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Gentle breezes

It’s spring time in Hanoi. We have four seasons and now the temperatures hover in the mid 20s. Really beautiful days. Sitting here with latte at the bakery made some other days come to mind.

way back when

Seems like so long ago but often feels like just a long yesterday ago. Back then I worked across the deserts and mountains and the southern plains. The days were long and no gentle breezes in the western Mojave. We would walk an entire day looking for prehistoric archeological sites, map them, wonder at them. It was an idyllic existence doing archeology. Often the days out were eclipsed by the nights at a pizza parlor or camped out with the night setting. Then the true display would happen. The night sky would alight with its wondrous display. No city lights to dim or remove it. We’d sit over homemade chili, pan corn bread, and warm Budweiser beers. Stories would soon come. The day often resolved or questioned. Once finding a large prehistoric site on Edwards Air Force Base we puzzled more. The scattering of flaked stone tools and hearths hinted at a large and complex site. Rick and I spent until the afternoon threatened to evening. Then we sat in his Air Force vehicle talking.

On the weekend it was being out with RWR doing the same. It seemed we could drive in his jeep for miles up through the northern Mojave desert and see so much but never talk. Instead the words and worlds seemed to spin on their desert axis. We’d stop in his land cruiser and stare down washed out stream beds and rhyolite outcrops. The buttes. Small hills and canyons with eroding scapes on top. Sometimes between these outcrops prehistoric sites were found. Dangling between erosion and deposition. Fragile things left to the mercy of wind and rain. Still we sat in silence and then a nod of his head and we were off.

I spent so many years doing archeology and living it. It’s a passion you see. It lights a path and leaves you both happy and unfulfilled. Wanting more. So many paths chosen doing that work. Walking at 9000 feet in the Sierra Nevada. Wandering the forbidding Chupadero Mesa in New Mexico. Excavations at sites in danger along engineering activities.

It’s easy to sit now and cajole the memories forth. In a cafe. In Hanoi. But like a friend once remarked over those cold Buds,

you will never know it if you don’t do it

So true. I never felt so alone and not lonely as walking a stream bed on Eldorado national forest and seeing no human tracks. Realizing as a colleague told me later,

no human walked our trails today.

That was after we met back at the SUV and made our way down tenuous dirt roads.

So gentle breezes can blow memories of times well or ill spent. I can reach out and grasp them as they float just over there. Wandering and finding and passion. Losing and leaving. Going on no track. Have you ever just done a passion and watched it consume you and then make you into that desert creature that calls a voice? Ever felt something foreign and indescribable on a forest trail when it suddenly dawns on you the other tracks were not human at all? Just a bear making his way the biologist would say.

Bring on the gentle breezes.

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