Saturday, May 21, 2011

To the desert:

Here, it is hot during the day, as one might expect. At night, it cools down. Here, in this house high on a hill, just north of Joshua Tree National Park, late in the day, we open the doors and windows to let the cool in. Because it's a house I'm not used to, I wake a few times in the night. The windows are uncurtained because the house is remote, and I can see the changing face of the sky. A three-quarter moon. An airy tree. At six, a sky all blue and bright with sun.

In this desert house, there is no television, and more, I need less diversion. Diversion from what? There are art magazines and books. In the past, when I've subscribed to art magazines, they often just felt like pretentious noise. This was especially true when what I needed more than anything was diversion. I am thinking about diversion a lot, because I realize, what I've been seeking to be diverted from is my life, my actual life. I thought the stress emanated only from the job, but that's because the job felt like it was my only life.

But that's done. Today, I wrote a million ideas. Not ideas for diversions, and not ideas for my job. Ideas for my work, my work and my life.

In the desert, like everywhere else, there is a history that lives in the layers of things. Today, we found out about the sea that covered the California deserts. There are artifacts left from the people who lived by it, near the Pinto Mountains. And all over the desert there are oases, where California fan palm trees grow. Yesterday, we hiked up Palm Canyon, outside of Palm Springs. Palm Canyon, part of a complex of canyons known as "Indian Canyons," are not too far from a golf course and resort. All of it is owned by the Agua Caliente band of the Cahuilla tribe. You can't believe how beautiful and how peaceful.

According to the tribe,
With our language dying, our ceremonies fading and the younger generation leaving the old ways, the death of our Tribal leader brought the past and future together in a momentous way. The elders determined that there was no one left among us to serve as the people's teacher, to preside over meetings, rituals, rites of passage, and wield the power of the Um na'a as had been done since the creation of the world. They came to the painful decision that no one would be named as our new net and that the traditional ceremonial house would be burned. As fire engulfed the structure, so went many of our ancient ways. It was time, they said, to look to the future.
I have been looking to the past, to try to understand my own and how it intersects with this particular landscape. Here, in a place where there are so many ruined houses, so many abandoned sites of enterprise and human artificing from every possible era, I'm laying hands upon a will, a desire to start again, an urge from which I will not be diverted.

5 comments:

Ann said...

I wish I were there.

Amelia said...

You know I love this!

Nik said...

I love this idea. Here's to the summer of diverting--diverting ourselves back to what we really do. I can't wait to hear more about building up and the falling down of houses.

radagast said...

Sounds like you need a room of your own. And maybe a historian for a patron?

gilian said...

This place sounds both physically and emotionally calming.

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