She says she talks to angels. Ocotillo Wells was my Walden Pond. As Henry David Thoreau wrote, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
The Wells is a retreat. It is where you’ll find people enjoying life, and a few such as myself, trying to forget life. While my son and his family were enjoying the sun and sand, I was in exile, confronting the ghosts that had followed me from Texas.
I’d lost everything. There was an illusion of starting a new life. One more illusion piled upon all the other countless illusions I’d constructed all my life. That was just a façade! Everything I’d known and loved had been ripped away from me. I drank too much, smoked too much and cussed too much. I rarely bathed, and teeth were falling out of my mouth. No one noticed that I was crazy.
There are no quick answers to life. That’s why self-help books don’t work. If you’re reading a book it’s not self-help, it’s help. The prophet, George Carlin said that. And it’s true. You have to let life boil you down to your common elements. You have to shed the veneer you’d built to present to the outside world. When you do that you are left with who you really are. That’s when the angels begin to speak.
They don’t shout. They reason. They don’t condemn. They explain. They ask. Like Chris Hansen, they emerge from the shadows and ask, ”What are you doing here, Bill?” YOU must provide the answers. If the answers don’t come from within they won’t work because they’re not your answers, they’re someone else’s.
And the angels of Ocotillo Wells spoke to me. Each time I was there I’d get up in the morning, smoke a cigarette, and look toward the east. Toward Texas. But Texas didn’t want me back just yet. The angels weren’t done. I had to learn. I had to grow. I had to complete the stripping away of the veneer and become who I really was. Or I had to die.
You see, that’s the truth of self-realization. If you embark on this journey beware. There is a possibility that in the end, when you stand naked before the voices in the desert there’s nothing there. Whatever recipe you’d used to construct you, something was missing, and even though it appears to work, it doesn’t taste right, and while you may appear to be appealing, in reality, you’re just a plate of hospital food. Did I say you’d have to die? I misspoke. You’re dead already.
There is no Eureka moment. There are a series of small epiphanies. You can’t raze a useless building with one swing of a wrecking ball. There must be many smaller hammer blows. Jesus said we must be born again, but the newborn are just babies. You must rebuild, brick by brick. If you build wrong you must tear it all down and start all over. The angels have all the time in the universe.
You will know when your journey is complete when you wake up one morning and you are happy with yourself. Will other people be happy with you? Probably not. They were happy with the old you. The you they viewed through their own illusion. The you they are most comfortable with. That’s because they haven’t talked to the angels yet.
There’s this little girl. She’s crammed more into her short life than most adults I know. Once, while we talked, she confided in me. ”I talk to angels. They all know me. Am I crazy?” No little girl. You’re not crazy. You’re just ahead of the pack. You heard the voices before the world drowned them out.
I knew when I came back to Texas I was different. But you must always remember the voices of the desert angels. There is no pill, no drink, no best selling book that will help. For me, there’s a place called Ocotillo Wells, and the voices in the wind. I talked to angels. They called me out by my name.
The Butcher Shop