Finding Nourishment in the Mojave Desert
We’re in the middle of a pandemic, and I decided to travel. Was this the smartest idea in the world? I’m not sure. But, it’s what happened.
I’m not bullet-proof, but I am a flight attendant. I am still out working; therefore, I am constantly exposed to the possibility of getting something from people, whether there is a pandemic or not. I also can only be contained for so long and I took this job because I wanted to travel.
I must say, I’ve been feeling stuck and dry, and this virus has exacerbated that feeling. My living situation is difficult at best, and even though I like my job, one can still feel trapped while traveling in and out of different cities in different states. There were times when I felt like who and what I am was dying. I desperately needed to get away.
This was when I was talked into going out to the Mojave Desert. One of my roommates that I get along with broached the idea. I didn’t need much convincing. The only thing on my mind was: is it safe to travel during a world wide pandemic?
The only thing on my mind was: is it safe to travel during a world wide pandemic?
If I’m honest, I was planning a staycation in my home state. When you’re an introvert that shares your room with 3 other people, you need your own space once in a while. Retreating to work all the time to get away from your living situation is very unhealthy. I know; I did it, and it led to sickness and a mental breakdown. Besides, with my hours being reduced due to the virus, there is no work to which I can retreat.
My writings were becoming myopic, only focusing on the virus, and how it’s affecting me specifically. I needed to momentarily forget about work, the virus, and my roommates. I needed to be released. My soul needed nourishing, and I chose to find said nourishment in one of the most arid places on the planet. “Sure”, I said, “I’ve always wanted to go to the desert. I’ve heard it’s an amazing place to star gaze.”
When I initially agreed to go out to Joshua Tree/Palm Springs, I didn’t expect to have anything to do. I wasn’t going to interact with people; rather, I was looking for a quiet space in which I could commune with nature. Being a woman that loves cacti and stars, I don’t know why I never went to the desert before. Okay, yes I do: heat. I hate heat. I also told myself I didn’t have the money. Although my flight is free, I have to pay for my own food, transport, and accommodation. Just like everyone else that goes on a vacation, I have to plan for it.
Just like everyone else that goes on a vacation, I have to plan for it.
As we flew over Palm Springs, I was surprised that there were mountains in the desert. I expected to see tumbleweeds, palm trees (given the name of the place that we were flying into), and cacti on a flat, sandy plain… mountains never crossed my mind.
I stared in awe of the majesty of them, as they stood proud and green, corralling the dry valley within. We landed, and took a pricy ride share out to the AirBnB. (Note to self: rent a car next time.)
As we took the 45-60 min ride to our accommodation, we saw a man selling flowers by the roadside in the bright sun. The sky was blue and clear, so there was no shade. Sweat was beaded on his brow, as he stood on the corner of the main road we were on, and a dusty crossroad. There were houses here and there, but it seemed like any buildings we saw were as much a part of the landscape as the rocky hills, shrubs, and cacti.
The residents of this unique landscape didn’t dare take away from the natural beauty; rather, they chose to live in such a way that keeps the focus upon the hills.
They were either varying shades of brown and orange, or they were recessed into the hill. The residents of this unique landscape didn’t dare take away from the natural beauty; rather, they chose to live in such a way that keeps the focus upon the hills. As a nature lover, I appreciate this.
Upon our arrival at the house, I was excited to see that it was exactly that I had expected. A small patio sat outside the front of the house, with a mosaic-tile table, and a bright blue bench. This small patio was under the shade of a tree. When you sat upon the bench, it faced a spectacular view of the mountains and the Joshua trees. The shrubbery and cacti all around made visitors feel as if they were isolated, even with neighbors fairly close by.
A picnic table and a unique looking cactus with a purple trim was on the side of the house, in direct sunlight. There were little surprises as far as what the space had to offer. What I always love about every place that I’ve visited is the personality and coziness that is in each home. Upon walking in, it’s like the house said “Welcome. Make yourself at home. I’m happy that you’re here.” As a black woman, and as a woman that is living with people who don’t celebrate her, this was healing.
As a black woman, and as a woman that is living with people who don’t celebrate her, this was healing.
When most people think of the desert, it’s viewed as untamed wilderness; a dry, inhospitable place where nothing beautiful grows. While it’s no deciduous forest, the flora isn’t any less beautiful. Some of the cacti flower; in fact, one of the cacti near the house resembled a bonzai tree, and had pink and yellow flowers on it. Although the blossoms weren’t fragrant, they weren’t any less pretty.
This place was awakening the me that I often keep hidden. In my work life, I am expected to be a certain way. Often, this leaves my soul quite dry; who I am isn’t engaged. Although I was in Joshua Tree during quarantine, I still did things to enrich myself. I did hot yoga, with the heat provided by Mother Nature. Under the sun, I was in Warrior II, feeling like a boss. The “wild she” (how I refer to my true self) was awakening in this arid, yet mystical land. Amongst the dryness, and the plants that thrive in the harsh landscape, I felt at home. It’s nice to be around things that understand you: cacti get me. Even in harsh conditions, they grow, and even bloom.
When night falls, the desert becomes quiet. The birds settle as the sun goes down. Nothing chirps or moves. As it got completely dark and silent, that’s when the stars came from behind the curtain of darkness. They shone and twinkled, illuminating the night sky. It was nice to see something shining in the sky that wasn’t an airplane flying overhead, with its lights blinking. I looked up, captivated by the stars; it felt surreal to see something like this, that is natural.
It’s nice to be around things that understand you: cacti get me. Even in harsh conditions, they grow, and even bloom.
I felt at one with this place. Confession: I wanted to strip down naked and run around, and fully immerse myself. Sitting outside in the brisk air that replaced the heat of the day, I felt alive, alert, and in touch with myself. I didn’t strip down y’all, but maybe I should have. It would have been a physical manifestation of me stripping away the masks I wear in civilization, and the shields I put up to protect my true self.
I also may have wanted to feel the cool air on all of my skin. The 60s in Chicago or even PA is much different than the 60s in the desert. The 60s in Chicago or PA feels lovely and enjoyable; in contrast, the 60s in the desert is very crisp, there’s no humidity, and it feels more like the 40s or 50s. In the desert, it’s either hot or cold; there is no in between.
Upon leaving, I was sad. I looked longingly out at the stars that last night. I was already mourning a loss. No, I didn’t “go” anywhere while I was in Joshua Tree, but something more important happened: I felt free and released. Being misunderstood every day of one’s life is hard. It was nice to be in an environment that reflected my being. Even in adverse situations, she not only grows and survives, she thrives and blooms.
My soul was watered, my creativity was watered. I was watered, right in one of the driest places on earth. Everyone should visit the desert.