TAMMY KLING JOHN SPENCER ELLIS
TRANSFORM FROM WHERE YOU ARE, TO WHERE YOU WANT TO BE
Table of Contents
‘Sometimes you must let go of the life you had planned for in order to make room for the life ahead of you.’
Five seconds can alter your life for ever. It can change the course of your dreams and wipe out everything you’d ever hoped for. It can send you into the wilderness, in search of nothing.
Three days into the Nevada desert I felt the soles of my shoes melting. I stopped, turned one foot upside down and examined the bottom of my trainer. The rubber fibres seemed to be on fire, heating to higher temperatures with each step. I didn’t know when I’d find nourishment and I didn’t care.
Waves of heat rose off of the surface of the red sands. It was miles outside of Amargosa near Death Valley, the driest place on earth.
I knew from my research in neurobiology that the brain could last several days without water. The dendrites would repair themselves, the synapses still firing. The brain was an amazing organism with the ability to repair itself against even the worst circumstances, but if I didn’t find water soon dehydration would set in, and the brain could lapse into confusion. I’d start seeing things, hearing things—it would be totally disorientating.
I took a step forwards through an arroyo, checking the landscape for a cactus. Inside would be gallons of water, and some breeds had sustained the lives of ancient Native American tribes wandering the desert for years. I walked for another five minutes until I found a craggy rock and sat down, lowering my head into the palm of my hands. I had no plan, and no desire for one. When I started out I wanted only to escape, to cross several terrains and climates and just go.
Before I set out for my journey, a man at the small farewell gathering they’d insisted on throwing for me muttered something from the back of the room.
‘It’s almost as if his life has been divided into two sections. Before the accident, and after.’
And it was true. I was a different man now. I felt like a cadaver cut down the middle with a saw, my breastbone cut open, exposing the organs. Like a body during an autopsy, my heart had been ripped out and placed on top of my chest for examination. The blood had ceased to flow. I was a cadaver. Hollow.
I considered eating the small energy bar I had left in my backpack, but I knew that if I did there was a chance it would be worse. My insides would tighten. Water was needed for digestion and the food wouldn’t get through the small intestine without it.
The voice startled me, and I looked up into the sun. I rubbed my eyes and swallowed hard, my throat parched and sore. Was the process beginning?
‘Here’s some water if you need it.’ The voice was gruff, yet distinctly female. She had greying hair and a creviced jaw darkened with lines. She held the slim canteen towards me. ‘The water’s hot, but it’s better than nothing. Only a fool comes out here without a canteen.’
I took it and unscrewed the metal top, downing it.
‘You lost?’ she asked.
I shook my head. ‘No.’
‘No one sane comes this far,’ she said. ‘Must be lost. In one way or another.’
The woman wore brown shorts and a longsleeved cotton shirt with pockets and snaps down the front and on the arms. A large black camera hung from a leather strap around her neck. She kicked at the dirt with her boots to make a small clearing, something I’d once read about in a desert manual. Experienced trail guides did it to check for scorpions and rattlers before they sat down.
‘You got a name?’ she asked.
I held the canteen a little longer, considered drinking, then wondered if it was all she had.
‘Jonathan,’ I said. ‘Jonathan Taylor.’
‘Jonathan, you realize it’s 46 degrees out here?’
I said nothing, shrugged.
‘You need more than a T-shirt. And jeans aren’t the best thing for the desert. I’ve got a tent over there,’ she said, pointing to a small clearing of trees. She tapped the camera. ‘You can rest in the shade as long as you want. I’m here for a week taking pictures.’ She looked intently at my face. ‘You’ve got a bad wound there. You need something for it?’
I touched the left side of my jaw. It had been two months now, but the wound wouldn’t heal. I shook my head. ‘I’m fine.’
‘You don’t look fine,’ she mumbled.
‘So why are you here?’ I asked. ‘Why the desert? It’s pretty dry and desolate out here and there’s not much to do.’
‘I’m a psychologist,’ she said. ‘Former, that is. Always wanted to be a photographer but it’s the one dream I never fulfilled. I’ve always loved the open space in the desert