We had lunch in the car at the foot of the volcano and watched a lone female elk trot across the vastness. It felt much more special than seeing an entire herd. I spotted her at a great distance. Obviously an animal of considerable size—elk cows can go five hundred pounds—I couldn’t tell what it was at first and felt a shot of primal strangeness as the image shimmered in the heating air. That in turn reminded me of African nature films. The animal wasn’t proportioned correctly to be a giraffe, but for an instant there, I thought of one.
I handed my wife the binoculars. After a moment she said, “It’s headed in our direction.”
By now we were sure it was an elk. She came closer and closer, stopping every once in a while to look around and sniff the wind, then trotting on some more. Eventually she crossed the road about a hundred and fifty yards ahead of us and vanished out of sight behind a rise. I drove down the rocky trail a ways to see if I could find her, but of course I didn’t. I’ve always wanted to go farther on that road and never have. A great valley lies just beyond another rise. The views must be stupendous.
I’d taken a different route out of town this trip as an experiment. The road was mostly in terrible condition, with sections of broken asphalt and deep potholes. Just driving on it made me angry, and where it smoothed out, there were speed bumps! I knew there would be. My story is that I’d forgotten just how many.
Somewhere there’s a me who has it easy. I wish he’d come and help us find a home. The husk of those who raised me scratches as I dream. I wake up at 3:00 a.m., my head all full of lies. Sometimes now I talk myself straight out of them and fall right back to sleep. Other times I pull on the old dog blanket bathrobe and read online news until the sun is up.
“You wouldn’t be sitting there in that chair here in New Mexico if not for me,” she said this morning without malice. “I was tired of repetition. I was fearless.”
Raised her head to sniff the air and trotted on, she did.
“I know, and I was scared to death.”