Roadtrips to the Moon: Valley of Fires

My cousin Teresa Neptune, the photographer, and I are still working on our collaborative project–Roadtrips to the Moon. Wednesday night found us “camping” in her charming shipshape van at the edge of the lava flow at Valley of Fires. The stars came out, so did gnats, we walked and ate dinner in the chairs and table that swiveled so cleverly out of the walls. And talked about where we were–a 5000 year old lava flow of pahoehoe that no doubt local inhabitants saw when it began to burn. The black vent in the earth that birthed it. Trinity Site, so close as the crow flies. Hiroshima, not that far away.
We also spent dusk in Carrizozo, which turned out to have a charming and eccentric arts street, resplendent with a parade of painted burros (reminiscent of Santa Fe’s trail of painted ponies) and even more appealing–wild funky sculptures made of recycled metal parts–a mouse, a big bug.
The next day we had coffee at the local cafe, trying to wait out the rain. Teresa asked if I would know where I was if I suddenly dropped out of the sky, and I wouldn’t…might it be Berkeley, or Las Cruces, or…Then on to the petroglyphs at 3 Rivers, where a fighter jet split the sky, lightning forked, and my intrepid photographer scrambled over rocks, capturing images intensifying or vanishing in the changing light and intermittent rain. Poetry being a less athletic art, I sat at a picnic table, watching the great mountain behind us and the workings of my mind.
I was haunted by the feeling that I was leaving something out of the poems…I added in Robert Oppenheimer in a hat, sotol, a planet, sleep, and that fabulous Polynesian word for slow moving lava. I’ll have to re-read to see what I have.