The Desert
Michael Ellis

Every year for the past 15 or so I have traveled to the desert in the spring. This is about the only regular event in my chaotic naturalist schedule and one of the few trips that my family always goes on. When coastal California is green, lush and full of flowers I head east over the great mountains to the brown, naked land of little rain. I need to hike through the desert like other people need to climb mountains or to swim in the sea or to go shopping at Nordstrom’s. The desert renews and invigorates me. My trip always coincides with Easter and Passover. The desert seems the perfect place to be for these two powerful holidays. And I am here to tell you that the Easter bunny does deliver in the far Eastern Mojave Desert. We have been decorating creosote bushes with Easter eggs for years.

And there is always a waxing moon by definition. Passover and Easter both take place during the first full moon following the spring equinox. If I have Jewish people on my trip I always ask them to do a Seder for the rest of us. This year it was perfect about half the group was Jewish. We ranged in age from 3 to 66, a diverse tribe. One couple went to a lot of effort to prepare for the Seder. By the end of the week this group of 25 had become like a family and like the Jews we had been wandering in the Desert wilderness.

This was the best Seder with a full moon rising over Death Valley. The candles were lit and by a miracle the strong desert wind stopped blowing and the candles burned. We drank the wine and ate the bitter herb, heard the tale of many years ago and like a family shared our food and time.

That place of unending views, bare naked exposed earth and rocks. Of life that clings tenaciously in, what appears to us, ill circumstances. Rough roads that keep other people out. I need the solitude, the emptiness, the desert is the place of possibilities where there is still room to dream.

In how many places in your life can you be totally alone? Small places like your bathroom or the inside of your car. I had many canyons and washes where I was the only person for 15 miles or more. Nobody had been on the some the roads I was on in days or even weeks. Of course what happens is people read about the desert environs, its weather, the number of pioneers who died and its lucky any of them actually live the Visitor Center.

Some people seek solace and peace in the mountains, others require a regular dose of the ocean but my relief valve is the desert. Strange this fascination with places devoid of moisture. What is it? The landscapes, a vision of 100 miles is common. and there at your feet is a tiny delicate evening primrose. Not the land of rattlesnakes under every rock, in fact we are lucky if we even see snakes.

I think my relief valve is the desert. I need the desert on a yearly basis. Some find comfort in the rhythmus of the sea, some on a high mountain and while I do enjoy those places. The place that nourishes my soul and rejuvenates me is the desert.

This is Michael Ellis with a Perspective.



Posted on

November 18, 2010