I am in love with the desert. It offers a vastness, and a silent beauty that is totally unique. It is not an easy lover, demanding great focus, attention and surrender to meet its passionate embrace. It is also subtle, the entry into its mysteries requiring a quiet study of its paradoxical delicate intensity. If you hang in there while it kicks your ass, you may receive its enchanting, elusive gifts. Texas and New Mexico were my desert initiators, and although I am residing in the arid portion of Washington state now, a part of me still yearns deeply for the southern desert lands. I just spent a fascinating week going from the surrealistic facade of Palm Spring to the otherworldly Joshua Tree. Both environments feel like a dream to me. One irrigating itself into erotic abundance controlled within an inch of its life, while Joshua Tree, on the other hand, is filled with a band of bright, shiny outlaws. If Palm Springs is the wealthy, St. John wearing matriarch, Joshua Tree is the “Steal this Book” rebel who wants to blow it all up and then dance around the flames. All the southern California people were incredibly tan and wore glorious, garish clothing and accessories that could seem clownish in the staid pacific northwest. I LOVED every minute of it, and strutted my own Technicolor feathers.
My soul sister, Lisa Starr, has literally planted herself in the Joshua Tree soil. Lisa and I met about seven years ago when we both went on a transformative pilgrimage to the Hopi lands with our teachers Maria and Lynda Yraceburu. That trip was my gateway to moving to the Southwest, and my life has never been the same. Two and a half years ago Lisa and her partner Gabriel began the ambitious project of building a sustainable life in the desert through creating cylindrical, earthen structures. Their homestead, Bonita Domes, looks like an organic outgrowth of the land, these ancient feeling dwellings speaking to the soul. I was blessed to sleep in one of the two pods they rent, and when I crawled through the magic little arched doorway, my little girl was sparkling with delight. It is the neatest fort ever. Nestled in the cool, golden adobe walls, protected from the heat and the wind, I was profoundly held and taken care of. Because the outer environment can be so harsh, the comfort of these solid earthen structures is even more pronounced. It is a true sanctuary in the desert. Lisa also makes sacred drums, and offers classes in creating your own elk hide instrument. If you are in JT, go stay with Lisa and Gabe: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/499485
Enjoy the mix of photos from Palm Springs and Joshua Tree. The bull snake pictured came in my dreams the night before, and then revealed herself in the compound that morning. I also saw my first desert turtle. Way cool. I will end with a quote from page 21 of the photography book, Crimes and Splendors: Desert Cantos of Richard Misrach. Yes, it is one of the places I also feel most alive.
“Desert are generally seen as a zone of passage rather than as a place of habitation or extended study. Their inhospitable climate (intense heat and cold, glaring light, and lack of water or shelter) and vast scale discourage cultivation, or even lingering observation. Misrach, however, acknowledges that he enjoys working in there. “it is the heat,” he told editor Melissa Harris, “the feel of the earth, the rich solitude and silence, and the remarkable scale of everything that makes being there so deeply fulfilling….Physically and mentally, that’s where I feel the most alive.”