Several years ago, I lived in a small desert town named Rosamond. Take a look at the picture on the right, now back here, now the picture, now back here (sorry, I had to). Yup, not much going on in Rosamond, CA. Surrounding this magical town was a whole lot of desert; the Mojave desert, to be more specific. I spent several months living there with a few Marine buddies when I worked on the Predator Drone for General Atomics and later on CH-53E Helicopters at Edwards Air Force Base for L-3 Communications.
This area of California has a rich history in aviation development and testing. The space shuttles occasionally landed at Edwards when the weather in Florida was unfit for landing there. The X-35 Joint Strike Fighter, V-22 Osprey, B-2 Spirit, and F-117 Nighthawk were some of the more unique aircraft that I was able to see up close. The F-117 has since been retired. I was very fortunate to witness several events in aviation history while stationed there as a Marine and working there as a civilian.
The constant rumbling of turbines echoing through the valley gave the desert life and then the sunsets would end the day with images of painted skies with a glow that only nature could create. The sunrises were also amazing, though brief in comparison to the sunsets. In all honesty, as barren as the desert was, and with its unique ability to isolate a person from the world on several levels due to the weather and geography, I was not lonely. Even as I trapped myself in my room because it was too cold or too hot outside, or did not want to drive at least an hour to see friends, or the roads were flooded; I was comforted by my relationship at the time. I was head over heels in love.
Nothing was more important in my life than my girlfriend and my mission to eventually get transferred to San Diego to be with her permanently. In the meantime, I would drive over three hours to see her every weekend. It didn’t seem like an inconvenience to me at the time, since I was constantly floating on clouds that blurred reality, bended time, and blinded my vision. That, and I always had a solid playlist on my iPod. This playlist became the soundtrack to long drives in the desert and through the mountains throughout the year. Beautiful spring time and snow-capped winter drives meant the same to me as the miserable, dark, and rainy drives: I was going to see my girl. In the background, the music weaved itself with the images outside my windshield as my mind embraced, recorded, and stored it all inside my heart.
Music can be a time machine. It can throw us back into memories of wonderful moments, sad days, specific years of our lives, and the people who have crossed our path. Sometimes, a certain song from our past can trigger a happy memory when it comes down from the airwaves and vibrates through our speakers. Those moments are always welcomed, especially when in the company of someone you shared that past with. Of course, there is also potential for the complete opposite. There are times when music can remind us of a dark place in our lives.
A beautiful memory is frozen forever, untouched, and complete. You can’t add or take from it because it becomes a picture in our mind. It can only fade with time, which can be a good thing when that memory hurts. I am no longer in the relationship that I was in when I lived in the desert. I very rarely think of her and those days of my life anymore. Most of the feelings I had for her have faded and I now have a hard time even picturing her face. I never thought that would happen, but it is true that time heals all.
Even with the healing that comes after time, music is able to take me through parallel universes where my past becomes the present for a moment. That happened to me yesterday when the Aqualung song “If I Fall” came on my Pandora playlist. I was transported to my early morning drive to work from Rosamond to El Mirage. The cold and lonely road began as a dark mystery and slowly revealed itself as the sun came out of hiding. There was not much to see, but it was a very colorful nothing. The mountains in the distance reminded me of my goal to leave that place because I knew what was on the other side. Only love could get me out of bed those mornings and it became my pleasure to work and make the money needed to support that love. The voyage to my past was very short, but just like in a dream, time was irrelevant. I thought I was completely out of the woods when it came to those memories, but I found that sometimes memories are like boxes buried in the desert and you can’t tell how deep they are buried until you step on them and fall in. I wasn’t as shaken up as I used to be when this has happened before. I was mostly surprised that there were still triggers linking my present to those old memories, which is enough to make me wonder if I am really doing as well as I thought I was.
Those desert sunsets have long been in my rear-view by now, and as much as I travel in Southern California, I haven’t stumbled across Rosamond or Edwards since leaving. I’ve been near a few times, but had no curiosity to drive a few more miles and visit my old stomping grounds. The only reason I was able to tolerate that lifestyle was because of the potential to eventually move to San Diego, which did finally happen, and I am still here. The truth is that it doesn’t matter where I end up in life; the past will always be there. The only thing I can do is keep building new memories and pouring dirt over those memory boxes in the desert. I know, so random…