He went out the mountain to pray… Luke 6:12

Dust to Dust: Signs of Love on Jungo Road

Desert Road

Except on freeways, it is rare in the Nevada desert to see a sign which alludes to distance or destination.  Few signs are installed and among those there is an assured transience.  Signs are shot, wrangled and ultimately removed.  During our trip to the Nevada desert in May I noticed a new sign at a 4-way intersection of unpaved roads on Antelope Plains.   The sign for “Jungo Road” stood not far from another new sign, one for “Black Rock Desert.”   The “Black Rock Desert” sign replaced an existing sign and warned travelers that they were entering an area with no services and no help available.  It was an expensive-looking sign with a colorful map, wood frame and plexiglass cover.  Already it bore several bullet holes.  The sign for “Jungo Road” was smaller and exposed.  I noted it indifferently, knowing it would soon be gone.

A month later when we returned to the area, the “Jungo Road” sign was already compromised and falling.  But what I had failed to predict was that in its place stood a softly sculpted memorial.  The sign post–a singular metal stalk–was swathed in pink and dusty suede that ascended toward the sky.  Upon seeing it, I felt relieved because I had begun to wonder if the girl had been forgotten.  I say “girl” because the first inclination I had that someone was being honored at that 4-way was a couple of years ago, when I noticed a pink stuffed rabbit tied to a post on the intersection’s southwest corner.  The rabbit’s head dangled and dust stained its floppy ears.  Were it not for the animal’s cuddly connotations, I would have assessed the scene as a bit macabre; instead I felt confident that the rabbit’s presence was a sign of love and began to look for it, even look forward to it, whenever we took that route.  In fact, I enjoyed spotting the rabbit on several occasions before I became aware of an uneasy shift taking place inside me.  Then, each time we approached the intersection, I hoped I would see the rabbit but feared I would not.  After all, I thought, how long could the rabbit last in that dust, that wind, that rain, that snow, that heat?

Often months passed between our trips out there.  Then nearly a year.  Then one day we drove through the intersection.  And the rabbit.  Was.  Gone.

The intersection of Jungo Road and Old Emigrant Road is as barren as any I have seen.  It is not by a stretch the most remote location in that region but it is remote enough to make me question the placement of  the nearby “Black Rock Desert” sign with its traveler warning.  From that sign it is a twenty minute drive to the nearest small store for a bottle of water and a full hour to an establishement that’s sufficiently stocked for a major supply run.  And that’s raising some dust.  There’s a lot of time to think during all that driving.  And if you’re headed into Black Rock Desert, there’s even more time.

Throughout my travels with my husband in and out of the Black Rock Desert I thought about why the rabbit’s absence so affected me.  I reflected on the fact that a roadside memorial usually evolves from a sudden and tragic loss.  I wondered who had died and if her loved ones lived nearby.  Or if any passers by besides me missed the sight of her rabbit.

I also thought about my family, our sudden and tragic losses, the life-sized holes that survived so long in those of us that lived.  I wondered if my mother mourns in springtime when I am not there with her to plant flowers on my grandfather’s grave.  I wondered who has my brother’s ashes.

Ashes to ashes.

Dust to dust.

In the desert, when dust is stirred by the wind it robs us of breath and sight and causes the Land Rover to hiccup and invades its portals, seeping around the latches and sealing the doors shut with us inside.  Sometimes we can reach through a window and open a door by use of the outside handle.  But sometimes we simply have to wait for the dust to settle.

That’s just the kind of day it was in June when we approached the Jungo Road intersection.  The first thing I saw was a stuffed elephant tied to the pole where the rabbit had once been.  Then I saw the sign post.  Love shimmied up the post and beyond, a gloved hand reaching heavenward, proclaiming:  She will never be forgotten.  Travelers from Winnemucca, the Black Rock Desert, the Majuba Mountains, Lovelock, Gerlach and beyond—would come upon it and witness this revived memorial, this sign of love on Jungo Road.

It stands intently, for everyone to see.

For now.

24 responses

  1. Heart wrenching and beautiful! Every time I take a road trip and see monuments along the roadsides, I have to wonder and hope the family has peace.Thank you for sharing this so well!

    August 4, 2012 at 12:22 am

    • I agree, roadside memorials are always intriguing and cause for reflection. In the case of this one, it was interesting to observe the way that my interest in it grew and evolved. Thanks for your comment and your kind words!

      August 4, 2012 at 4:39 am

  2. I would concur with unsouthernbelle. Your blog post was well written and I enjoyed it. Thanks.

    August 5, 2012 at 4:20 pm

  3. Beautiful – thank you … =)

    August 6, 2012 at 4:15 am

  4. That was so beautifully written!! I hope this elephant will finally be able to bring some peace to the family!! After all, Lord Ganesha, the elephant god in India, is the much loved God, who brings about peace and love in the world…

    August 6, 2012 at 6:27 am

    • Thank you so much.

      I, too, hope that the family is blessed with peace.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:15 pm

  5. hey howdy viv great picture.havent kept up..wow yuove really been busy.before signing on my page.there were advertsements i dint put there u getting some too.is that new?i could use your expertise.me and my texan partner.you know my email.im going to open up a lot rental place in winnemucca.nevada on my 40 acres.soon i hope by next spring summer hope to have it up n running.going to have lots for rvs.motorhomes.mobile homes.atvs.and variety sizes and prices.still in the starting stage n planning.im on indiegogo to raise funds.i will be adding my blogs adress to several.i hope to hear from you would love for u to be some sort of consultant.when the ball gets rolling there.peace n huggs.akacheshire…aka julea

    August 7, 2012 at 3:29 pm

    • Hi Cheshire,

      Great to hear from you. I have been wondering where you were. Okay, so it sounds as if you have some exciting things going on. I would be interested in learning more.

      The ads on your blog were put there by wordpress.com. If you don’t want ads on your blog, you have to pay $30/year. Click on the store (shopping cart icon in upper left column) and then choose the no ads option.

      Talk soon! Hugs,
      Vivian

      August 8, 2012 at 5:52 pm

  6. What a beautiful story.

    August 7, 2012 at 4:02 pm

  7. I always wonder about the roadside memorials we see on our travels. Your post was elegantly written and left me with the slightly uncomfortable understanding that even our memories can be transient. In our church community, we sing a song called “Nothing is lost on the breath of God” and I always find that comforting because God holds even those things we forget.

    August 7, 2012 at 8:22 pm

    • To me there is a certain grace and elegance associated with acknowledging and accepting the impermanence of this physical world. This memorial has touched me deeply and, in that context, I wrote this piece to express how my relationship with the memorial exposed some of my frailties surrounding my own losses.

      I would point to three things which contradict the suggestion that the piece supports the ultimate loss or transience of memory. The first is the tenacity of my own memory surrounding the memorial and its significance, even after the first memorial disappeared. Then there is the appearance of a second memorial, indicating that memory survives even when there is no physical manifestation of it. And finally, there is the existence of this piece itself which (I hope) has further honored the memory of the deceased and allotted her memorial a second venue.

      Certainly there is a suggestion at the end of the piece as to the vulnerability of the new memorial. The desert, which is a primary character both in the piece and throughout this blog, is a formidable adversary.

      And of course you are right: God holds it all.

      August 8, 2012 at 5:25 pm

      • I suppose my original reply exposes some of my own frailties too, particularly the fear of forgetfulness. So much of what has been special or meaningful in my life I can only now recall vaguely, like the birth of my children or moments in the wilderness I know I experienced but can’t remember. The details of the memory are lost to my conscious mind. There are so many stories that live inside the minds of wonderful people I know that I will never have time to hear, or they to tell. Time itself can be a desert.

        August 8, 2012 at 7:25 pm

  8. Thanks for sharing and best wishes to you!

    August 15, 2012 at 3:59 am

  9. This is marvelous! I just stopped by to thank you for your “likes” on my recent blog posts. It always gives me a lift to see this. So, thank you. :)

    August 15, 2012 at 7:05 pm

  10. This is a very nicely expressed, well-written piece. (Thanks for stopping by my blog earlier today, incidentally.)

    August 16, 2012 at 2:59 am

    • Thank you so much and thanks for visiting. You have a beautiful blog and I look forward to seeing more of your photos. – Vivian

      August 16, 2012 at 5:21 am

  11. I’ll never make the mistake again of jumping to conclusions to the meaning of what may seem to me is a simple sign.

    September 2, 2013 at 3:44 am

    • Thanks for popping over and reading this. When I read your tribute on Nicole Penix Vanzant, it reminded me of discovering these sites in the Nevada desert. We later found out that these memorials were in tribute to a young woman who was living alone in a desert canyon and lost control of her car one night… Memorials are so intimate and yet we don’t know these people or their stories at all really…

      September 2, 2013 at 3:50 am

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