Queen of the Walkabout
Joined: 15 Jan 2004
| Posted: 8/26/2004, 5:47 pm
|I am not sure if I will make this story public; in case I do I will be deliberately vague. This spot in the desert is somewhere in the southwest. As far as I know it is undiscovered in more recent times except for a few people. This story is not about hiking per se; but the spirit of a place, of strangers who can care for the land and love it, united but unknown to each other.
Paradise Found is a place that was visited and rehab was begun in the 1970's. This is per several journals in an ammo can. The place has a register, which contains entries of six individuals or representatives. I am the most recent member #6. The first member is now represented my his son, he can no longer travel here. He is a Milton lover, this is how Paradise Found got its name.
Paradise Found has natural and man made wonders. The surrounding desert holds no clue of this place. The old road has thankfully degenerated and disappeared, you must hike in overland. I stumbled onto this place about 8 years ago wandering around in my Jeep, and hiking cross country. I read the entries and realized what a special group of people this is and what a special place. I have taken no one here, not even my good friend Jerry. May this place lie in obscurity forever. I think everyone has a place like this, a secret place, so good and wonderful you are hesitant to share.
The rules of Paradise Found are you do not only visit here, you are active to restore it and keep it clean. Old mining trash has been cleaned up; in the manmade portion a couple of sculptures have been erected to oversee the place in our absence. The one is a man, about 7 feet tall, and his companion, a dog. The sculptures are made from material at the site, nothing is brought in, you use what debris you find, thus recycling it. Those who have worked here last, leave notes on what has been done and the "wish list"; what is desirable. All work is accepted and you do not dissasemble others' work.
The members do not know each other. I have never had contact with them; although the last time I was there some email addresses were recorded. The psuedonym I use there is not the same as this board. One member is Firefigher NYC, he or she has not signed in since 9/11- I hope they are ok. Several years sometimes goes by between entries. Journal discussions include world events, some personal antecedents (no names) and of course the area of Paradise Found, what it means to us, who or what the sculptured man represents, his world and life. Some discussions are funny, like whether the dog should have a collar or run free.
My last visit is last year. I hike in, read the register, look over the area, dig out my material and hike back to my Jeep. It is bloody hot under the sun and I feel my skin about to go up in blazes. At my shady spot I get out my propane burner and fire it up. I am making the man a hat and the dog a sort of collar to make him more visible if he were to run out into the desert but not restrain him--in accordance to the wishes of the written discussions. For instance the last visitor writes: "I think the man needs a hat, after all he is out in the sun all day, and the dog needs something to let the man see him when he runs off in the distance".
I am not a metal worker, but growing up in Tennessee on the farm we worked on our own equipment and I learned, then forgot, how to weld a little bit. I have a piece of thin metal that was partially buried so not all rusted and some burlap like material. I heat up the metal over the flame holding the edges with gloves. I have a mallet and shape the metal over a pointed rock and hammer it. I want to make a cowboy style hat so I need to make a crown. I heat the edges next and start to roll the edges. Its' not pretty but it has a semblance to it. I take a tap and punch a couple of holes; I will use baling wire to tie the hat on his head. I weave and wire the burlap patches, old and dirty to form the collar for the dog.
I love working with my hands, in the shade, sitting in the dirt in the stifling heat. It is silent except for the stealthy wind which disturbs a few branches over my head, and rustles the top of the Jeep. I pretend I am an old native american woman 500 years ago, making my wares for a trading trip.
The next day early before its an oven I hike in with my contribution. I stand on a rock and carefully fasten the hat to the mans head. He is made of many materials, old wire, a few boards, some metal pieces and mesh. His right arm just out and holds a delicate wind chime, made of small nails, metal pieces and wire. In the light wind the tinkling is magical, its very faint and does not resonate a long distance. I fasten the dogs adornment around his neck, he stands near the mans left hand with his head high. His tail is a mesquite branch.
I sit in the pool to cool off, up to my neck in my clothes and with my hat on. The water is still a bit cool. The sun crosses the sky; too soon it is time to leave. I carefully record my visit here and a few other notes in the record. It has been almost a year since the last person was here before me.
I hike out, my clothes almost dry upon my return to the Jeep. I think how different this is to say "The Burning Man" - which IMO should be renamed Sex, Drugs, RocknRoll and Performance Art- in that order, which I attended on the Black Rock desert in the early 90's. The artificiality there is glaring, while here the sculptures seem natural.
I wonder if I will ever go back. I wonder when and if I am old will I think of this place. I wonder if it will be discovered and destroyed, paved over, or turned into some tourist attraction. I wonder if it will matter. I wonder about 6 strangers with the common goal. I just wonder.