The Rocks that Move
It is April, and I am standing alone on the point of a ridge overlooking a valley. It's Racetrack Valley, and over there is the Panamint Range. Down below, at the far end of a meandering dirt road, you can just see the buff white of Racetrack Playa, and the edge of the incongruous black boulder pile called the Grandstand. Out there, somewhere on the playa, are the Rocks that Move. Behind me, at the other end of the road, is Teakettle Junction.
My hands are shoved into the pockets of my green shorts. I am wearing my favorite synthetic tropical print shirt. In the photo, I am gazing into the distance, toward the playa across the valley below, toward the black metal mountains that define the far horizon. The earth is brown and red and tan and gray and sooty, and the sky is an enormous feathered blue thing over it all. I am wearing a fiery red fez with a bright blue tassle. The fez is an antique, a proud artifact from the Oddfellows of Rawlins, Texas. It was purchased on a whim in Austin.
The photo is a self-portrait, but it is arranged to appear as though another person took it; some phantom copilot. It's really more of a picture of that place, that spot right there - I am in the photo merely to prove that I was there. I recall believing that the odd fez would discourage other, more conservative tourists from molesting my solitude. There were no other tourists. I wore the fez anyway, because it seemed to jive perfectly with the infernal heat and shimmering dusty horizons of this blasted place. I have my hands in my pockets, which usually means I feel self - conscious. I cannot imagine who I thought would be watching me. I suppose I could have been thinking about the people I would someday show this photograph to. "Look at me. I am alone! I am in Death Valley! I am alone in Death Valley, and I am wearing a fez! I did this!"
Moments before this photograph was taken, I was down in that valley, on the playa, staring in awe at one of the strangest phenomena the world knows. The Rocks that Move present a natural anomaly so bizarre that scientists, ufo nuts, philosophers, hippies, bankers, physicists, truckers, and artist alike come from far and wide to study it. Moments before, I had Figured It Out. I know why the rocks move.
I was proud at having made it there. I was proud that I understood why. I was proud of my life and my freethinking bohemian ways. I still have no idea why I have my hands in my pockets.