(Death Valley, California – Monday, March 22, 2010)
We’ve been waking right around sunrise each morning. The desert birds have a lot to talk about, and their celebratory tones invite participation…that fact, and I’m needing to stiffly extricate myself from sleeping bag and sardine can tent. I leave my sleeping companions alone so they can spread out just a bit more.(Did I mention that we accidentally brought the two-person tent instead of the four-person? Yes, the quarters are beyond cozy.)
Today, after a marginal camp breakfast, I underestimated how quickly over-easy eggs will cook in a good cast iron skillet at – 203 feet below sea level, we headed south to Badwater Road and points beyond. Our destination: Badwater Basin, elevation -282 feet, the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere.
As we navigated yet another long, mostly straight, two lane highway, a small squeak spoke up. “What’s that?” I asked Sarah.
“Not us, “ she replied.
“Hmmmm,” I responded with a frown.
After another mile, while passing a sign that read “Next Services 73 miles” another squeak – confirmed with windows rolled down for better hearing – that it did/does indeed belong to us. Or, it belongs to Becky, our steadfast bright red Cruiser. For this trip, we’re calling her “The Beckinator.”
Sarah and Ginny continued their gaze of appreciation at the Pinamint Mountains to the west and the Black Mountains to the East. I, on the other hand, immediately begin to fret about the Squeak. I moderated our speed, breathed deeply, and said my millionth prayer for no mishaps.
I decided to be proactive with my fretting. You know that old trick where you think of the worst case scenario, acknowledge it, contemplate all the ways one would deal with said horrific scenario – and then release it? I did that. I played out visions of tow trucks, being hauled to Las Vegas, putting the girls on a plane home, waiting for car parts, expensive mechanics and a long, lonely drive home weeks from now after having suffered the full wrath of the Squeak.
It then occurred to me: that’s not the worst that could happen.
The worst that could happen would be one of us getting hurt (or worse) and with an intuitive wash, I began to breathe deeply and peacefully. We are well and whole, and all the rest is just idle squeaking and desert dust in the cogs of the car.
Then, as if for confirmation, Sarah looked at me long and hard. “Are you worrying again?” She probed. I shrugged. And she raised her eyebrows and said in her most knowing voice of wisdom, “When you worry about stuff, I worry about you. Please stop.”
Do we all have a squeak that occasionally stops us from seeing the world around us and steals away our ability to be present and attentive? There’s no question about it. Sometimes, our squeaks actually manifest into something that requires action, but mostly they just work us over from time to time. The trick perhaps, is to treat the squeak not as an element of ominous foreshadowing but as a reminder that although we have no control over the events of our lives, we do choose the attitude with which we’ll deal with it.
Not suddenly, but finally and wonderfully, the majestic mountains and the stunning whiteness of the salt flats and the brilliant cerulean sky climbed into the driver’s seat.