Before cell phones, I went traveling around the country, living out of my car and a little Northface tent for a while.
I was on a mission to find meaning, as a woman alone, in the vastness that is this country— and my own mind.
I pulled off a road into the middle of the Arizona desert as the sky was turning crimson, to set up for the night.
As I started to prepare for sunset, I noticed another car driving directly toward my isolated little camp.
In all the miles of desert, why does this person need to come out to the very spot where I am trying to be alone with Nature?
As the car got closer, I could see it was an old Buick, leaving a dust trail across the desert floor, being driven by a cowboy hat.
Then I thought;
Of all the places in the world to be alone, why did I have to drive out into the middle of the desert where there is nowhere to hide?
The Buick pulled up next to my own vehicle.
The Cowboy got out and walked over toward me.
He was tall, with an unshaven face, and hair that poked out from under the cowboy hat, over the collar of a rumpled plaid shirt.
All my senses stood up and paid attention as he looked me up and down.
I looked him up and down back, hoping he didn’t notice my hands shaking from my senses being so awake.
He didn’t smile or waste a typical Hello…
You out here all alone?
What do ya do when ya run across trouble?
I hoped he didn’t notice my knees were starting to knock for want to flee.
I mustered up all the false bravado I had in reserve;
Well, usually I try to avoid it… but if that doesn’t work out…
I kill it.
Without smiling, he looked me up and down again.
Then he burst into laughter.
Well, all right, I guess you’ll be okay then, huh?
I didn’t say anything.
My defense senses were confused, and I’m sure my face showed it.
I just saw a woman out here all by herself, and I thought I’d better check on you.
But it looks like you’re just fine.
After a brief conversation with me asking what the hell he was doing with such a mysterious personality, and him apologizing for not stating his intent right up front, the Cowboy said he was on his way to Mexico from Colorado and left me to my sunset.
As the sun fell asleep, I did not.
I stared at the stars and thought about all the different ways this story could have ended.
I realized I was in a place where no one would ever know the story if it had been different.
I was grateful for the wake up call and I recognized my vulnerability in my mission.
I realized why my friends kept telling me they were concerned about my adventure and they wished I would stay in better contact.
I drove into town the next morning and sent post cards.