Still Friday July 31st.
I throw a peace sign up to my new friends at Ski Inn and head toward the exit.
Stepping outside, I’m instantly overcome with heat and flies. I race the few steps to my car, start it up, crank the AC, and enter Salvation Mountain into my GPS.
About 30 min or the length of Stranglehold by Ted Nugent, Sweet Child O’ Mine by Guns N Roses, Foreplay/Long Time by Boston and a couple other classic rock favorites and I’m there. I’m in Niland. A census designated place or CDP. Google it.
WHO THE HELL DECIDED TO LIVE OUT HERE? It looks like 1,006 people (according to April 2010 census) were cruising in RVs, then broke down, and said ‘To hell with it, we’ll live here!”
In a desert of tans, browns, and beiges, the murals of Leonard Knight’s Salvation Mountain let me know I’m in the right spot — both physically and spiritually. At least for the moment.
I pull in behind a Mercedes SUV and watch the Mexican Kardashians emerge with their fluffy, white Bichon Frise.
How do I know they’re Mexican, you ask? The Baja California license plates and Spanish are a dead giveaway. Moving on…
While mom starts demanding that her daughter makes her way up the mole hill with Fido for an impromptu photo shoot, her son goes off to do his own exploring. Meanwhile, I have a seat in sukhasana ready for a calm, quiet meditation in the delight of the positive energy this mountain emits.
Well, that’s what I’m wanting to do, meditate, however the Mexi-dashians can’t stop yelling and whining about the heat long enough for me to get centered or calm.
I wait as patiently as I can while the family loads up and gets on their merry way.
Let’s try this meditation thing again. Eyes closed. Palms facing up ready to receive what the mountain might give me. Listening to my breathing. Wait. That’s not my breathing. That’s a family of four. DAMMIT!
Dad and the two small crumb snatchers are at the top of the mountain. Mom is about ten feet to my left pointing a camera in their direction. She finally has her family in focus and I’m waiting for ‘Everyone say cheeeeeese!’ and instead I hear, “Who do you love?” followed by three voices, “JEEEESUS!”
“Jesus fucking Christ”, I mutter a little too loudly and get up from my easy pose. Meditation is just not in my cards today.
I start wandering around the mountain checking out the paint job and sturdiness of the structure. Straw, cement, and lead-free paint make up this nearly three-story tall mound. There is a yellow painted path that meanders through messages of ‘God is Love!’ and the sinners prayer to the top which exhibits 360-degree views of the Colorado Desert.
I realize I’m alone at last but instead of feeling relieved, I begin to feel nervous. I hear ATVs in the distance and wonder if it’s a bunch of tweakers on bath salts about to eat my face and use my bones for soup.
I make my way down and investigate the back of this monument. Oh, look! A cave!
Inside, people have left letters, poems, pictures, business cards, and expired student ID cards. There’s a candle burning. One of those Virgin Mary ones you find in your Mexican friend’s bathroom on the back of the toilet. (What’s up with that?)
All of a sudden, it hits me like an asteroid! All the feels I can feel. I let myself go, slide down the wall till my ass hits the dirt and I bury my head between my knees.
“I MISS MY MOMMY!”, I scream in between sobs. “WHERE’S MY MOM? I JUST MISS MY FUCKING MOM!”, I wail.
It was like an invisible hug, an air of comfort. A silent whisper saying, “Let it all out, girl. Just let it out.”
And boy, did I. I let feelings out that had been lying dormant for the last year, eight months, three weeks and five days.
Soaking wet from sweat, tears, and snot, I emerge from the tomb-like cave to see a clean cut man with ‘dad-bod’ and Jerusalem cruisers (see: Teva sandals) with socks headed in my direction.
Startled, he stammers something about not realizing someone else was here.
I’m perplexed! Did this guy not just hear me screaming at the top of my lungs for the last five minutes? Perhaps he was trying to be polite and not draw attention to my nuclear meltdown.
“Welp, here I am!”, I quip and follow the yellow
brick painted road to the top of the mountain once more to catch the beginning of the sunset.
Broken down vehicles with make shift tents and overgrown cacti dot the desert.
I inhaled deeply through my nose to my belly and held it for a few moments to take in the beauty and simplicity of the scenery.
From where I stood, you couldn’t smell the rotting fish at Salton Sea, but you could catch glimpses of the setting sun sparkling on the water before it made it’s way behind the San Jacinto Mountains.
You could see smiles on the boys faces as they raced by on their four-wheelers. Clearly, just enjoying themselves and paying no regard to me or anyone else who visits this visionary environment. Absolutely not high from huffing canned air. Just high on their simple life.
Perhaps it was my new outlook, my new perspective.
I am in no way a religious person! However, from where I stood, I felt compelled to apologize for some really fucked up things I’d done in the past and promised I would do better at being a decent human. I thanked the universe for keeping me safe on my day’s adventure and for leading me to this place.
Had I just meditated?! Yes. Yes, I think I did.
I slid down the back of the mountain and headed to my car.
No need for GPS this time. I knew my way home; just follow the sun.