I stood tonight at sundown at the south edge of the Mojave National Preserve after a day spent seeing one wonderful aspect of the Mojave after another and the thought came to me: “I live here.”
It’s not the first time I’ve had the thought, but it struck me hard tonight.
This late summer I made one of the hardest, most personably frightening decisions I’ve ever made. It felt correct at the time even when I feared its consequences most.
Had that decision gone the other way, I realized, I would have had to amend my thought to “I could have lived here.”
As painful as that decision was at the time, I have never been more convinced that I chose the proper path this past early September.
I took a class back in the 1980s in which the instructor, a geologist, said that traveling eastward from the Central Valley, the Mojave was without interest until you reached the Calico Mountains north of Barstow. I knew what he meant. If you drive east looking for evidence of tectonic grandeur, grabens and fault block mountains and antisynclines, until you reach Barstow they are all in the rearview mirror. You could visit them, but then you’d be in the Sierra, not the Mojave.
But in the Western Mojave, with few mountains to hold it up, the sky reaches all the way to the ground. After a rain, the atmosphere shows in patches of pale celadon through the lingering clouds, or the pink of a 1950s motel shower stall, or both. When day ends, no ranges shield you from the deepening of sky. The dark brilliance swells by increments, in the firmament and in you as well. By the time Mars pokes its head up over the Owlshead Mountains, the twilight will have suffused you clear to the bone.
Meanwhile, this late morning in our backyard,
Heteronormative Gambel’s quail pay no heed to looming end of Opposite Marriage
A dozen in our yard this week, open-throated flowers gargling happy bees.
What did I see lying along the trail I walked tonight, its sinuous body curled in the dirt, just waiting for me to pass?
The dreaded Mojave Green…
… bungee cord.
Ken Cole took this photo and sent it to me. For some reason he thought I’d like it.
Social media are where you find them | Ken Cole photo
Fresh tire tracks lead past this sign.