Monday, November 12, 2007

Ray Rasmussen: CYBER CAFÉ

It's four weeks since I struck out for the Escalante Wilderness of Southern Utah. The roads are rough and clouds of dust kick up behind my truck. Signs warn that they are impassible when wet ― as if it ever rains here. Each day, I load my pack with food, water and camera equipment and strike off for remote canyons. I walk dry streambeds, cross arid cactus flats and search out places where the view through my camera lens fills with weathered sandstone spires and curving canyon walls.

In the desert silence, the only sounds have been an occasional birdsong, the rustle of lizards hidden in sage brush. At night, a small fire casts a ring of yellow warmth, the moon journeys through the sky, a coyote yips in the thrall of the hunt.

Today, I pass through a small town and enter a cyber-café ― it's a kaleidoscope of the senses: new age music, the fragrance of coffee and baked goods, a steady hum of voices.

In this Mormon dominated town, the café is an alternative gathering place for a mix of people who wear the down-to-earth garb of the 70s. Crafts and artwork decorate the walls. A bulletin board offers the usual in new age dalliances: massage, tarot, acupuncture, whole earth foods.

Like me, a number of people ply their computers. I don't speak with anyone except to order coffee and food. Yet, I feel connected. It's as if we solo travelers have each used a different path to find our way to this small oasis.

Email floods in-messages from friends and a wave of spam offering sexual aids and the companionship of wanton females. I feel like a 19th century sailor arriving at an island port, thrilled to find mail from home and, there for the taking, an exotic woman.

The messages rest in my mind like the flotsam and jetsam found on a beach-glad tidings and troubling news. I am torn by the urge to rush home to the complexities of everyday life and the desire to return to the simple elegance of the canyon lands.

desert streambed—
a scatter of debris from
the last flash flood

by Ray Rasmussen
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
first published in Frogpond, Fall 2006

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