I’ll Take You There

You should see this place for yourself. It’s hidden. I won’t tell you how to get here. I will, however, take you. It’s a spot not too obvious. The location is not misplaced. Being here does not arouse suspicion. There are no human tracks, and no litter unless you count the occasional 400 to 700-year-old pottery shard. This is not Zion, Grand Canyon, or Moab. And that’s the point.

We need hidden spots—secret places, renewal places, places that resonate, places we can internalize, that defy attempts to bring them to language. Mine are in the desert. Hard to reach places. Blood-red boulder places where clouds blush, reflecting the land’s rosy hue. We moved to Albuquerque last September so we could visit them.

I first saw this place on Google Earth. From 20,000 feet aloft, I followed a meridian of cinder cones before looking east to an arc of three basalt-capped mesas. Nestled at their incurved opening was a labyrinth of arroyos with red and flaky chocolate cake walls bared by erosion.

It would take weeks to trace its history of water.

Here are dendritic drainages, bone-white sandstone, exposed lacerations, spines, pimple mounds, necks, elbows, and the mouth of a wash. We can’t help but use our bodies to describe deserts and the natural world—we see kinship everywhere. From above, traces of water and erosion form the shape of your right lung. Branched gullies suggesting bronchioles leading to bronchi leading to the main bronchus at the center. There is only one way in or out.

I could draw you a map, but it won’t fit the napkin. Furrowed lines alone are inadequate. Even recounting landmarks are imperfect trouble. Saying drive 1.4 miles and turn south at the old juniper then pass the deserted homestead are the least vital particulars. There are mental maps to follow too: Consider leaving behind the husk of what’s broken. Reclaim your capacity to quiver in awe. Start again. Misplace pretense. Abandon agendas. Seek the quiet shadows. Wait for the wind to speak, it won’t take long. Most important, contemplate loss—understand this is Laguna (Kawaika) land, even when your map suggests it’s not.

Here is a relational atlas. The atlas is open-ended, networked, and nonlinear. The land is not stagnant. Its paths are context specific, and they all lead to a similar place. What happened long ago remains. The pinch between two mesas, a spring that even from a distance smells of the sea, knowledge hidden but not lost.

Once drawn, these maps are difficult to discard. I can’t tell you how to get there. But visit me. I’ll take you.

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