It was my second trip out west. In this case, Las Vegas was playing the part of Out West, as it had on my previous journey across the Mississipi. Some day, I would see the rest of the west, but that trip was just for me and my friends. Liz and I flew to Las Vegas to see Aaron and Nancy, and check out their new home.
We’re all outdoorsy folks, to some extent, so a visit wouldn’t be complete without a hike. We drove to Red Rocks National Forest, where we discovered it’s bloody hot in the desert in May. We picked ice Box Canyon for our hike, and proceeded along in single file, towing an overheated and bored pitbull along behind us.
Not far in to our hike, we saw people coming towards us on the trail. It was narrow, and we were the ones with the dog, so we all stepped off the path to let them by. Two by two came Native American men, young and dressed identically in jeans and boots and black t-shirts. Four of them in total, none smiling or even acknowledging us standing on the side of the trail. Their eyes stared straight ahead, and their body language screamed “Don’t talk to us.” We stood in silence as the approached and passed. The last in line was an older man, with a huge headdress and a stole sort of vest over his black shirt. He kept his eyes forward and solemn until all the young men had passed and he was even with our group. At the last moment, just a second before he would have had his back to us and be gone, he turned his head and shot us an easy going grin, with eyes full of mischief. I snorted under my breath, trying not to laugh. And then he, and his escort, were gone.
Our group regained the path and continued on towards the water fall at the center of the canyon. (We did find it, later, but it was already dried for the season.) We walked in silence, although I think we all wanted to comment on the group we’d just passed. Voices in the desert carry like they do over the water, though, so we were quiet.
I am in inveterate trail picker. I can not pass trash on a trail without picking it up, or if it’s large, moving it to a readily visible place to be collected later. I had my eyes on the ground, admiring the cactus blossoms, and I spotted something black to one side, in the shadow of a stone. It was a black bootlace, tied together at the ends. I reached down and grabbed it, and without thinking, wound it around my wrist for future disposal.
I wore that bootlace for two straight years. I wore it with dance clothes, and to work at the high end, antique jewelry store I managed. I wore it to bed, and in the shower, and to parties. I never took it off, and I never got tired of the way it looked, wrapped three times around my wrist.
ANd now it’s there again. My arm looks a little different, thicker, and with more tattoos. But the bootlace looks the same, unfaded and black, wrapped around my wrist like an old friend.
I hope I never cease to be amazed at what we find comfort in.