I went biking today. I hope this doesn't sound pathological in any way, but as I was tootling along, a story began to form in my head. I can't say much about it yet, because I don't know much about it myself. It is still forming in my head, ideas turning themselves over, growing and dying as I go about my day. But here is a glimpse of what is in my head. Maybe it'll be my first attempt at fiction. And, I need an editor. And maybe a psychologist. Just kidding.
I envy those whose mind works in visual ways. Mine does not.
The desert hides things. You look at it, and from your car as you drive by you think it is a flat expanse of dry and arid shrubbery tucked in the hot sand. Unwelcoming. Hostile.
But it is more.
Just beyond the road, amidst the Joshua trees and sage, the land dips down and forms a ravine before it rises back up to your so called flat lands. This ravine has a creek that runs through it, a creek that has seeped up from the earth a dozen miles away on the side of the mountain, and has hidden itself from you. From the road, you cannot see the trees it brings to life, the shade of those trees, and what lies beneath. You cannot see the small tadpoles who swim and will morph into the frogs that thrive in the desert heat. You cannot smell the poplar leaves or hear the rustling of the willows as a breeze startles them into movement.
You do not know that not twenty feet away from your car at this very moment is a vertebrae from a cow, bleached white from years in the sun. You don’t wonder how the old bone got there, or where the other pieces of the spine might be. Perhaps the cow died naturally, of dehydration, its body being so weak that it could not go on, collapsing in a heap in the dust, taking its last breath as the sun baked its hide before it was completely dead. Perhaps a mountain lion stalked its prey, and as it leapt onto the shoulder of the unsuspecting cow, its sharp and hungry teeth tearing into the flesh of its soft neck, warm blood beginning to seep, and then soon to squirt with every pump of the heart, out of the wounds of its neck. The cow would have slowly bled to death while the hungry cat tore into the fleshy part of her neck, savoring the fresh meat that was hers for the taking. Perhaps it was that.
This you cannot know because you are one of them. You are one of the ones who thinks the desert is a wasteland, a place only a poor soul would settle. You think the desert is a vast sea of ugliness where only the desperate would come to live, those with no other options. The desert is a place you drive through, down your fast highways, to get “somewhere else.” You ignore the mountainous terrain, the beauty of the sun. You focus on the absence of your comforts. You are disappointed that these desert mountains do not harbor enough pine trees and what you think belongs in the mountains. This I know, because I see you. I see you get out of your car at the gas station to stretch your legs, use the restroom, and I hear you complain about the bright sun or the intense heat of the summer. But you are wrong. This is not a place of absence.
Because the desert? It has secrets.