The Trickster Diaries/Chapter 6
The course I created began at Belle, where I’d set up camp. Half trail, half road, roughly a six mile loop at an elevation of 3900 feet. And even though I knew almost nothing about Mantra Yoga, a running mantra came to me one morning: “color of the mountain,” perfectly covering each inhalation, each exhalation.
I was back into it. I was moving on, wherever on was. Viewing earth one night from the perspective of NGC 1300 had seen to that. How can anything that goes on between humans down here, from there—a spiral galaxy 60 million light years away—amount to anything more than a wave crashing on a beach, crawling up then crawling back down to rejoin sea? So, for the time being, I’d accepted the wisdom of NGC 1300 as my personal equivalent to a Buddhist doctrine suggesting we take daily life experiences as seriously as we take dreams.
So far so good.
But “on” had to be someplace.
My book was back in my head. Seemed something very elemental was wrong with it. Cadence? Counterpoint? It was simpler than that. One early evening I took a drive down into the low desert towards Cottonwood, hoping the answer would come to me. What was I missing?
I was the only set of headlights on the road under a deep violet-magenta sky that seemed backwards, upside down: darker at the horizon than higher up. Something was in the road in front of me. Dead center of the road. A tortoise. Feet and head out but going nowhere. Do I interfere with fate, or am I fate? Am I dreaming?
I pulled over on to the dirt shoulder. Headlights were coming the other way. I got out of the car and walked across the road, then 20 feet up the road so that I was even with the tortoise. We looked at each other. The headlights disappeared, then reappeared. The car slowed down, swerved, missed the tortoise, and drove on.
Texas. How could I possibly have forgotten?
Three months ago, back in Santa Cruz, I’d sent Michele a rough draft of my novel. (It was she standing next to me when I’d snapped that photo of Roger and Jeannine and Hooker Oak some 20 years earlier). Now a professor of English Lit at Southwest Texas State U in San Marcos, she responded almost instantly. She was keen on helping me fix it, get it in publishing shape. The last words in her letter were:
“Just come here!
Uneasy as I was about the love part, her invitation seemed, from every other angle, the perfect way of disappearing.
I got back in the car. Engine still running. Headlights on. Tortoise gone. I thought: “Well, they can move quickly. That or it was never even there.”
That night I had a rare, lucid dream. San Francisco. Roger and Jeannine’s old three story Victorian in the upper Haight. Jeannine was coming through the side gate with a bag of groceries. I was in the backyard. I didn’t want her to see me so I willed myself up, like a silent helicopter, even with the rooftops, hovering.
I woke up, packed up, hooked up with the eastbound I10.