I went to the desert and I relished being there, not only for the quality of the silence that does not incite loneliness, but because one is there simply to witness. It is so quiet you could hear the rocks and the sky converse in a secret language. I saw a desert hare (I think it was), walking as if in search of something. Sensing unfamiliar human sounds, the hare paused, looked around, then went away and disappeared. I felt like an intruder, bringing him (I assumed it was male and I named him Waldo) into stillness and discomfort in his own territory. Come back, I said to Waldo in my mind, I’d like to make your acquaintance. I admire the purity of your living. In contrast, we, humans, are often plagued with ambition and bias. Off Waldo went, without fuss and with no comment. There in the desert, you pay close attention. You respect the strange looking bug dragging its feet. You want to investigate those birds flying very low. No smash, jolt, and bang of urban noise. You view the world with a different set of eyes. You could walk the farthest distance and find that you have underestimated your own endurance. Right there in the open space and silence, the hours pass without any ruckus. You are shaken by a rock’s stillness. You are stunned by the sun’s swagger. You meet creatures who do not judge you for your feats and losses. If you pay heed, poetry abounds.
Twilight, going back and retracing the trails, nocturnal animals began their reign. Light slowly faded into shades of gray and amber and left behind a dazed and hopeful world.
Evening, all quiet, the stars at their brightest. In the presence of that wonder, of what use is speech? You are in awe, no sense to ask where the day went. You could lie on the ground and look at the stars forever; you pray for more time to gaze at them. You are a different person in the city; the stars are distant and trivial to your daily affairs. What a refuge to burrow in the desert where one feels free and open to witness the world’s quiet miracles.
The Mormons in the 19th century gave the name Joshua Tree, in reference to the Biblical story in which Joshua raised his hands to the sky in prayer. As a child, I’ve always had reverence for trees. Trees take in everything and do not complain. I looked at the Joshua trees and thought they must ache too, standing there with minimal rain, yet living up to a hundred years or more if they survive the desert’s austerity. There must be a higher being in existence, watching over and taking care of those trees.
I want more of it, the peace and quiet, the still world that bears everything with grace.