Wednesday, January 2, 2008

December 2007--Joshua Tree National Park--Part II

JTNP 2007, Skull Rock area

Skull Rock area

Skull Rock

near Skull Rock

William and me

Split Rock area

The desert evokes so many thoughts and emotions. As I visited the park this December, I reflected on more words that describe the desert, and why I love it.

Immense: I tried rock climbing a time or two. It's hard work and a bit scary to be clinging to a cliff side trusting only your hands, feet, belay, and rope. Instead, when at the park, I like to scramble on boulders. It's fun to try to find a way up the side of a rock formation, looking for footholds, making my way up the crack between a pair of rocks, leaping from boulder to boulder, then climbing back down, often sliding on my backside.

After I scramble to the top of a rock formation and look down 20 or 30 feet, my heart pounds, my palms scraped from the pebbly monzogranite stone. I gaze at the azure sky and feel overwhelmed by the surrounding landscape, by the length of the horizon that curves under distant dark mountains. Each time I think, Wow. This is awesome, as if I've just climbed Everest. I never grow tired of that feeling or of looking out at the splendid view and all that beautiful, uncluttered space.

Still: So often in the desert the only sound is of my hiking boots crunching on sand. On a windless day, this still silence fills the air so that at times my thoughts spin in a deafening conversation. It's like in the Woody Allen movie Annie Hall where Alvie Singer jokes that he can't live in the country because it's too quiet. I stop and take a deep breath. Breathe in and out, and remember that soon I'll be back in the city. For me, the desert stillness feels peaceful.

The next post will bring yet more words...

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