I wake up and wipe the dust off of my lips and out of my eyes. The storm overnight only brought the relief of rain for about an hour, after that, just wind. Wind strong enough to partially collapse my tent and fill it with a layer of fine sand. Wind strong enough to leave me feeling defeated enough to relinquish all efforts to try and control the situation. It’s been about a week since I last showered and the swirling menace that found its way through the fine mesh walls of my feeble home plastered my body, turning every exposed inch of it it to fine sandpaper. I run my hands through my hair and work tiny grains from between the strands of competing black and brown and grey. Everything has sand in it. I dreamed of swimming in lakes high up in the North Cascades again last night. Those are nearly two thousand miles away. I push them from my mind and bring myself back to the desert and roust myself from my gritty cocoon. It’s early. The sun hasn’t fully revealed itself from behind the mountains in the east. I like this time of day. I can still smell the rain and it brings the lakes of my dreams, nightmares maybe, considering where I’ve put myself for the foreseeable future, back to me. I stand up, reach my palms to the sky, close my eyes and breathe deeply. I ran out of things to smoke with my morning coffee five days ago and the cold air penetrates deep into my lungs. No more sweet blend of cannabis and tobacco to keep the day from creeping in too quickly. That was the plan. Run out of things to smoke and go back to the clarity I needed so badly back on November 9th. All I’ve got now is this jar of infused honey and a palm full of psilocybin for walking with my shadows during the long desert nights when sleep evades me. I dig in my pocket for a piece of nicotine gum. I wake my phone up and borrow some comfort from Nina Simone. In the distance the big rigs are still marching east and west on Interstate 10. I walk to the edge of my camp to face the far off highway and relieve myself. I haven’t looked directly at my tattered shelter yet. I’m avoiding the reality that I will have to fix the aluminum pole that bent under the weight of the invisible monster that came crashing through my valley last night. Nina is asking me where I’m gonna run to. I smile and dance my way back to her, holding an invisible partner, reassuring her under my breath that I’m not running. That’s not my game anymore. On my way back to Nina I face the mending that needs to be done before the temperature inevitably spikes. I get to work before I have a chance to get angry at a wind that will never have to answer for what it’s done. As I work a hollow splint over the bowed and distorted tent support I decide not to eat today. The heat out here kills my appetite. I’ll have a warm cup of broth for breakfast. Another one for lunch. And another one for dinner. Broth is good. It fills the space emptiness can’t. Tomorrow I’ll go into town and visit the ice cream shop and spoil myself. A banana split, maybe. With walnuts and chocolate sauce and an extra cherry on the side I can suck on on the sixteen mile ride back out to camp. I’ll hold the stem on my lips as delicately as I can for as long as I can before I chew it to a pulp and spit it into the stone fire ring I’ve been building. When I can’t write I collect stones and build the walls of my fire ring up to protect it from the winds that pass through every evening as the sun starts to kiss the mountains in the west. When my work is done and my tent is standing tall and strong again I turn my attention to Kilgore. Nina is singing about mosquitoes. My heels are tapping as I squat down to turn on the fuel and pull the choke out. I’ve got to go to the well. Yes, the well. To get water for the day. Twenty-five cents for two gallons of pure, unmolested, liquid life. The highlight of every morning. As the single cylinder thumps to life I twirl and send a cloud of dust up around my ankles. Headphones come out of my tank bag and get plugged in to my phone. Choke goes in one click. One more twirl and I grab my helmet and my gloves. Choke goes in one last click and I throw my right leg over the seat, stand my steed up and pull the kickstand in. Drop into first gear and point down the road left behind from this last season’s snowbirds. Drum solo. Nina scats. A lizard runs out of my way. I heard there was a bookstore in town run by a guy who wears a loin cloth and nothing else. Maybe I’ll check that out.