Leigh looked down from the picnic table outside Samantha's motor home, through pines and junipers with their long early-morning shadows, to a blue lake and a rocky bank beyond. She was at Fool's Hollow campground, Show Low - back in Arizona after three weeks camping in Utah. Retired, future uncharted, she was learning to feel free at last to give up her ties to the University and write her story. Samantha, grudgingly awake, appeared at the door and Leigh looked up, waiting for that first grouchy greeting from her unschooled lover.
"Babe, your patience has been evidentiary. I wondered if we should have went to Colorada," she said, thinking of the places she had talked about that we hadn't visited.
"Bub, this is our holiday, or as you would say, vacation, and Utah has been splendid."
Leigh cooked the eggs then spread her English Marmite on a slice of bread, making Sam smile finally, "Still eating marmoset, eh Babe?"
Then, "Is that cool or what," as a black-headed grosbeak landed nearby, and Sam's newfound birder spirit soared. Leigh looked to confirm the bird's identity and felt that strange melting within her that came whenever Sam's delight took wing.
"Bublet, I love you." She said.
"I love you too Babe."
lazed through the morning. Sam, tanned, young-looking and boyish in
shorts, waited for birds to photograph. She moved Leigh's chair at
intervals to keep her in the shade, brought an extension cord for her
laptop and tried not to talk. Leigh, looking like the pale academic
she had been for forty years, mused on the past weeks of travel through
canyon lands, and how love had prospered in spite of their being total
opposites, how laughter had proved such a brilliant counterbalance to
what seemed a mismatch to many - how well the laughing had enriched
On their first day out of Tucson, they had decided to stop near Cottonwood and Leigh studied guidebooks and settled for a camp at Dead Horse Ranch Park. Sam had a good geographical sense, but Leigh usually went for maps and worked on distances and turns.
"It looks as though you need to take the next one to the northwest and go about three miles," she said, "and maybe the turn will be on Tenth Street." And she continued to suggest other possible routes.
Sam looked over at her. "You need to circumvent the parallaxes and intercept at the peripheral and then figure out the cerebellum and dissect for the angle of proximity to the vortex." They both laughed as usual, and found themselves at the Park without even trying.
Leigh had been used to sleeping bag-on-the-ground kind of camping and highly organized trips, to fit in with her busy schedule. This time there was no itinerary, no idea of where to stay, and no definitive return time. She had qualms about the vagueness and about RVs sardined into treeless concrete campsites by freeways, but Sam knew that silent Leigh was addicted to peace, and happily, Dead Horse Ranch with its mesquite and cottonwood trees along the fast-flowing Verde River was quiet. They walked over fields and beside lakes, and watched a common black hawk in the treetops. By the River, Bailey the Labrador played in a muddy flume.
"Bailey get outa that dirty water or yall get kama sutra."
"Giardia?" Leigh laughed, throwing a stick over her shoulder without thinking.
"Son of a bitch," Leigh said, "I thought it was a snake. Scared the fuck outa me."
Leigh smiled. Almost anything would scare the fuck outa her. After cooking dinner on the barbecue grill they sat watching the sunset.
"I'm freezin," complained Sam, though it was warm. Then, "I'm burnin up."
Leigh was used to this, with Sam in the throes of menopause. Through the day, but especially during the night, one, and then the other was part of the conversation. Coats or bedclothes came on and off. And she often had tummy take, booboo, muscle spasm, or painful finger. Sam was, by her own admission, a wuss, in contrast to Leigh who was relatively unaware of pain and rarely afraid or worried about her life and surroundings.
Next morning, watching goldfinches at a feeder, Leigh remembered how she had once tried to tell Sam about their habits, but Sam was not yet ready, "Its just a little yella bird," she had shouted.
Here at Dead Horse Ranch they were sitting in silence for once, until suddenly, Sam announced, "Sorry for that," and Leigh looked at her questioningly. "Sorry about the fortuitous when could hear but a breeze so you couldn't smell it."
took Leigh a minute to realize she referred to a fart, because Sam had
earlier coined the word "elevator" as a result of Leigh's loud
one in an elevator once. "Who elevated?" she would ask laughing,
if she detected a bad smell; was it Bailey? Or, after a bathroom trip
she would sometimes grimace and shrug, "J.E." (Just Elevator).
And here again, they looked at one another and burst into laughter,
each one's stimulating laughter in the other until they were exhausted.
From Cottonwood they drove to Glen Canyon, where, crossing the dam an array of cliffs greeted them with the waters of Lake Powell extending into every nook and cranny of what was once, according to David Brower in Let the River Run Through it, a hundred paradises. The apparatus of electric power in the form of dozens of giant steel pylons with high-tension wires stood as industrial ornaments on the red rocky heights. Leigh had read Edward Abbey - clearly Glen Canyon was one of those places that should have been preserved, though she had no concept of its glory - before Glen Canyon Dam, before the making of Lake Powell. It was late afternoon and the slanted rays of the sun hit the red rock red and the white rock pale pink. Across the water fantastic red-brown cliffs began abruptly 140 feet above the surface of the water, where a white salty deposit told of the lake height five years ago.
"Gorgeous," Whispered Leigh.
"Holy fuck," Shouted Sam.
From the camp, craggy mountains, shear cliffs, canyons and islands filled the view, with no trees to interrupt it and they settled into a site with a 180-degree panorama.
"You know if they's not American if they don't reply when you say `Hi'," Sam noted, after returning from the evening walk round the campsite with Bailey. She loved to talk to people met casually, and was disconcerted by cool receptions, whereas Leigh had retained an English reserve after having lived twenty years in London, and realized that the European visitors were in some sense more self contained than her Sam.
Their first excursion was to Lone Rock where they kayaked out to the solitary mountain of rock rising from the lake. Leigh raced along as Sam called from behind, "You's hawlin ass, you little circumfiction, let's paddle round the big ass rock then."
They circled round the big ass Lone Rock and into a cove that led to a series of long finger inlets, the rock faces with strangely rounded humps covered in Swiss cheese holes, caves with layers of ledges, slopes with ridges like ripples in sand, all ghostly white and glaringly bright. Finally, with the blisters coming they returned across the bay.