Written by Dan "Mellow Yellow" Klein.
We walked back from the caves in silence. Admiring another desert sunset, likely to be our last for the season. Color played upon the rocks, each one a unique and smooth monolith created from ancient aquatic activity, visible signs of the once inland sea that blanketed our desert. We followed our shadows East, towards camp. We could not see our destination, but we knew that we were headed towards our gullied wash where dinner was being prepared just below the desert surface, so as to remain sheltered from the winds. We took our time, savoring each minute as the colors shifted amongst us and our shadows grew longer. For the first time in days, my mind was quiet, Simply being.
“And we walked off to look for Am-er-i-ca….”
Music played from our six passenger pickup. Just one month ago we had joined as strangers to combat environmental injustice, to teach and create access enabling opportunities for an environmental renaissance, and to live and breath the America Wilderness. We were all in the midst of our own journey -- a search for America. But in doing so, we were also clearing a path for further discover of America by her own citizens. For the people, by the people!
(This however, I am nearly certain, is the Capitalists' biggest fear. Fear of the popular realization that our so called "natural resources" have intrinsic value beyond what can be produced through total destruction and consumption of such "resources".)
Ultimately, it was our great American Democracy that brought our righteous work to a sudden and jarring halt.
We descended into our gully. Truck, tools, food, and equipment lay neatly along the edges of the wash. A red and white striped tablecloth was set amongst the sand and rocks with a single candle burning amongst it. One of our crew was just now bringing a flame to the dead sage she had gathered earlier. The fragrant woodsmoke blended with the scents of squash, cucumber, onion, garlic, kale, and lettuce. Slowly, the brightest stars began to show. Somebody then uncorked and poured six glasses of wine into empty coffee mugs and jars. This desert was our desert, our home, but our home no longer.
The government of the United State of America had shut down, a nearly unfathomable event from our remote perspective amidst the sand the sand the rocks. We lived here, we worked here. Outside of our six, we saw no one and heard no news of the greater world around us. We were, however, contacted through the Bureau of Land Management, and been issued orders, via radio, to cease all operations until further notice due to government shutdown. We could scarcely have been further disconnected from the D.C. political machine and yet here we were, pawns in some fat cat political maneuverings.
Just a player in Their political squabbling. We didn’t know much. Other than that the Grand Ol’ Party and the Democratic parties were at it again and therefore we could no longer work unless they came to agreement.
I didn’t care to know more. And if I did, I had no way to find the answers to my questions. It didn’t matter. I pay my taxes, I follow the rules (or at least the ones that are worth a damn), but I sure as shit don’t have the time or the patience to concern myself with their games.
Our unspoken agreement was broken. I leave them alone, they leave me alone. No longer. Their games had cost me my livelihood and my home, for without doubt, I was deemed "non-essential". That was all I needed to know.
We ate around our fire, no longer certain where we would get out next meal or how long the measly forty-three dollars a day we had made over the past few weeks would last us. The food filled my stomach and warmed my body in the chill of the desert night; my thoughts did not. Job taken. Community shattered. Good honest work, in the name of our country, brought to a complete halt. For what?
That night, like every previous night, but not the nights to follow, I slept beneath the desert sky and watched the constellations above.