It came. Just two miles from my bedroom window, five irrigation wells brought their angry drone, like creditors seeking payment, to my sleepless ears.
It was the solitude of the ranch which had given me the balance to find my way graciously through troubled times. In the solitude — the very emptiness of passion and sound — I had found the gentleness with which to love even tiresome acquaintances. But then to east and west this solitude had disappeared.
How odd it is to think that even twenty-five miles from the nearest town, peace could be ruptured by the encroachment of humanity.
Leaving the bedroom those fifteen years ago to pace sleeplessly the kitchen floor, I was driven back to my living room — a den in the oldest, animal sense of the world — to find the emptiness of space that my soul craved. Outside the east kitchen window, the brilliant white strobe of a distant cell tower — erected two years before to bring us closer communication with other humans — made humanity a disturbing, rather than a comforting, presence.
I am no hater of mankind. I am in fact a sociable being, gregarious by nature, drawn to conversation and community gatherings. But I am also a lover of solitude, and like good companionship, emptiness is necessary for the well-being of my soul.
Once the eastern horizon had been a velvety blankness, washed-in broadly with opaque strokes of dusky watercolors. Before that darkness one sensed rather than saw the hills swell along the draw, and the silver tolling of each star rang a clear sanctus beautiful to my ears. Each winter, Orion had risen from those unseen hills to stalk antelope across our serene pastures. But that night the celestial hunter was wounded by the slash of light that pierced his shoulder, his hip, as he struggled to rise from the swelling ground.
I remain saddened by the memory of that intrusion, the javelin of white that pierced the heavens, the searing light which falsly revealed a seeming reality of flat landscape in constant repetition.
I had found that only in the silent, dim places could we sense our proper place amongst humanity, could we sense in the cosmos a being older than time can measure. So many other nights, standing upon the still earth there alone with only the stars for light, I could feel in my calves the throb left in the ground from footsteps of ceremonial dances there thousands of years ago, could feel the rumble of wagon wheels rolling across some distant edge of those grasslands, could know beneath it all a deep voice which spoke only to my heart and said “I AM”. I had discovered that only in such a place, a place empty of humanity, could we gain a true perspective of our place within the scope of human existence and hear the words of the voice of God.
The silent, empty places are disappearing, and I feared that night fifteen years ago that that lovely, desolate, Lost Camp of mine would slip past me and my children to someone who did not hear its silent voice.
One would have thought that owning twelve sections of land around you would provide adequate insulation from the erosion of the modern world. A truth we have to learn is that we are never the true owners of our own horizons.