Some of my friends here think I’m crazy. Not because I’m any more peculiar than most people in Truth or Consequences—that would be more difficult than the odd thing they question, which is running at noon. In the desert. In July.
It’s much more pleasant than it sounds, though it would have been hell in June before the rains came. Now the temperatures are in the upper eighties or low nineties, with a few little storm systems flirting with the mountains, and no one around except the quails and jackrabbits and lizards. Snakes are hiding from the midday sun, and all the humans are out on the lake. That’s the way I like it. Not that I have anything against snakes, but I prefer not to meet them—or my own species—while I run. I want to be alone. It may look as if I’m only exercising, but actually, I’m writing.
With my train of thought taking a crooked path between lizard sightings and admiration of quail chicks, cacti and the rain-promising sky, I get creative. At the beginning of the run I pick a plot problem and turn my mind loose to play with it. Something about the free flow of running breaks mental dams. Key lines of dialog and important character goals arrive, ideas that refused to show up at my computer the night before. Snake Face has a lot of music in it, and all of those songs came to me on my favorite trail in Elephant Butte Lake State Park, complete with melodies no one will ever hear.
Over the past couple of years, someone has had the urge to make art along that trail. First, there was the miniature Stonehenge. Now there’s a spiral of pebbles presided over by a bulbous lava rock that looks like the Venus of Willendorf with a few too many endowments, and another that looks remarkably like a fluffed-up bird. The bird rock faces out, with its clutch of egg pebbles nearby. The fertility goddess squats on a large flat rock overlooking the spiral. All along the trail I keep noticing additional smaller arrangements, such as a square white rock placed in the center of the square red patch on a larger white rock. I find light green on dark green, bright yellow on dark brown and gold, all sorts of little rocks arranged on shape-and-color-compatible members of the community of stones marking the trail’s boundaries. These creations required time and thought and close observation.
As I wondered how long they took and try to picture the person behind them, a plot puzzle I was struggling with resolved itself. These little henges and heaps are going to find their way into the book in progress, perfectly suited to a certain character and his needs. Art meets art on the trail of inspiration.