Thursday, October 9, 2008

Not Today

Death Valley Junction
On the border between California and Nevada

October 2006 - In Death Valley the earth spins a little faster; we swoon. It’s a strange feeling – vertigo at sea level. Nearby in the Amargosa Opera House the stage is going dark on an aging ballerina who moves like a marionette wired to the past - and we arrive weary pilgrims hoping to pay our respects to this icon and legend.

Earlier in the day it was a race against both the sun and certain extinction to find the hole in the southern Nevada desert where swims an endangered 20,000 year old fish; the Devil's Hole pupfish (Cyprinodon diabolis) fights for its life in this subterranean oasis.

Suddenly, clouds burst out of the Sierra Nevadas with no warning and roll off the mountains like giant smoke signals. The message that unfurls against that deep desert sky would prove to say: Not today.

Today both pupfish and ballerina are a no-show. The wild mustangs of Death Valley Junction don't come down to the river either, not today. The road to China Ranch is washed out -- vanished into a sea of sand. How I’ve longed to slake my thirst with their famous milkshakes made of dates; but not today.

Months have now turned into years but I've heard somewhere in the Nevada desert still waits an 84 year old ballerina, a 20,000 year old endangered fish and a beloved long lost cousin sipping on a date shake. I have not given up the hope of at last finding them – but not today.*

SkyWatch #13 is here

*It's rumored that Marta Becket, 84 year old ballerina and the last remaining resident of Death Valley Junction, will give her final performance sometime in the spring of 2009. Some two years later, I will return to this desert once again to attempt to see her - along with the pupfish, the mustangs and the delicious date shake - remembering of course that it's the journey and not the destination.
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