the night to play Mozart’s Piano Concerto I believe Number 22.

After checking in, yesterday afternoon I drove through Shoshone to within 9 miles of the park (which is gigantic, with 30- or 50-mile increments between “points of interest”) border and, desirous of a hike, spotted a dirt road meandering through the desert scrub, wheeled over, parked and set out. Apparently this is BLM land which means it is open to one and all for free camping, dirt-biking and whatever.

Five minutes in, I came upon a gentleman in a somewhat soiled white T-shirt and khaki pants sitting on the tail of his pickup truck bathing his feet in a basin of water. He had set up camp there. Just like pioneer days! I imagined him panning for gold in the mornings. He had a cultured accent and was friendly without being creepy and we had a nice chat. Then I continued on and hiked up this fairly steep trail for a bit, enjoying stupendous views of the valley floor while perched on a no doubt billions-of-years-old rock escarpment.

This morning in prayer I realized all over again that my heart has become hardened against certain people. No, no, that can never be the way. “I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” [Ezekiel 36:26]. Please, PLEASE do.

I visited the (Charles and Ray, husband and wife as you may know) Eames House earlier in the week and have become entranced, like so many before me, with the Eames “philosophy” (although Charles apparently had affairs, which tarnishes the halo somewhat).

Still, “Take your pleasure seriously” has always been my own credo. Field trips are hard, but the best kind of, work.

4 Replies to “HEART OF FLESH”

  1. Anonymous says: Reply

    Thanks for this Heather. I haven't visited your blog for a while , so it's refreshing to read your humourful account. I like the way you take off, drive, listen to piano music, get lost , drink strong coffee etc…the room where lots of sex and cigs took place …ha ha …
    I do that kind of thing too….(not the sex n smoke bit! ….unfortunately anymore) I have a little hut in a field in the Yorkshire dales, you would call it a small log cabin, Poustinia , hermitage where I can 'be alone with none but thee my God'..wonderful .
    At 72, semi retired and with lots of time on my hands I like to walk and sit and think of the Kingdom here and now …..not as some far off heaven after death …know what I mean..I'm still working as a mental health chaplain in the psyche hospital …loads of fun there! I do 10 minute holy communion services for the criminally insane. The patients love them …a chance to be real before God . So now I can't stand going to normal church …seems so false and formal . Ah well . Loved your wild photos . Keep writing and communing with the Master.

    1. "A little hut in a field in the Yorkshire dales" has the same ring to me as "a vacation at a 5-star hotel in Monte Carlo" might have to another sort of person. Poustinia–ahhh. AND holy communion services for the criminally insane. That is the best of both worlds. Which in my way I have, too…Greetings from one pilgrim to another as we slouch toward Easter and many thanks.

  2. What an agreeable drive! I imagined, as you made mention of the wildflowers, fields of Black Eyed Susans forcing themselves effervescently through a dried land, as only a tough flower of their variety could so undeservingly do. Of course those are flowers of the North East, but I won't allow myself to accept that truth for the sake of my fantastical approach to following along with your stories. What I dislike about overseas travel is not having my car along; cross country travel is a favorite pastime of mine.

    We all wear tarnished halos, don't we? Maintaining hardy appearances for outsiders to admire, and even envy. Somewhere in Parched it was said you [or, perhaps if it was a quote, the original author/poet] make no distinction between the sacred and the profane. I have always loved that wording.

    I loosely quoted you the other day, while yet in Hawaii. I was picked up while hitchhiking by a man who eventually invited me to join a Native Hawaiian Ceremony to big farewell and say "mahalo" (thanks) to them. On our way we stopped to pick up lais and although he was already tardy for the ceremony (due partially to him picking me up) he drove gently, allowing others into the lane ahead of him, and sharing a little wave or smile with the other drivers. I said "my friend Heather wrote that the spiritual person isn't necessarily the one in the robe on Sunday, but instead the person who grooms their lawn for the neighbors to enjoy, the person who allows others into traffic, etc." Mmmm!!

    1. Oh if only I could remember that myself, A. Rae! To allow others into the lane ahead of me etc. EVEN WHILE LATE. Bless your friend who picked you hitch-hiking and stopped to pick up leis. I'm sure you and I will meet in the flesh one day, wandering about in some God-forsaken field…stay safe on your travels. I am glad for your spirit and companionship.


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