The hermitage, where I live, has windows over the kitchen sink that provide a view of the backyard of Spence Manor, which has a landscape of limestone, native plants, and one dead palm. The palm lived quite a few years, but the big freeze of 2021 killed it, along with the gorgeous ivy that used to drape Engelbrecht Inn, Spence Manor, and the Tower. The palm is twenty-five feet tall, so it looks pretty much the same now as it ever did. You only realize it’s dead if you look up.
I was on the East & West Trail that runs behind the Village of La Mancha, right where the road turns north to the Wizard’s Tower. I saw a flash of bright, luscious color. It was a wildflower. In full bloom. And not just any flower. A purple and yellow one, which are common in April and May, but don’t typically make it through the Summers.
There is something compelling about reaching the end of the line, going to the place where civilization ends and wilderness begins. Behind is the safe and familiar, all you know and everything you have survived. Ahead is the mystery of possibilities and the birthplace of the stories you will tell when you return from that far country.
I call it Star Church. There are no doors, anyone is welcome, and all you have to bring is your phone. The doctrines, rules, and practices of this church could be written on my thumbnail, which suits me just fine.
I captured a dark moth tonight as he thrashed about the globes of my lamp. He was the darkest purple there is, the last color on the spectrum before the whole thing falls into black. Within my cupped hands I felt the powdery softness of his abdomen as his velvet body rubbed against my fingers.
And just like that Foxy Brown is back. I was reading on the back porch of the Hermitage, looked up and saw Foxy moving eastward out of the Western Wild Lands into La Mancha. I grabbed my phone and managed to get a single, blurry image.
And now a blazing and muscular Summer has fallen over La Mancha. The locals say it’s going to be a bad one. When I open the door to the Hermitage it feels like I’m stepping into an oven. The sun throbs and shimmers and drains the colors of the landscape, leaving everything looking like an old polaroid photo. People avert their eyes from the sun, hide beneath broad brimmed hats, and scurry from one spot of shade to the next.
I have found solitude to be beautiful and terrible, uplifting and overwhelming, nurturing and destroying, a source of joy and of pain. There is a heaviness to solitude when it comes rolling at you low and hard and constant. When it is every night. When your life has called you to it and you must obey. When you long for human contact but there is none to be found.
There is a pole near the International Bocce Court at the end of Gallagher Lane. Atop this pole is a bright lamp that is never turned off. All night long it blazes away, slashing beams of light through the trees and opening great wounds in the darkness of the Valley.
Few people know there is a secret entrance into La Mancha from beyond the Western Wild Lands. The old road behind the Lost Boys drops sharply downhill and then turns, ending at a chained gate. Beyond the gate is some sort of beatnik community, as best I can tell. Roxi lives out there somewhere. And I’m guessing so do the people who play the drums at night.