the desert

The desert is silent in a way that deafens the ears and heightens the senses.  Sky so big you taste blue on your tongue, a landscape that from a distance appears solid grey and brown breaks apart into a million different hues.  I go to the desert to feel small.  It is a place where I am profoundly aware of my own insignificance, of my smallness in the face of the vastness. 

I am from the desert, deep parts of my identity and story blend into the washes and rises of this open landscape.  Raised on the story of my mother finding my father, finding my foster brother, finding family, finding themselves, finding escape, finding detox, finding space, finding water, finding the a way out—a way in—to the stillness, the desert mythology of place and people coming together will be passed down.  I have spent most of my life living in places rich with trees and water but depend on time spent in the desert to remind me of rooted origins.

Pollution hangs heavy in many of the United States’ most beautiful deserts, yellow and thick it fades vistas and dulls the horizon.  Like the ocean, which sloshes with remembered waste, the desert cups and cradles refuse we have created but cannot dispose.  As it’s inverse the desert mirrors the ocean in opposites—dry, quiet, still, and steady.  Yet the vastness of both these places invokes a similar feeling being in the presence of age and wisdom.  Both bear the brunt of our carelessness, colors which once shone bright are now faded, micro trash, city smog, and the hum of generators and boat motors break the silence. 

I go to the desert and the ocean to feel small.  I do not love these places any less for the ways that they are weathered.  Instead I love them enough to acknowledge their need.  I love them enough to notice, to note, to bare witness to the ways that human impact extends fingers into deep wild desert and ocean.

The desert is the inverse of the ocean and it is a place I am from.  I recognize it as home by the smell of creosote on my fingers and the hum of wide-open silence in my ears.   I recognize it as in need of care.  I go there to feel small.

ImageJoshua Tree National Park


2 thoughts on “the desert

  1. Making your thoughts public is courage beyond what is commonly demonstrated in our world. There are many ways to “make a difference”!
    The desert is a place of contrast, bleak by most standards, and full of potential by others.

  2. If you, Maya, go to the high desert near Joshua Tree, you would be blessed to connect with Sheila’s son Kevin and his wife Jodi and their precious new baby who live there. I came to love that desert too; Selena was born in Palm Springs, and my work as a social worker took me out into the nearby desert often enough. But that high desert in Joshua Tree, in bloom, after a rare rain…now there’s something!

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