July 16th, Yes Trek Day 6



so in an instant you're story bound

a desert, the underground, on mountains high

a glacier , the heat of the day


I wasn't sure how it was I arose so early, well before the 9:30 am wake-up call. Something compelled me to be out and about so I went to the van to forage for some laundry to do. Stepping out of the motel, I beheld the sun, just peering at me from over a pink mountain. The timing was perfect. No wonder I was awake -- I'd been summoned by this brilliant heart of the desert sunrise.


After some moments of musing in the "wow, here I am" way that you do when discovering yourself in a non-ordinary reality, I returned reluctantly and blinking to the task at hand, chasing the image of the sun which had burned itself into my retinas around the van in search of soiled clothing. I had a small load to wash and proceeded to the laundry room connected to the motel store. I found a woman was using both machines, so I set my journal on the folding table while I went to get a cup of coffee and buy detergent. The store only sold a jumbo-sized laundry soap and I was about to purchase some when the already-washing woman, Dottie was her name, approached the counter. I asked her if she could use some extra soap. "Nonsense," she said. "You don't need that big box. Use a little of mine." I guess it only demonstrates that if you approach a total stranger with consideration, they respond in kind. "Really? You sure? I pretended to put up a fight, and finally conceded: "Thanks so much!"


As the washers and dryers whirled, I observed Dottie in action at the nickel poker machine. She made it look so easy to throw money away that I decided I ought to get myself a couple rolls of nickels and try my luck beside her. "Is this better than watching soap operas?" I asked her. "I won $200 last Thursday," she told me. We exchanged stories of our origins and travels and families while pushing buttons. I spoke of children, mostly, and she spoke of grandchildren. If you won, the machine would give you electronic credits, but there was a button you could push that made your winnings tumble out into the metal tray below with a dingle-dee-clunk! treedle-eedle-eee. After awhile of delighting in the sound of dropping nickels, I realized it was probably annoying Dottie and stopped, just letting the credits accrue on the machine. I got up to 20 at one point, a whole buck's worth, but gradually it went away, so I never got the gratification of hitting the payoff button and hearing a pile of winnings pour out. My only real hope was to earn enough to do laundry.


Yann came down and laughed to see me succumbing to the temptation of the lit-up machines which always and everywhere in Nevada lure each tourist, regardless of the degree one is experienced with gambling. He took my picture with the new instant camera he'd just purchased at an exorbitant price (and HE was laughing at ME!). I convinced him he should sit in my place, gave him my nickels, introduced him to the machine, and went to write in my journal.


"The high will be 120-plus in Death Valley today where we are headed after a sure-to-be-greasy breakfast, but that's what you want: the heat, the grease. These are what the day is offering and we are about to have them happen: make it so. Pokey Chris is still showering and Yann is inhaling his AM fix of nicotine while feeding nickels to an ever-hungry machine at the all-purpose mart which gladly doubles as a coin-roll-dispensing facility and moonlights as a weehours front desk for the no-tell motel next door."


The three of us dined together at the town's only restaurant, under the care of an attentive, (possibly because I was flirting with him) ponytailed waiter who agreed to deliver jalapeños and green peppers with my eggs-over-greasy. I left a big tip and while the boys toyed with more slot machines, I gassed up at the Shell-station-of preposterous-desert-prices and filled the cooler with extra ice. I then replenished the beverages with a gallon of water, a couple cold cappuccinos and Chris' favorite Stawberry-Kiwi Snapple, in anticipation of the evaporation our bodies would experience in the heat of the moments of the drive ahead. As we sped away we heard a tickety-clunk-dink-rickety-racket that was the cassette attached to the wire that plugged into the van's tape machine in order to play CDs, dancing along outside the van: oops. Fortunately for our ambience-enhancing music-playing tendencies, the device still functioned.


We headed for Death Valley, passing the road to Parump, where the aliens landed in the Tim Burton movie, Mars Attacks. We ventured forth into California at it's lowest, most desolate point of entry. The profound heat ahead didn't beckon or promise, but dared and threatened! We were ready, armed with a loaded cooler and cameras and high spirits and the whole Yes collection on CD, air conditioning if necessary. All that remained was a choice in music and Chris recommended Tales from Topographic Oceans with the solemnity of a highpriest attending to the creation of proper context for some sacred enactment of an ancient cultural ritual. It seemed to us all an aptly esoteric selection for the ferocity of elements awaiting us ahead, and whatever would be our response to them. We brazenly left the windows down the while, classic Yesmusic testifying to the alien air our acceptance and respect for the area's intensity.


We left the comfort of the van to hike up to a scenic lookout where the folds of stone shone in warm, sandy tones touched with grays and greens, rising and falling all around us, jutting sideways, providing vertical visual drama to compliment our poses.




chris, yann


yann, chris, merry


In and out the valley we each were absorbing the experience stoically as the music swelled and hushed, dallied and rushed with words lending meaning to the vistas unfurling before us. In an inspired moment, Chris interrupted our contemplations, scrambling for percussive instruments to pass around so that we might join Alan White in his "Ritual" drum solo. I was handed the big tom which I wielded one-handed while steering, nearly hitting Yann who was frantically spinning the shaman drum, even as Chris shook the maracas with an impassioned persistent potency. Truly we were possessed by what seemed an ancient spirit of community, conquest and celebration. A sacred sweat issued forth from all of our pores.


Through music, rhythms, and tempos, each attained a light of their own through their songs to their stars, so their energy, their souls, their time, their movements were all accordant to the stars.

-- Jon, in the Olias story


As the near-to-overheating engine chugged to climb out of the valley, we listened to Fragile, weaving through desert ranges decked in Joshua trees toward the towering beginnings of the snowy Sierra Nevada. We made tracks toward what is the highest point in California, Mount Whitney, crowning the vast rock spine of the Sierras which now came out of the sky and stood there, to our wonderment. We would be driving all beside the same range for the rest of the day, before crossing over it and descending to Wendy's. We stopped for a map at a California welcome center where I admired the way Yann's wet-with-perspiration shorts draped straightly down his leg, and he allowed me to touch them: joy. I smiled with pride when he admitted to me that I'd been the first woman to have touched his rear in a very long while.


I paused to bury my head nosefirst in a giant sage bush and breath deeply awhile. Inside the facility, a ranger guy read my Yes-emblazoned tee shirt and said that he'd seen the Topographic Oceans tour. Another ranger was making change for the map and book of native wildflowers I purchased and I told him his associate had impeccable musical taste.


After the welcome center, Chris drove, allowing me to watch the snowcovered peaks roll by for many hours. Gladly losing my mind in the warped time-space duration of gazing, I began to not only see, but *feel* the vast expanses passing without, while within the very breadth of my self expanded to accommodate the dimensions taken by earth in this venerable environment.


sierra nevada


I thrilled to see Giant Sequoia trees which pirouetted as they passed. Before we knew it a river was roaring beside us and we stopped to get close to it's edge.


yann, merry, chris


We switched drivers again so that Chris could sightsee or sleep as I drove over the same magnificent mountains at Monitor pass, just south of Lake Tahoe and surrounded by its renouned spectacular scenery. The high, thin air was pleasantly cool as we spun our course, Jon's Olias of Sunhillow thundering in accompaniment. As the sun went on its way, in mountains sometimes lost, the light faded and Yann clicked my camera at my request along the unlikely projections of earth. (I seem to remember the moments better than my film did.) The large white moon would suddenly appear from and disappear behind the lunging bluffs.


turn a mountain

send them lost

among the flowers of the young

rider rider rider rider


It was apparent that we would not make it to meet Dawn's flight in Sacramento, but the earthen marvels along the day's drive were simply too persuasive to be put off. Somewhat dazed we made a wrong turn, but caught the mistake before making our way to Reno. We reversed and warned Wendy by phone that we'd be another 3 hours. While the guys got directions, I ducked into a Mexican restaurant near the phonebooth and regretted not being able to sit down to eat (we thought Wendy might have prepared something for us). I did get salsa, guacamole and chips and -- couldn't resist -- a chicken taco we fed to one another in the van during the last leg of the YesTrek.


We descended the Sierra Nevada in the darkness with all of us expressing our picks for the next Yesset wishlist. Chris and I saw something we thought was a baby bear, maybe it's mother, too. I brought the vessel around and around again to return to the spot. We all laughed, Yann at the two of us, mostly, to see it was only a burnt log combined with rampant imagination. On we rolled through Sacramento, the road fairly straight and freeway now, so we picked up speed. Yann was unusually talkative, which I found wonderful, and I was also nervous and thrilled with anticipation.


and we were very merry to be there


We descended upon Wendy's just before midnight in a crackling blaze of bottlerocket ascending emotional exuberant arriving rejoicing giddy glory. Dawn, who'd been collected earlier by Wendy from the Sacramento airport, managed somehow to snooze through our raucous arrival and dreamt on as the cork leapt joyously from where it was wedged in the expectantly big bottle of champagne that was poised to rejoice in our long-awaited togetherness. We tossed ourselves randomly around the livingroom amid the oversized welcoming pillows which provided in splendid excess splashes of vibrant flowery copious color to resplendently append the personality our presences were already providing.


I remembered and leapt up to get the tape for Wendy of her poem, "I Wish," played and sung for her by our Paulfriend, entrusted to me to be delivered directly by hand, with heart. She cued it up and I strongly encouraged those who had flash cameras to capture her reaction, so I could present the photo later to Paul who wanted so badly to be with us in this moment. Wendy then began look endlessly, timelessly away while listening and I mercilessly urged the others to take a picture. But they were captivated by Wendy's captivation and only Curt could muster the presence of mind to lift his Polaroid and push the button (he was apparently more accustomed than we were to seeing his wife recede and melt into faraway states of solemn ecstasy). The camera noise was clamorous and distracted an instant from the spell of the welling up of Wendy's eyes.


...deep within the secret waters that lie behind my eyes

--W. Vig


We chatted warmly to the bottom of the bottle of champagne. Wendy and I then conducted Yann to his room at a nearby Motel 6. On our way back, as friendly Wendy and I thoughtfully talked, over the windshield wafted, in silent feathered mysterious splendor, a pure white Snowy Owl! It's beauty was prominent and distinct beneath a streetlight, right there in the city, just for us. It widened our eyes and was surely a sign of the wonder of what it was like to finally be with Wendy, she with me. At her home we all found places of repose and joined Dawn in her state of thankful late peaceheavy sleep.


my merry tale **** Day 7