One needs time in the desert to see.


Utah DesertAs a child growing up in the Desert, (Utah, Nevada, California) places such as the Pacific Northwest seemed like a kind of mythical paradise where water, the ever sacred element of water, is as plentiful as the air we breathe.  And yet, now that I am here in the saturated land of damp vegetation and viridian tangles, I find that I am haunted by the desert. Haunted by great, vast, expansive extremes. Sharp and jagged as a sickle. Articulate as a switchblade. An emptiness waiting only to be filled by silence.

I have always loved the aesthetic of deliberate, minimalist space. A blank canvas of infinite imagination. What better way to see the stars, than from a vantage point of ever-extending openness? A beauty so shocking in it’s harsh sovereignty, that it will surely kill you if you fail to recognize it.

Observing the extraordinary conservation efforts of the Oregonians only awakens in me a deep desire to protect the places of my birth. In her book, Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert, Terry Tempest Williams writes so perfectly about my thoughts, “falling in love with a place, being in love with a place, wanting to care for a place and see it remain intact as a wild piece of this planet. Here your heart aches with such great love and wholeness that you know, finally and with surreality that you are one with all. With pink sand underfoot and ravens overhead and the joyous sensation of finding red dirt in every pore of your skin. This is wilderness. The tenacious grip of beauty.”

The ghost of Ellen Meloy whispers to me in my sleep, “I hope to make pictures like I walk in the desert—under a spell, an instinct of motion, a kind of knowing that is essentially indirect and sideways.Of all the things I wondered about on this land, I wondered the hardest about the seduction of certain geographies that feel like home–not by story or blood but merely by their forms and colors.  How our perceptions are our only internal map of the world, how there are places that claim you and places that warn you away.  How you can fall in love with the light.”

I think Wallace Stegner said it best, “Home is a notion that only nations of the homeless fully appreciate and only the uprooted comprehend.”

In my dreams, I savor the scent of sagebrush and juniper. I wake with the taste of sand  sticking to the roof of my mouth.

For SUWA

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3 thoughts on “One needs time in the desert to see.

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