A native of the east coast, my impression of the desert has always been as follows:
- You are always crawling through it on your knees.
- Saying “agua”.
- Then you see an oasis. But you collapse before you get there.
Since I’ve lived in California, though, the desert has become a restorative place for me. Nowhere is the sky bigger, the vista larger, the hues more serene. The desert has a majestic quiet about it, coupled with a resolute sense of determination. The desert lives on through the harshest conditions, and surprises us with its resilience.
I’ve been in the desert a couple of times in the past few months. In February, my parents, my brother’s family and mine spent a week in the Palm Desert area.
While we were there, my parents celebrated their 45th anniversary.
I posted this cute picture of them on Facebook and got a bunch of comments from relatives in Taiwan. Embarrassingly illiterate, I had to rely on Google Translate:
Sprinkle loving, very layout laudable, you would like to spend their days on the earth in hand carnival.
You enjoy duck paddling in the warm, we became the earthworms in the refrigerator
I’m a little worried about what I wrote in response, but Google Translate would never lead me astray, right?
We did spend a good amount of time floating around in a pool:
…but we also found time to enjoy the vistas at the top of Mt Jacinto, via the aerial tramway:
The girls had a great time playing with their baby cousin:
It was a fantastic, relaxing vacation and I left restored.
Until a week later.
Back in the full swing of life and work and acquisitions and activities, I was tired again. It was time for a weekend getaway, this time a camping trip to the Anza-Borrego State Park.
This was our first time camping in the desert, and we were excited. Not the least of which because we had finally invested in a tent that actually fit 4 people — not the 4 person tent we had before which entailed my husband sleeping diagonally across the legs of the children.
This was the view from our campsite:
I love those two palms. At night, they look like a frizzy-haired couple watching the moon together.
This was the first time that the kids were able to do some pretty serious hikes. I’d say there were only 3 wpm (whines per minute) as opposed to the 45 or so that we’re used to. And they made it to the top! Of what I don’t know, but it was definitely the top of the trail.
One of my favorite new plants we encountered is called the ocotillo:
I just love its vibrant red flowers and its weeping yet sturdy form.
We also did a 3-mile hike to an oasis — this involved a bit of climbing, and it did get pretty hot along the way, so maybe it wasn’t so far off from the desert I had in mind originally. But eventually, we did get to the oasis. Sound advice for the desert: bring lots of water. You’ll need it before you get to the oasis.
On the hike back, we ran into a rattlesnake. I was too chicken to get close enough to take a picture, but then we ran into this guy later on:
We also came upon a group of people with binoculars who had spotted some big horn sheep in the distance. I’d like to think that I saw them too — I just couldn’t tell which part of the brown they were.
But what I did see was the utter vastness of the desert. The open expanse of big sky and mountain ranges as far as the eye can see…I love this feeling of being diminished, of feeling that I’m but a small part of something so much bigger. For an anxious person like me, it takes the pressure off. It’s a nice reminder that the world doesn’t revolve around me.
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
— Mary Oliver