There it was: the end of the road. Nowhere to turn but around. Nowhere to go but back. A road to nowhere in the middle of the desert.
The end of Highway 191. There wasn’t a single soul around. Just big black ravens flapping furiously at me. It happens suddenly, the end. Around the bend and then it stops, civilization, in a glorious culmination of desert. In front rolls out this wild land. The rocks tower high into the blue sky, and the junipers twist around the red sand stone. One step and my world turns into a desert crisscrossed and hacked by canyons and mesas. One step and I could never see another human. One step and I could leave behind this fabricated life.
Waking up to the sun. Curled into the sandstone. Sleeping under glimmering skies. Tracing dirt paths. Driving down black top roads. We are always on the move: running from it or towards it. We search for the colors of our lives, trying to weave a brilliant trail in our wake. All this running never lets us just exist because we always try to outrun time. When the road ends though, we stop. We have to because there is nowhere to go, no end to chase or corner to turn. We stop and that’s when it hits us. And I swear time halts when this existence finally dawns on us.
Have you ever laid on the earth staring so hard into the sky that it turns into a Tupperware top snapped over a bowl? And there you are at the bottom of the bowl spinning round and round. Sometimes when I just lay there, the world seems so small that it has to be perfect. And there you are so small in the middle of such a small world. But you are there, spinning through an unknown universe on a little blue sphere.
The rough beauty of this desert begins to draw out the violence of everyday reality and fade it into nothing, fade it into the unknown. Nothing matters but the present moment: the way your feet curl into the ground like they could grow roots, the way the fire light dances in your eyes, the way the smoke twists up into the sky like it could waltz with the stars, the way the air tears down your throat like a tall glass of icy lemonade, and the way the silence strips your mind of nothing but your thoughts and ringing ears – not a deafening quiet but a liberating one. Life suddenly becomes listless, full of the unimportant. It all becomes a figment of our imagination, a flicker of the bigger unknown. And there we are in the middle of nowhere.
The freedom life gains in this anonymity is addicting. It suddenly feels unchained to bounce happily into the clouds on desert gusts, ocean breezes, and mountain winds.
We wander on these roads to see the world, but these ends of the road force us to stop and look inside ourselves – then the true adventure begins.
So I stood at the end of highway 191, feeling like I danced on the edge of an abyss of unknown, wondering if this was really the end or just the beginning.