Death Valley holds a special place in my heart.
Death Valley. Is where I fell in love. Or maybe I was already in love and Death Valley is where I realized it. Is there a difference?
In late 1988 I was living in San Francisco. I moved there in the summer and met a guy in the fall. I’d signed up to go on a group camping trip to Death Valley either over Christmas or New Year. I don’t remember which. Even though we’d only known each other a couple of months I decided to ask him if he wanted to go with me.
It turned out that Daeth Valley was one of his favorite places. He didn’t do much camping but he wanted to go. Everyone in the group thought we’d been together forever. A couple. Soulmates. When we got back I wrote a song, “The moon, the mountains, and you.”
Two years later we got married. Had a kid. Moved to Colorado. Had another kid. When we moved I had to give up my career. Slowly I built a new one. Somewhere along the line, around 10-12 years into the marriage, we started to grow apart. I’ve been asked several times why I stayed married, why I didn’t leave or ask him to leave. As with any relationship, it’s complicated. As much as I sometimes disliked him and he probably disliked me, I didn’t stop loving him. And maybe, just maybe, we could figure out how to make it work again. Fast forward to 2013. We had moved again but were renting the house so we could eventually go back. Job situations changed and he moved back. I didn’t. A few marriage therapy sessions later he asked for a divorce. Without a definite timeline it was too hard to work on it anymore.
I think I finally figured out why I stayed. I never forgot that Death Valley trip. The closeness. The excitement. Falling in love. The place. The time. The stars. The moon. The feeling that this was a special place. A sacred place The place where the next chapter of my life was beginning.
I’m going back to Death Valley soon. Once again, I’ll be camping with a group of strangers. This time I’ll be going solo but. I’m sure my ex will be with me in spirit. A younger version. The one I met in 1988. The one I married. And who knows, maybe I’ll write another song.