Twentynine Palms

Maureen and I went with Jamie to a rented house in the California desert.

In a desert you find remnants of other lives.

An old newspaper might be blown by desert winds for years. You could pick it up and read it twenty, even fifty, years later.

In this dry valley there are broken cabins of people who came here 50 years ago.

They are mostly empty. I sometimes peered in windows but I never went inside.

In this one, there is a rough-built hutch at the back and in it a hand-painted plaque : “To my wife Kathryn Dalaney. Died. 4. 27.1973.”

A little grey dove flew out when I got near.

Perhaps this man ended his days here. Perhaps the cabin has good memories. Sometime back in the 1950’s did he bring children up here for a summer adventure, living like homesteaders?

There is still an old, steel tubing chair with a  torn, caramel-coloured  vinyl cushion on the back porch.

And did he sit here watching the sun go down in his last days?

We walked up to the oasis where water surfaces through a fissure, then runs back under the ground again. Tall palms clustering in among hot grey rocks. A skein of green along the fissure.

We sat in a hot tub and looked at the night sky.

I would like a house in a desert with a telescope.

Fifteen miles away a community has grown up around a huge army base where marines are trained. We could get what we needed there.

Hadley came with us for two days. On the second day we went to the national park to see the Joshua trees.

One evening we drove to a roadhouse on an old movie set where a country and western band was playing. It was called Pappy and Harriets.

Two couples danced methodically while blonde children jittered and jigged around them.

The band was called the Shadow Mountain Band.

Yesterday in Los Angeles I went with Jamie to a film called Particle Fever that told the story of the building of the Large Hadron Collider — up to the successful experiments that confirmed the existence of the particle called the Higgs Boson.

The theatre was full of scientists from all the universities of Southern California.

Jamie loved it. “We’ll know the origin of the universe before you die,” he said afterwards.