Not Quite Paradise

Given a long enough distance
every road seems slow.
Traveling through one universe after another after another
and even the speed of light seems a bit stifled
after a few hundred years, I suppose.
When are we ever going to get to the next galaxy?

It’s the getting to where we want to go,
where we want to both be and mean
that seems to turn traveling
into some sort of unraveling of mind and matter:
time freezes in the heat of the Mojave.

And yes, it is a dry heat,
but a hundred-and-ten degrees—
no matter how strong the wind—
still sends a shock through you
when you step out of the air-conditioned truck,
makes you pray that luck, karma, Providence,
and God Almighty
do not abandon you in this place.

Whatever it is in August
that you happen to taste in these long hours
of passing through this view that shifts about a bit
but never really changes
might be enough to help you be sure
to make arrangements
that you will always live somewhere
other than here.

We finish taking care of why we stopped
and somewhere between a mile and a year later,
pass by the half-pile, half-wall remainder of deep burgundy blocks,
miniature chunks of desert clay barely softer than rock
and the same shade caught in the sloping base of a distant mesa,
sun-burnt reminders that used to be abode and are still adobe.

There is no hint of doors or rafter or roof,
only one corner of what was once a window,
looking out from this small box at a life they could not sustain
in this particular place
and that must have made any place green
seem like a much better place to be,
no matter how high the humidity.

Every place other than Eden has its drawbacks
and even that sweet garden had its own path to destruction.
And though I’d definitely take Hawaii over the Mojave
as a place to live for a decade or two,
there’s still beauty in the desert
and typhoons can certainly ruin an island.

It’s not so much where we travel
as what we carry and keep inside us
that decides whether we live in purgatory or paradise.
Or someplace comfortably in between.
Are we there yet?

H. Arnett

About Doc Arnett

Native of southwestern Kentucky currently living in Ark City, Kansas, with my wife of twenty-nine years, Randa. We have, between us, eight children and twenty-eight grandkids. We enjoy singing, worship, remodeling and travel.
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