Monday, June 22, 2009

Pyramid Lake -- Part 1

Thursday night we left the Bay Area and headed east toward Pyramid Lake.

We hit Reno at about 1 am and immediately began gambling. Being a total wuss, my normal game of choice is nickel slots or low stakes video poker, but Aaron wanted to try out "real gambling" for once. We found a patient dealer who was already schooling another newbie, so we hopped in. Aaron was "the face," making the bets, asking the questions, absorbing the odds, and I was "the brain," adding the cards, orchestrating the plays, and ordering drinks. Together we made one fine player, walked away with $15 extra bucks in our collective pocket(which was promptly spent on a grilled cheese sandwich).

By 3 am it it was time to turn in, so we shoved Xochitl in a messenger bag and headed up to the room. Now, I don't condone breaking the rules and sneaking dogs into places they're not allowed... ah, who am I kidding. The reason we got a small dog was to be able to take her anywhere. We didn't actually ask if it was okay for us to have a dog in the room because we didn't want to hear "no." Full well knowing she won't shed, is potty pad trained, and we'd only be in the room for a few hours while sleeping we figured it was worth the risk. Besides, if they caught us then we'd just get kicked out, and there are worse things in life than being blacklisted by Circus Circus Reno.

Besides, she loves hotel rooms.

porcelin doll

The next morning we grabbed coffee at a cafe (where they served us beignet's covered in baking soda instead of powdered sugar... blach!), hit the grocery store, and headed to the lake.

We arrived in the early afternoon. The sky was overcast with thick clouds but the thermostat still read 83 degrees. As we pulled off the dirt road and toward the lake's edge, I was happy to see no other camper's in "my spot". We unpacked and quickly got down to the task at hand: being lazy.

Xochitl picked up desert life like a fish to water. It was as if the landscape awakened the dormant tendencies that lay beneath the surface. She whipped out an entirely new skill set in order to cope with this new place. In a word, she went feral.

The fear was that she would see the small critters and take off, never to be seen again. But the opposite happened. In this new land, everything was foreign so she clung to her pack a little tighter. Foraging along the coastline, she would find treasures, like old bones, tennis balls, and dried fish segments, and bring them back to home base. Once there, she was comfortable enough to settle down and enjoy her booty. If she ever wandered out of sight, we would quickly hustle ourselves to a hiding spot and watch her panic trying to find us. Sneaky move for sure, but the end result was that she stopped wandering off.

As the day went on, thunderclouds began to form, swirling and darkening the skies. We watched as lightning and thunder began. It was a beautiful sight made even more magical when coupled with the fact that somehow we manged to avoid any precipitation.

Here is my attempt to capture part of it, though I missed a spectacular lightning strike as I panned out over the lake and the wind totally obscures the thunder. You get a sense of the landscape at least. Oh, and we're cooking pork chops.

There's something about the desert that facilitates reflection and meditation. Sitting at lake's edge that day, I was struck by not only the timelessness of the landscape, but also about how much my life had changed. Watching little Xochitl run around, I thought about Paco. I thought about every trip we'd ever taken there, where I was in my life at that point, and who we were with. As much as I looked back, I also thought of Aaron, Xochitl, and the future. For hours I sat there and contemplated the cycle of life and the way the world works. Sure, I barely touched the book I'd brought, but I also gained so much more.

For instance, I came to terms with Paco's death in a way I never had before. It sounds cliche, but I truly felt the ending of one chapter with the simultaneous opening of another. Without the background noise of the city and the clutter of life to distract me, I experienced that sentiment in a deep way. But it wasn't sad. It actually felt liberating.

At one point I looked down and saw Xochitl nudging a caterpillar with her nose. My instinct was to reach out and shoo her away because it might be poisonous, but I stopped myself. See, when Paco died I went through a period of thinking I was a bad owner. I know that's not the case, but all it takes is one bad comment from a message board to make you completely beat yourself up all over again, thinking you could have taken extra steps, removed the risk even more, perhaps even bubble wrapped the world.

But a series of freak events lately involving the death of other people's pets has made me put things in perspective. The thing is, risk is a part of life. You can, and should either avoid or lessen obvious forms of risk (ie. wear a helmet when you ride, leash your dog in the city, don't drink the milk if it's chunky), but you can never eliminate it completely. And there is such a thing as going too far in avoiding risk, which can actually put a damper on life. It's all about making safe choices and accepting the small percentage of life you can't control.

As I reached forward to shoo Xdog from the caterpillar, I stopped, waiting for the worst to happen. I watched as she touched it once again with her nose, then turned and left it alone. I kind of laughed at myself for ever being so paranoid, and swore I'd learn to buck up.


Aroo Studio said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aroo Studio said...

Ted Kerasote wrote a good book about just letting a dog be a dog called Merel's Door: Lessons from a free thinking dog.

Shanda said...

What a gorgeous place! I'm really glad the trip is everything you need.