Soup du jour? Again?
We are riding through Death Valley. The sun chase has turned to fleeing. The mineral walls of the Amargosa Range have begun hushing with the soft clay-orange overtones that signify how the arid West puts its daytime things away.
The awe comes from what you might expect -- life subsistent on leeching, wiry mosses sucking water from some shallow alkaline drip, turgid snaking denizens so efficient even the eye has trouble maintaining tension on them -- and what you actually see -- pupfish darting their breeding grounds with suicide ferocity, bushes of vibrant pickleweed, canyon wolves with time, if not inclination, to wait out the passage of human traffic, hold out for night and its familiar quiescence.
The desert, indeed the West, will tell you anything you had planned to tell yourself in a weak moment. An enormous outdoor skeleton museum, it is an enormous suggestion box, a notepad to the primordial mind eager to narrate and thereby erase its void.
In Ridgecrest that morning, the waitress presented my son with a menu. Among the offerings, Conventional Eggs. It seemed fair, in the moment, to ask the waitress if toast and hash browns were implied with that, but the wrinkle on my son's brow meant something better was cooking.
And so it was determined, over events in this burnt valley of hole cards, that soup du jour must get tedious after a while. When there is nothing but variety, sooner or later, you want something else.
And with that, we continue south along the Amargosa, reading sudden granite streaks in the decomposing mica, wondering what ripples we might have missed in Salt Creek, replaying in our mind's eye the two young children, exiting a tessellated canyon onto the looming valley floor, instinctively knitting together to make one larger atom of difference against it.