Empty Table at Dawn, Patagonia | Mark Lindsay

A sense of place—the only way to discover it is to walk at dawn. One must make discoveries on one's own terms. I must be alone when walking a path for the first time. There is nothing quite like waking in a new place for the first time and getting out to see it as does the sun upon a fresh day.

I awaken on my first day in Patagonia, Arizona with keen anticipation. This small town in southeastern Arizona has an eccentric beauty about it that is somehow enhanced by the low light of the rising sun. I suspect that midday in these parts is pretty much intolerable, especially in summer. But at dawn, in the briskness of early spring, the town has a chilly mysteriousness to it. I decide early on my walk that I am fond of this very place and time.

The main drag is wide and deserted. A tractor trailer drives by noisily—faster than it should. The street rumbles as if it were hit by a minor earthquake. The wake of the big truck makes the rarefied air colder than it already is. I'm happy to see the truck leave. It's an unwelcome intrusion into my universe. The main drag is now safe to cross. Since I'm attracted to a downcast, old tavern on the other side, I go over to it, stopping in the middle of the street just because I can.

The bar is closed with not a sign of life to it. Right outside the front door is an empty table. Empty tables in public places are always sad. This one is particularly so. It seems out-of-place, out-of-sorts, and out-of-luck. I wonder if the establishment is doing well these days. By the looks of the table, the place's best days might be gone. Like the wake of the big truck, it seems chilly here, chillier than it did over on the other side of the street. I look up and notice that the sun is now warming the land over there from which I came. Nothing more to see here, I make a few photos, press my nose against the bar's window and go back to the other side.

And like I did with the wake of the big truck I feel the sad energy of the bar and its table. I find a shaft of golden light near a coffee shop that seems ready to open. I decide to make this small spot here in this new town to be my own. I doubt that I'll ever sit at the sad table across the way. Yet, I wonder who has been there before me and if their story fits the melancholy of the empty table.