It is early evening just off a dirt road somewhere south of Kaiser Canyon in northwestern Arizona. My friend of over twenty years has gone for a walk. I unfold my camp chair and sit. The sky is veiled with clouds, the light a soft and dimming gray. There is a knee-high fire ring some desert-naive person has built. I breathe in the scent of twilight creosote and begin to feel my internet-accelerated mind slow.
My friend returns. “Not the most beautiful campsite we’ve ever had,” he says. “Gloomy,” I say. He begins to tear down the fire-ring. “Amateurs.”
We build a fire. He cooks our supper. Night moves in, but we can only see a few stars beyond the cloud cover. We move our chairs in closer to the fire and find ourselves reminiscing about the places, people, cats and dogs we’ve known in our 20+ year friendship. “A campfire,” he says, “is better than the internet.”
We watch the flames till they become embers, and go to our beds. I’m in the camper. He is in his bedroll. We are not really alone. There is an absence in this place. He has had to have his beloved Sally, the very good dog, killed a few months earlier.
Neither of us sleeps well. I sense that Sally walks by the camper toward my friend’s bedroll.
I wake. My friend is gone. He is an early riser. I’m not. I go to the fire ring. There are only ashes. His camp-stove lies on the ground. For fifteen years I have told myself and my friend that I have to bring my own camp-stove since I don’t know how to work his. I peel an orange. I’m in the throes of caffeine deprivation, but I find our campsite sweetly perfect.
My friend returns. He fires up the stove. We make coffee. We sit with our back to the fire-ring and watch desert rain clouds move toward us. “Sally,” he says, “came to me last night. She lay down and put her head on my shoulder. I knew it was a dream, but as I woke, I hung onto her presence.” I tell him that I had felt her walk by the camper toward him.
Desert clouds move in and over us. I feel the beginning of a delicate rain – and an even more delicate restoration.
What do I do to recharge?