I am frequently in the desert now, which is nothing at all like the downtown Los Angeles I left behind. There are golf carts. And people who care deeply about golf, as deep as their suntans. There are others who have had so much work done I can't even look at them. Still more who seem to shop a great deal and then scurry back to their rambling homes with fancy bags from fancy shops, piling it all inside.
Drive yourself out to Joshua Tree and you will find a completely different kind of desert dweller. The artists. The legit dreamers and doers who have sought out a direct dialogue with nature. So silent are their spaces, so vast are their views, so sandy are the roads that lead you to and from their humble homes.
On paper, I'm not a desert person. I burn inside five minutes. SPF 100 is part of my daily routine. I love the fog of San Francisco, the chill of snowy mountains, the cool air clinging to the bedsheets from an open window on a cold night. 110 degrees and Palm Trees? You could've asked me a thousand times about this in the past ten years and each time I'd have said no.
Something led me to the desert this summer. I had a notion that all the dry heat would be clarifying. That the contrast of you versus the heat would reveal what you were made of and require a reckoning. And that's true. In some ways. In other ways, it can seem too easy. A place filled with no urgency, too many empty vacation homes and more Palm Trees than you can count.
The main thing? The sky. The sky and the stars and the moon that is so bright you wonder where that goddamn light is coming from as it's ruining your star-gazing only to see it is the moon in all its glory just doing its thing. And you realize it has always been there doing its thing while you've been running around in Los Angeles like a crazy person with too much to do and too many masters to serve and deadlines that can't be met and projects that need your time and friends you never see and stuff you never use and all the rest.
That moon and that sky and those stars demand that you slow down and notice them. They require your full attention. The beauty of that? When you give them your full attention, everything else falls away. All the nonsense, all the ugliness, all the shoulds in your life recede.
And I need that kind of focus right now. A big vast sky to focus on that only asks me to sit below it in wonder.
I might turn into a desert darling one day with my cart and my tan and my puffed up lips. Or I might become a proper Joshua Tree maven with my Jeep and my boots and my leather hat. Or I might never fit in here and drift about, like the few lovely desert folks I've recently met, never needing to fit a label or a scene or have a reason to be here other than the great big sky that requires reverence.
It's early days. We'll have to see what shakes out.