Tuesday, March 1, 2016

~ Johnny Cash a Fading Sunset ~

"...Lord, I've never lived where churches grow..." ~ Johnny Cash

Joshua Tree National Monument is a special place.  I say that because I've walked along some lonely trails, camped, scrambled over the huge boulders, looked up at the night sky, and served as acting Superintendent when working for the National Park Service.  Today it is called Joshua Tree National Park.  Johnny Cash would make it famous.

I must admit that the days after serving as acting Superintendent have been more relaxed and have allowed me to reconnect with the amazing desert park that I love.

My brother Gilbert and I have traveled here on our bikes and and camped.  We like Belle and White Tank campgrounds as they seem to have fewer people.  I remember too that my sister, Susan use to have camp outs here when she was in Girl Scouts and said that she loved it.  I think about that and decide to stop by the local school where she works in nearby in Apple Valley.  She introduces me to her co-workers, and provides me with a nice lunch.  I tell her about my camping at Joshua Tree and she quickly tells me about camping there as a young girl, just as I thought she would.  It is, however, a special place.

When I was the acting Superintendent, our maintenance foreman came into my office and said "guess who I just saw?" I glance up at him and ask "OK, who."  "JOHNNY CASH!!!" as he did little to hide his emotions.  Looking him straight in the eye, I asked "how/when/why?" 

It seems that Johnny Cash was traveling through the park in a big Cadillac when it got stuck in the sand when they pulled off the road.  "When I drove up to see if the driver needed help," he continued, "the rear window rolled down....and the person inside said, 'hello I'm Johnny Cash and we could sure use a tow to get us out of the sand'...."  

"The next time Johnny Cash is around, you be sure to call me first" I say in my most authoritative acting Superintendent voice.  Wow, Johnny Cash!  True story.

Johnny Cash is my favorite singer and I love his songs, poetry, and music.  But honestly, after the foreman left, I began to wonder why was Johnny Cash here at Joshua Tree National Monument when he could be anywhere he choose to be.  I know that he gained inspiration for many of his songs from people or his environment. Perhaps, this desert park was something that helped him with a song.  Perhaps he just needed to breathe the fresh air or look up at the bright night sky or maybe just touch these massive big boulders.  

On one of my trips out to La Joya, New Mexico, with my brother Wil and his son Myles, we heard on the radio some disturbing news just as we were leaving Barstow at our mom and dad's house.  The announcer said in a sorrowful tone, "breaking news, Johnny Cash has died at age 71."  

It is one of those moments in life when you know exactly 'where you were and what you were doing' when someone of his influence dies.  Goodbye Johnny Cash.

His music, his songs, his poetry, his words of wisdom begin playing over and over in my head as we travel towards New Mexico.  Normally, I love this trip but this one is different.

There is one song that he sings about God and Nature and, for me, his words speak to me on my adventures along the trail.  Perhaps, it would be best to write down the lyrics for you to read, yet, only Johnny Cash, "The Man in Black," can sing the words for you to hear.

 ~ Oh, Bury Me Not ~

"...Lord, I've never lived where churches grow
I loved creation better as it stood
That day you finished it so long ago
And looked upon your work and called it good

I know that others find you in the light
That sifted down through tinted window panes
And yet I seem to feel you near tonight
In this dim, quiet starlight on the plains

I thank you, Lord, that I'm placed so well
That you've made my freedom so complete
That I'm no slave to whistle, clock or bell
Nor weak eyed prisoner of Waller Street

Just let me live my life as I've begun
And give me work that's open to the sky
Make me a partner of the wind and sun
And I won't ask a life that's soft or high

Let me be easy on the man that's down
Let me be square and generous with all

I'm careless sometimes, Lord, when I'm in town
But never let them say I'm mean or small
Make me as big and open as the plains
And honest as the horse between my knees
Clean as a wind that blows behind the rains
Free as the hawk that circles down the breeze

Forgive me, Lord, if sometimes I forget
You know about the reasons that are hid
You understand the things that gall or fret
Well, you knew me better than my mother did

Just keep an eye on all that's done or said
And right me sometimes when I turn aside
And guide me on that long, dim trail ahead
That stretched upward toward the great divide..."

Johnny Cash
b. 2/26/1932 ~~ d. 9/12/2003

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