I know about power lines. Every 330 feet. It helps define the 5-acre parcels, 330 by 660 feet. The government gave away these tracts of land to anyone who would brave a house out here. And so: 12- by 12- foot cabins, the minimum square footage to qualify as habitable space, with structural personalities as varied as the laymen who built them. Abandoned now, with blank-eye-windows and gape-mouth-doors, shot to shit by lazy rifle. These shacks are sprinkled evenly across the desert with the creosote bush, competing with its neighbor for space and moisture. Cabins, creosote and desert dandelions. And power lines, making patterns in my view.
Nowhere else do surroundings more determine your immediate comfort. Sunlight is brassy, wind severe. Sand will forever take back the roads. By turns heat and raw cold will ravage everything man-made and nature-born: buildings, books, leaves, bones, fingernails, faces. And yet! Silence now holds the valley. Hummingbirds dart from thorny branch to feeder, chirruping approval. Coyotes trot their paths. Tortoises slowly eat the dandelions as they bloom. There is beauty in the details. I begin to draw again, and relax, and wonder – how many times will I have to re-teach myself to draw?
Wind. High clouds are coming in from the west. I prefer the quiet, muted mood that the wind will take away. Stillness here is a necessary pause – for the land, the animals, for me. A gap that gives us all a chance to catch up and carry on. A calm that allows other notions to surface. It gives rise to both my imagination and my fears, which I sometimes embrace, more often bellow and shake futile fist at. Which will hold, before the wind makes me run again for cover? It’s a daily battle, out there and in my head.
I can take what the Mojave gives. I like being here, trying to make peace with such a coarse environment. Even so – perhaps it’s arrogant to think I can take an active part in this. That I can lay claim to the sand and scrub as my own. Maybe I need to let-the-eff-GO. Maybe it’s best that I remain a visitor, an untroubled guest both here and in my mind, content to watch and look and live in this rough place as it stands — rather than being intent to improve something, to prove anything, to make my mark, to change it. A good lesson, that. I always want to goddamn change things.
I might need a sedative.
Clouds shove further across the valley. The ground sends up waves of grit in front of the wind. I’m being peppered by the desert – it’s cooking up some weather. Here the patterns continue across the land, along the power lines, in me, and I wait for the next pause.