I don’t know where I originally heard the quote, what book it was that I had read it in.. but it has stuck with me for many years; and It was somewhere out west while driving across country that I heard it for the last time.
In early 2000 or 2001 I was headed west through the middle of the country for a year hiatus to Arizona. The roads that began full of radio tunes and high hopes, soon made way for open fields, black skies, tornadoes, treacherous weather, and bulletholed fading signs that promised”gas 5 miles”.
Those are always the longest drives in the dark, that long 5 miles in which more often than not led you to a town that’s no longer on the map.
A Deserted darkness with no fuel or streetlights and a maze of closed roads as you try to get back to the highway, in one last hopeful attempt to not glance at the Blazing orange reminder on the dashboard.
Most of the trip out west was spent Checking maps, those good ol paper maps! Yet, Every so often you’d be missing a page or a corner would’ve ripped off where one county connected to another and you’d roll the dice and ask a stranger for directions.
Directions in which luckily.. your instinct ignored more than once.
While the year in Arizona proved to be uneventful, The reality was that the ride back east wouldn’t turn out to be much different than the ride out west.
No different except that due to a turn of events, Phoenix had left me with about 500$ left to my name, a mangy stray dog that I had taken in and the realization that once I crossed back over that New York border; me and the dog who’s name ironically became “dog”.. We were going to be homeless; and without a vehicle.
So that was that. A girl, a dog, a duffel bag and no where to be.
After packing a few things and telling the neighbors in the apartment complex; who themselves were mostly yearly transients “we won’t be back, take what you want.”, we left the door open and drove east of Arizona.
Not long after the trek back east began, I was lost. Not lost on the road but lost in a different sense.
I had no place I needed to be. I didn’t worry about where I would end up, Didn’t care to go any place at all and yet I wanted to go everywhere. I wouldn’t have minded to drive aimlessly forever.
I still get like that now. Driving for hours. Home is an open highway for me, always has been and may always be.
When We pulled into a rest stop on an Indian reservation, I still didn’t have a care in the world.
I didn’t have a thought in my head, I only remember sitting there staring into that mountainside, and can’t recall a single thought. It’s why I didn’t notice she had sat down next to us, and didn’t pay it much mind until we looked at eachother and smiled.
We continued to sit. Dog was laying in the heat once again, bald spots on his fur still healing from the mange the veterinarian treated him for. Ribs and hip bones protruding from whoever had mistreated and refused to feed him before I found him, but quickly on his way to recovery.
That day he was refusing to lay on the grass no matter how much I coaxed; preferring to fry himself on sidewalks pavement. She looked at him and nodded.
“What’s the name?”
She was an older woman. Native American; turned again and sat there silent. We had been sitting there next to eachother for almost 20 minutes looking into the hillside before she spoke again.
“Mohawk?” She asked.
“Me? No. My Fathers side yes, but not Mohawk.”
“Halfbreed are you? Did You know they kill halfbreeds around here.”
“I didn’t know that.”
She nodded and stared hard at dog who was now scratching his healing ear infection, and then chewing on his foot.
He really was a sight to see now that I think of it, something out of those infomercials at 2 am, jerking your heartstrings with that music when all of a sudden Sarah Mclachlan is asking for a couple bucks to help and all you want to do is throw money at the TV just to make it stop.. Oh Yeah.. that was dog alright, clearly he was one of those alright.. what a sight.
“What’s wrong with that dog”
“Him? I found him, he’s had a rough start. Hes alright, he’s got no plans either. Just travels with me now.”
“Plans no good. You make a plan and the universe makes it own. Now your plans are no good. So why plan? Just let the wind take you.”
After i fell silent she added “Which way are you headed?”
“Not sure, doesn’t matter.”
“Nothing wrong with that. Best way to travel.” She laughed
She turned to me, took my hand in hers and said “Because, no more worrying. No more questions, no more wondering or stress. You let it alone, you follow your instinct. Do what you love. The universe takes care of the rest. You don’t need to know where life if going. Because If you don’t know where you’re going, any road’ll take you there.”
She didn’t say any more. Just patted my hand, stood up and left. Long dress and long black hair blowing behind her in the desert heat.
Me and dog sat on that bench for a while longer, him chasing beetles and me thinking of what she said before getting up and moving on.
That damn Dog; he was born in the desert so for years after we left the west you’d always catch him laying on the concrete on a hot ass day.
I could’ve sworn one day he’d burn himself. But no, he would just whine when I’d tell him “too hot to be doing that.”
That dog never really did get used to the winters back here in the east.
Long after he died I still remember that about him when it snows.
And I remember what she said to me every time I sit and stare into a hillside watching the wind blow through the trees.