I come to the desert, I suppose, to reflect. I always have even before Jon lured me away over a decade ago.
I sit here now a day after his death seven years ago, watching the sun rise in the multi colored hue only a desert has. I needed this, a good long cry in the silence that only a desert has.
I sat in an apartment seven years ago. I watched the sun rise through eucalyptus trees. The birds Jon and I fed landed on our porch and looked at me. They seemed to know. A sense of silence, a feeling of incomprehensible space. Jon was gone. He was not at a hospital, or hospice, or somewhere where I could reach him. He was not there. No laughter. No jokes. Nothing. The birds flew away. I walked down those apartment stairs. I went away.
A seven-year adventure, another story, another day. I return to the desert today and think of the day before, the anniversary of his death. I was in Riverside. I got up early to walk the dogs up Mount Rubidoux.
We were walking as we do. I was lost in memory when a man walked up to us. He was a walker I’d seen before, one of those like my father, seventy-something, gonna live forever type of guys. He wore a black baseball hat with the word DIRECTOR in white caps. He smiled real big.
“What are you going to do with your day?” The director said.
I couldn’t help but smile back. Sometimes smiles are contagious.
“I’m going to walk these dogs. Then, I’m going to go to work.”
He laughed and asked what I did for work. I told him I taught.
The Director said, “Good for you! And do you walk these dogs after work?”
“Yes, sir, I do,” I said.
“And you? What are you doing today?”
He let out a gut laugh.
“Easy peasy. That’s the way I do,” was the Director’s reply.
He, then, thought and added, “As we age, we know what to do and what not to do, am I right?”
“Yessir, you are,” I said and added I was surprised at how much I liked aging.
He laughed and said, “ I can tell you do. Keep doing what you’re doing and have a wonderful day.”
With that, the Director walked past me and disappeared around the path wrapping around Mount Rubidoux.
A woman asked me the other day if Jon sends me signs or little gifts.
“He does,” I answered.
This year it was the Director.
The Director made me smile. I smile now through these tears cleaning me on this desert valley floor. The sun now golden through the creosote, the desert plant that smells like rain.
“Time to get up,” I almost hear the Director whisper in the desert wind.