07 Oct 1997 14:45:05 -0700
Beach RV Park; Malibu, California :: 07 OCT 97
Not my week. You'll all receive 3.040 sometime. Fortunately,
John's got a hardcopy of it because the softcopy has disappeared from
my outbox without being sent. The problem is, John may already be on his
way home to England. If so, it'll be a few weeks before I can get a copy
of the text...
The 3.037 test was a search for the lost text of an entry. It
began with the following passage:
Then out of the broken sun-rotted mountains of Arizona
to the Colorado, with green reeds on its banks, and that's the end of
Arizona. There's California just over the river, and a pretty town to
start it. Needles, on the river. But the river is a stranger in this place.
I didn't find Needles so pretty, but so much time has elapsed
that perhaps even Steinbeck would
now find disappointment in Needles, on the river.
I found the pejorative 'sun-rotted mountains' interesting too.
So many times I've heard the desert referred to in this tone. Desolate.
Wasteland. "There's nothing here to see," as John would later say. As
is so often the case, such statements offer a better judgement of the
person making them than on the object of their comment. The desert is
inhospitable: yes, to the unprepared, to those who don't possess the necessary
respect. It is not often a place of verdant green, or of any bright colour.
It is never a place of easy living.
Me, I like the desert. I like the dry, crisp crunch of sand
and crumbling rock beneath boot soles. I like the brisk wind whisking
through sage brush and cholla spines. There is a bird chirping, and where
there is a bird there are living things that birds eat, and living things
that eat birds. I like the silence you can so easily imagine once the
wind and birds are pushed from your senses.
Lizards scurry before your crunching. These happenstance encounters
may be the only animal life the uninitiated, the unknowing can see because
all life here is held in reserve for the night and for the rain. The day
we drove across the sun-rotted Arizona mountains the tall, spindly ocotillo
were a rich, British racing green in their temporary robe of leaves. It
must have rained in the last few days because I have never seen them except
in their leafless grey/brown reserve. And I have not yet seen the desert
spring, the brief cacophony of flowering colour like a gaudy Easter bonnet
on the usually prim librarian.
But I'll sometimes sit in the desert, become like the rock,
and wait for the creatures to stir. Rarely am I disappointed and often
am I surprised when a tortoise or hare, a ground squirrel or desert bird
decides it's safe enough to venture from cover, from a bush or lair just
a few feet from my sitting place.
The desert strips away all that is not essential. What may
seem like leisure is instead patience--the animals and plants take siesta
not of laziness but because they must. Movement is saved for flight or
fight, to eat or escape being eaten. And those of us who venture into
the world's dry lands to stay for a while, stay still for a while, we
sometimes strip from ourselves the non-essential. The desert is not a
forgiving place but an exacting one. Error is not tolerated, fools not
suffered at all. And if you go there with this sense in your heart, you
may discover some extraneous, foolish bits of self and perhaps you'll
leave them there withering in the desert sun. And then your soul will
be willing for the spring monsoons. And it will not take all too much
rain to raise the colourful blooms.
~~~ Responses Sought ~~~
What is that feeling when you're driving away from
people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing?--it's
the too-huge world vaulting us, and it's good-by. But we lean forward
to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.