Thursday, November 23: Thanksgiving
Homolovi State Park, near Winslow, Arizona
I said I wanted to spend Thanksgiving alone in the desert and here I am. I seem to be very powerful these days: I used to say I wanted things and nothing whatsoever happened except that I had to go back to work the next day with a headache, but now, hey, I say it and it happens. Middle age! It has its compensations.
So here I am in the high desert and it is exactly as awesome as I thought it would be. Yesterday I spent an hour wandering around through 600 year old Hopi ruins completely alone, listening to the wind and the rocks. Right now I am sipping a cocktail, about to make a Thanksgiving feast for one on a grill. I spent the morning reorganizing and tidying up the camper. Then I went for a walk through sand and cactus and those strange beautiful flower like plants that I can’t remember what they are and it was desert and deserted and the air was silent and perfect. I stood and watched two ravens in the blue blue sky and thought, this is OKAY. MORE THAN OKAY.
I needed this. I have been making Thanksgiving dinner or some part of it for 35 years now, for anywhere from 3 to 40 people. I enjoyed it! I liked the noise and the mild stress and the planning. But I have done that and now making it tonight for ONE feels hilarious and delightful and right. I bought two tiny pies for one at Wal Mart: 50 cent pies of pathos! Pathetic pies of lonelieness! I am looking forward to them and I am not lonely. I am gloriously alone. I did have a brief lonely moment on Tuesday night – my first real bout of homesickness! It had to happen and it did and it passed. – since then, I’ve been fine and more than fine. It is not that I don’t love my family and friends: I do. I miss them. But this year is for me and me alone. Next year maybe I will cook a 17 lb turkey and umpteen side dishes and two pies and so on and so forth. This year, my daughter is doing all that and I hope it went well. It’s her turn! I’m in the desert and I heard the coyotes sing the moon up.
Now it is later and I have had – and cleaned up! Even in the desert you can’t get away from Thanksgiving dishes! – my Thanksgiving feast. It was awesome. I ate turkey – I very very rarely eat meat but I usually do have turkey for the holiday. I got a tenderloin, or, well, it turned out to be two tenderloins in a package at the Safeway in Holbrooke, Arizona. I was going to turn my nose up at them because they did not have organic turkey or tofurkey or any of the fancy stuff my spoiled ass is used to in Asheville. Then I looked around and realized I was no better or worse than any of the people, most of whom seemed to be Native American, shopping for their Thanksgiving dinner ingredients at this Safeway and I needed to get over myself. This is America, I said to myself, get on it. So I bought a Jennie-O turkey tenderloin and some more potatoes and butter because you always need more butter on Thanksgiving. I made semi mashed turnips and potatoes – I didn’t bring a potato masher. Horrors. – and carrots with honey and lemon and butter. I didn’t make stuffing although I have all the ingredients from a fit of nostalgia in Silver City. But enough was enough. I lit the charcoal I’ve been saving in the grill and put the tenderloins on it, where they naturally never quite cooked (match light Kroger brand charcoal! By the time all the coals are all lit they’re mostly done!) so I had to bring them into the camper and stew them a bit in the vegan mushroom gravy I bought in less American Santa Fe when I still thought I might have tofurkey.
Everything was delicious. I put a pathetic pumpkin pie on the grill and ate it warm and it too was delicious. And the extra potatoes I made in tin foil in the coals will be delicious in a couple days. The obligatory French Canadian couple across the way, both of whom are thin to sinews and tanned to a terra cotta orange that is faintly alarming, stopped by to exclaim at the sunset. The desert sunsets, we agreed, are unbelievable and every day another one. I put the camera on the tripod and took some star and moon pictures and drank some wine and . . .
And here I am, giving some serious thanks. I never thought in a million years I would ever be here, be doing this, that I could be so lucky, so blessed and so happy as I trundle along through this huge and crazy country. But here I am. And it’s amazing.