Thursday, July 16, 2009

Red Desert Solitude, an Evening Walk

We walked along the cool asphalt road, The sun had set and it is always amazing to me how fast the desert radiates it daytime heat, shedding it like you shed an extra layer of clothes. A storm cloud passed to the north and cloud to cloud and cloud to ground lightening set the sky on fire. Huge brilliant bolts of forked lightening and we could see it all.
Beneath the storm sheets of rain and the white of falling hail stones fell, both so rare here. You often see virga, rain that dries before it hits the ground, but this was wetting the desert. To the west another cumulonimbus anvil hinted at another storm soon to arrive. Like most it will probably pass us with only a few large drops of rain, like a promise never realized, but still hoped and believed.
The last rays of light were coloring the mesa to the west. Purples and grays and red layers of shale and sandstone, all eroded into the typical dendritic pattern of horizontal layers, painted the mesa’s sides. There is nothing between us and them, only the Red Desert in its stark barrenness. A landscape dominated by struggling sage and rock and sand. A few prickly pear cactus dared to survive but really only small patches, so unlike the deserts of the Chihuahua and Sonora and Mojave, and even the Painted.
I thought of the book Desert Solitude, a book loaned to me by Jim, a new friend, a book that spoke to me in its descriptions of the wild southwest landscapes. I didn’t agree with parts of the book but I understood the beauty it described. Most people here would see the Red Desert as a wasteland but I actually prefer its solitude to the works of man. It brings me peace and touches my soul.
We walked back to our campsite and I got out our camera to try to take some images but the storm had moved on. The moment was over anyway. It has been a long day and I am tired but well. This is why we travel fulltime, to find such moments. Clear skies.

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