There was lightening in the desert yesterday as I left Marie's house. Clouds were rolling in from the north. They were tall and curved in such a way that they looked like white capped waves ready to break across the shores of blue sky in the south. I was listening to African music performed by Béla Fleck and accompanying African musicians. It sort of matched the spiky desert plants and sharp volcanic rock that poked out from the landscape. I marveled at the vocalists whose voices were really instruments holding their own parts and which were necessary for the wholeness of the compositions. I thought about other music where voices are used that way and found myself comparing African music to opera, which turned my mind back to art history lessons and brought up this painting of Sacred and Profane.
Somehow, the desert and the music playing seemed sacred in that moment and my mind then turned to the song "Come, Come Ye Saints", which is my favorite song. It isn't one that I listen to a lot, or sing often, but if I could only keep one song for the rest of my life it would be that one. I think it is because that was the song my ancestors sang as they were driven from their homes in the winter, or massacred, or tortured, or starving. What amazing people they were that after fighting the best battles they were able to through weapons or politics, they finally won by singing that song as they marched West.
By that point, I was about an hour into the drive, and the rain started coming. It made the roads very slippery as the oil that had accumulated on the road during the preceding months rose and formed slicks on the top of the rainwater. I felt my car slipping minutely and slowed down a bit. Cars started rushing past me, for a while, but soon we all came to a stop. No one knew what was going on. All we could see was miles of stopped traffic waiting on that long desert road. I witnessed my seven hour drive stretch into an eight and then a nine hour drive and I was surprised by how enjoyable the time was. I listened to an old conference talk about Joseph Smith that President Hinckley had given and I read "Somewhere a Band is Playing" by Ray Bradbury which is a story appropriately located in the Arizona desert. I watched the rain come down and listened to drops that hit so hard they sounded like hail falling.
When I finally inched my way past the source of the delay, I found that it was a pile of very small scrap metal. Nothing was recognizable. Clearly no one had survived and I suspected that there were still some pieces of human bodies in the pile. I went by as quickly as I could to help get traffic moving again and then passed some more time talking with Laura on the phone. I told her about how long the trip was taking, but how I didn't really mind. After we hung up, I remembered how Mom had said that time passed very sweetly and enjoyably as she sat with Grandma in her final hours. I thought about how I have never minded waiting for funeral processions even if I am running late. Then I realized that even though I hadn't known it, I had been a part of an impromptu funeral procession for two hours that day. It made me wonder if that was why the time had passed so enjoyably. Perhaps when death is present, the time we have on Earth becomes dear no matter how it is spent.
One hour from home and just at the point when I always know that however tired I might be, I can make it the rest of the way, there were two more delays. The calm patience of the evening was still the overriding feeling I had, but I was glad that the delays resulted from lane closures for road construction. I was also glad that I would soon be safely home, with no chance of falling asleep in dangerous circumstances. I arrived just before midnight, and when I finally made it into my bed, I slept soundly the whole night.