The Call of the Desert

Photos by Chris Brown

 

My enthusiasm stretches beyond the car and races ahead. The cooler is filled with hummus, beer, salad, the fruits of the earth; human fuel. Behind the cockpit is carefully packed with sleeping bags, chairs, the old Coleman stove, firewood and of course lots of water. Spanish Fork is where the anticipation bursts, offering two roads that will lead to the desert. I-15 is reserved for those longer trips, a week in Zion, two weeks at Red Rock, a month on the road, ever being drawn south.

Passing the giant white windmills awaits Spanish Fork Canyon. The gateway, the transient zone from the mountainous world to the desert. As we travel the winding road we witness the morphing of one world to the next. First, there is rich red earth coating the hills, a sign of what is to come. The old coal plant marks that the Northern San Rafael Swell is near and freedom waits. The last of our worldly needs can be purchased to consume in Wellington, just south the vast orange beckons.

This journey from north to south, from the high peaks of the Wasatch to the burnt desert is my lifeline for sanity. The snow keeps me occupied with snowboarding and cold weather adventures, but as my bones chill and hands crack I am warmed internally by remembering my friend, the desert. I close my eyes, and I am sitting on the silk sand with an immensely blue sky above and the sun kissing my face. Going there in my mind warms up my soul. But it is only enough to get through to spring. With the first of the aspens buds and tulips peeking through the earth, the pull is so severe, I must submit to the force and bring myself to see her again. Propelled by the wheels of a car, pulled by the strings of my heart.

Then I am there, that place of stillness. How can the concerns of our society pull me down, drag me to my death in the wild embrace of my sweet desert? They can’t, society has no grip on me within the safety of the sandstone. I am safe, free from the chaos that lives in my mind. No screens, no sound except the gentle rustle of life and the occasional trespassing jet. Southern Utah, with its monuments and BLM land, is my refuge from life in the American Empire.

Sometimes it feels the speed at which life passes me by is so fast that a blink will bring in a new season and a sigh will bridge five years. In the reckless wild of the desert, we are freed from the pace that steals our lives away. The sandstone wilderness is a fountain of youth and a place where the wearied and weak rejuvenate. Is it a coincidence that our current “leaders” are selling off our national heritage? Probably not, as Abbey said, “…they know what they’re doing; their lives depend on it, and all their rotten institutions.” Isn’t it true though, if any person can escape the vicious speed of society cycle, then that person can also escape thoughts that the empire infiltrates into our heads? A population with independent thought, rugged experiences, and passion for God’s creation is hard to control, a challenge to manipulate.

If all the wild places are turned concrete and the noise of fossil fuel extraction and consumption infects the air, then the spots for transformation will be desecrated. As humans, we need places where we can be transformed. Where we can glimpse at life, if only for an instant, and see what really “is.” These sacred spots for personal revolution are incredibly important. Yes, they know exactly what they are doing, working steadily to make a nation of lemmings. No independent thought makes a population easier to control.

The desert, the place that I love is more than wilderness, an opportunity for transformation and solace. The desert my stunning friend reaches deep into my soul and awakens an ancient piece of who I am designed to be.

In April I passed a threshold, the number game is catching up and I am no longer in my twenties. Twenties, the age just past youth, the first step as an adult, but with room for growth. Thirty sounds different; it feels more severe rolling off the tongue as if passing from twenties into thirty has a stern quality. I was honestly a little afraid of the number. A little scared that life as I understood it would fall apart. Navigating the dirt and rock road hours before the day that marks my birth I was comforted. The quiet, the red, the warmth that awaited in the morning when I was no longer twenty-something was a relief.

I feel my soul is part desert. To make the transition I needed the support of my wildest friend. Rough and yet gentle brimming with raw loveliness.

Walking with three friends on a sun-drenched spring day deep in the San Rafael Swell I move through the numerical threshold with ease. The desert she is supporting me and reminding me that I am not defined by a number or by societies perspective of who I am. I am defined by my soul, by my spirit, by how I walk on the path of life. My astrological sign rings truer every year. Aries, the ram strong-willed, born to scale cliffs and live in the rocks. Can my sign explain why upon each trip to visit my friend I gaze at the cliffs and plan ascents up the vertical walls? Observing the cracks and features, always plotting a climb, if only in my mind.

Maybe it is the stubborn ram that draws me down south again and again. It is the ram that heeds to the never-ending the pull of sandstone earth. But there is something more than the cliff dwelling tenacious mountain goat of my soul. There is one more thing, one more reason why I am especially susceptible to the deserts draw. I am the year of the dragon; a cold-blooded, warmth-seeking creature. If not the stubborn ram, then the persistent lizard that dwells within draws me continuously south.

Walking the canyon on my 30th birthday I knew for the first time that the red desert was once a water land. I felt reptilian. As if I can “remember” life millions of years ago in the lush that was here long before the sand dried and became stone. Walking humbly and quietly on the red earth, she revealed secrets of her ancient past.

The draw of the desert is more than an appeal to my astrological attributes. Even if I wasn’t a cliff dwelling ram or sun soaking lizard, my heart would still belong to the sandstone. Maybe it is her color or incomparable beauty, but I feel there is something more.

“I have inside me the winds, the deserts, the ocean, the stars and everything created in the universe. We were all made by the same hand, we have the same soul.”  -Paulo Coelho: The Alchemist

The burnt sandstone of southern Utah, red earth of my home state, has created a nest in my heart. Each trip south is a journey home. When the day arrives when we load the car and prepare for an entrance back into the society machine the desert places another egg in her nest. My heart gently harbors my love by tending to her flock. When I am back amongst the speed, machines and media manipulation I am comforted by the pieces of desert kept safe within my heart.

As the desert plants seeds of yearning, I cannot ignore her call. I leave a piece of myself in the sand. With each visit, I become more of the desert and she is left with more of my soul.

What good is our connection if the place I love may cease to exist? In this time of war, man against earth I am afraid for my friend the earth. I am afraid for my friend man, I am afraid for my enemy man. I am afraid that man will go too far, that under the leadership of the corrupt we will destroy the little sanity we have left. Then without our wild, we become part of the machine, thoughtless and functioning. Well oiled to serve the industrialized mechanic. The mechanic is the powerful elite, the same mechanic that created the vicious media brainwashing. We are being prepped for our part in the industrial engine, where it is best for us to be thoughtless and just perform rote tasks without fouling up the system with individuality and passion.

It is easy to fall victim to sorrow in this time that often feels doomed, but maybe now is our most critical point. The opportunity we are given to change the course. If we are on the tipping point at this moment, we need a group of strong individuals to push our way to freedom. Real freedom, which is found in rugged and wild spaces, is the only subject worth fighting for.

 

I am the voice of the desert.

She begs me to speak for the voiceless.

I hear her cries of despair as men and machines prepare to defile her skin.

We are the voice of the desert. We are all she has left.

The only defense she has is love and love is not possible when men have no hearts.

Instead of a heart, the men have become greed.

Lustfully they plan to corrupt her beauty and drill deep enough to pierce her soul.

 

We are the voice of the desert. We are all she has left.

Can we stay silent while she screams in agony?

Is this how we repay her love?

 

Gluttony cannot survive in her sweet embrace.

Within the deep crevasses of her soul, a heart can regrow.

We are the voice of the desert. We will not stand down.

Thank you for being the center of my sane life. I will stand by you and defend you in all the ways I know how. There are many people who will not watch your demise. Those of us who have found our soul harbored in the sandstone will stand tall against the forces that be. We are enough to protect what we love. We have enough to make a stand.

Here is to the desert: the last of the frontiers, the home of our adventures and place where our hearts dwell.

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