Saturday, December 10, 2011

Bitter Lake

I’m beginning to forget what the rain feels like. Sweet memories of summer raindrops soaking my skin overshadow the frustrations of plans being thwarted by the rain showers of the East Coast.  I feel the thirst of the land, a land void of life teeming on the surface. The brown landscape stretches for miles beyond the horizon. Under a blazing sun the earth is still, echoing the silence of caverns beneath the surface, proud with silent giants of stalagmites guarding the middle of the Earth.

I crave the sweet rain of intellectual conversation, of cultural diversity, of American Sign Language, of all these things and more that allow me to grow. But if I look deep inside, I will find a cavern is slowing growing. Stalagmites of building an experience as an Americorp volunteer in rural New Mexico crystallize to form deep caves of wisdom and knowledge.

Surrounded by an eternal brown dry flat, my body longs for water. Just a short little while earlier, I was living on the outskirts of Washington, DC in Arlington, VA where it had been raining non-stop for almost two weeks. I now found myself living in a parched landscape of rural New Mexico, serving as an Americorp volunteer to bring sign language to isolated deaf children, their families, and their teachers.

Could it be true? A dot of green and blue on the map? Or was the desert sun creating a mirage in my very hands? Straddling my motorcycle, I revved the engine in search of my mystic Holy Grail, the hot wind sucking me dry as I throttled the engine faster, desperate.

A brown sign grew larger in the flat horizon: “Bitter Lakes”. At last! I found it! My heart pounding with tantalizing visions of water and green , my motorcycle churned the dusty dirt road leading to the lake.

A sliver of water divided a brown landscape.  Salt deposits patterned the ground, enchanting shapes of my personal sirens beckoning me closer to the water trace. The temptation proved too strong; I found myself furiously stomping out of quicksand engulfing my feet.

An empty sign post frame outlined the beginnings of an abandoned trail, a mocking invitation to fill in the missing information map with the discoveries of my feet could bring, an invitation I accepted. The trail departed from the boscage and opened out once again to the eternal brown flat. A roadrunner stood still in the arid grass before me. Feebly attempting to chase it in an inevitable losing battle, I watched it dart away to a hidden stillness in the desert umbrage.  My energetic enthusiasm reduced to a dwindle as I trudged onward through the dullness. Dropping to my knees to release entangled thorns from my shoes, my eyes caught slight movements in the dust. Ants

 I scanned the ground for a mound; instead I found an inverted home of a hole in the ground; sitting in the dust, I watched an entire colony scuttling back and forth, a promising sign of life in this barren environment. Rising, I noticed a flowering bough reaching for the sky. Following its lead, I stretched my arms high and observed a whooping crane gliding across the sky.

My observations of the land were clouded by my own blighted hopes.  Once my eyes were opened, I saw the hidden beauty of life everywhere. I will be honest. I am struggling here in southeast New Mexico.  My heart wanders to the rolling blue hills of Appalacia I call home. Peering closer, I see a kindergartner’s hands slowly opening up to sign “mother” for the first time. I see a rural interpreter practicing role-playing with ASL classifiers in attempt to improve her American Sign Language with me. I see a grandmother learning how to ask her deaf grandson if he is hungry. I see a group of teachers giggling as they realize the American Sign Language staff classes after school are an effective and fun way to communicate not only with the deaf children in their classroom, but the hearing children who struggle to express themselves verbally. I see a deaf boy learning to read, opening up an entire new world for him.

I long for the rain, but until then, I must be the rain for those who have been parched for too long.


  1. Beautifully written from the heart. Keep your light shining! ;)