Desert Memos, USA – Travel Short
Drive east on highway 90, past suburbia and floating bridges until you hit the top, the mountain pass with the ski resort to the north and the long lake to your south. Everything looks the same for a while, until suddenly the trees stop. One second they’re there, the next, they’re not. You’ve left one Washington and entered another – the alien half, the desert half.
Time in the desert slows. Your walking is different, your breath is different – languid, pronounced. Not labored, just more aware. You’re more aware of everything here, like the missing humidity had to be replaced by something, a sixth sense still undiscovered by forest-dwelling city folk.
A collection of yurts in the middle of a desert winery. Glamping at its best. Adirondacks and wine and tawny rabbits nibbling on sage. Twenty feet from your door, the descent to the bottom of a gorge – the river below receded, hexagonal tiles baked into the dried mud. And wouldn’t you know it, down here with the lizards and the snakes and the cactus flowers, sits one beat up desk, gradually becoming the desert. The office-supply life, it follows you everywhere.
Everything feels new and familiar and BIG. The vast space opens your brain and invites you to float from one thought to the next until you settle like pink dusk in the night. Record the thoughts acquired during such downtime, such non-thinking. Sift through them later, see what you find. Back to reality, desert memories rest heavy on the brain.
This is what happens when you read Barry Lopez shortly after your visit to the desert. You start speaking in second person, giving directives, knowing full well most people won’t end up in a yurt in the middle of the desert, day-dreaming and scheming. But then again, is that the point? Yurt Life is a state of mind – and its home turf be summer.
photos Hen Chung, LD Oxford