The desert is a delicate animal at this time of year. Like a snake shedding its skin it’s fragile, vulnerable, in a state of emergence.
If I were making a list of the 100 things I want to do before I die, visiting the desert in bloom would certainly be among them.
So when my friend Bridget mentioned that she goes to Anza Borrego every year around this time and suggested I might want to come with her and photograph the beauty, I jumped at the chance (Bridget is an exceptionally talented green architect and landscape designer and also a client of mine – look for an announcement of her site and blog at bridgetbrewer.com soon)!
First of all, a road trip with a girlfriend is a rare and beautiful
thing in itself, but with this particular traveling companion and this
specific destination it held the promise of being something truly
special, a gift to be embraced. Bridget not only knows the terrain and
the names of plants that live there, she loves the desert and
approaches it with the level of respect necessary to open the heart of
this potentially difficult land.
The desert is a lover that reveals herself slowly, offering her secrets only to those who will look beyond her seemingly unrewarding surface for the jewels hidden within. It’s bliss to walk out into what looks like an ocean of harsh scrub only to find a delicate bloom peeping out beneath the brush, or poking up out of a crack in the hard soil. It’s heaven to drive down a desolate-looking road only to round a corner and find a small valley of wildflowers spreading out before you like a carpet of color, all the way across to the mountains.
Camping in Bridget’s Element each night (which was surprisingly comfortable), we quickly fell into a routine of waking just before dawn when the light was just perfect for photography, and bedding down just a few hours after the sun had set. That alone had a profound effect on me, a night owl who usually can’t get to sleep before midnight and drags herself out of bed at seven so there’s time for a walk and a shower before starting work.
Not that I abandoned the night, either – the stars were so vivid I lay watching them each evening for what felt like hours, absolutely mesmerized. I haven’t seen the night through these eyes since I was a child and lived with the big sky view every day.
Spending one’s day following the quality of light in the natural cycles was utterly magical – I’ve haven’t been home 24 hours yet and already it feels like an elusive dream (there is just too much you can do at night when you have artificial light, and of course that makes it hard to wake at dawn :-). But something of the experience is still staying with me, and feels permanent – for that I am profoundly grateful.
I also learned some things when I was gone – important things. Here are a few:
❧ Getting away from your normal routine is a Good thing
❧ An open road and no agenda opens up a sense of infinite possibility; and out of this void creativity is abundant – this happens naturally, like breathing
❧ When you carry your bed with you it’s ok to get lost, even at night
❧ This world is far bigger that we are, and when we accept that reality it’s not so hard to find our place within it
There’s so much more to all this than I can write here, now – the needs of the day are calling me and I suspect the bigger adventure is to find the balance between these everyday needs and the needs of my spirit to transcend them, so that experiences like I’ve just had are integrated into my life and nestle into my very way of being. I know my health (on all levels – physical, emotional, and mental) will benefit and so will the quality of my work in the world.
I’m glad to be back and excited to see what will emerge from all this …