Sunday, April 22, 2012

Hot Rocks

I'm spending about a week back at Joshua Tree, working on a book.  Trying to do 2000 words a day and, so far, making it within ten percent either way.

This is on the very short list of places I love best.  It's meditative and magical. I can get all tangled up in myself over why things (the book) aren't working, and didn't work yesterday, and won't ever work, and an hour of hiking up here just unties all the knots.

Part of it is that Joshua Tree is so other-worldly.  The kind of terrain you see below is just over every hill you climb.

There's a sense of time suspended here.  You can walk for miles and know, wherever you stop, that the place looks more or less exactly as it did 10,000 years ago.   The whole place wraps me in silence and solitude.  The line that follows me around in Joshua Tree is T.H. Lawrence's reply when asked what he liked about the desert: "It's clean."

One of the things I admire about the desert is that it's really live-or-die.  There are no tremulous, drooping leaves, no chlorophyll cries for help.  Plants and animals grab their spot, dig in, and defend it. It's merciless in a way that's kind of comforting.  If these things are so tough, I ask myself, how can I be such a wimp?  Thinking up a story?  That's a problem?  Are you kidding me?  Just take your precious bottle of water with you, you wuss, and go write the damn thing.

But even the desert softens a little bit in spring.  Here's a plant I saw for the first time yesterday--a whole new species to me.


It's about six inches high, all by itself except for that ancient little scrub of Juniper up there, and the brightest thing within a square mile.  Up close, it's got kind of a Persian intricacy to it--one of the prettiest little succulents I've ever seen.  Back in the bad old days of chemically enhanced desert rambling, I probably would have spent an hour just looking at it.  And I would have benefited from the experience.

But those days are past, so I just sat with it for a few minutes, hiked back to my car, and drove to town to write a sort-of love scene.

Joshua Tree worked its magic again.

Tim -- Sundays


  1. When I was in Joshua Tree in February it was no-brainer obvious to me why you've so often said it inspires you. In fact, in a coals to Newcastle sort of way I still carry photos of the park with me on my iPhone here on Mykonos...a place whose very name is said to derive from "piles of rocks."

  2. It's the starkness of the place that strikes me as eternal, and other worldly. In Spring, some of the succulents will bloom and will appear magical. How can that yellow-green thing give rise to those pink blooms? But they do, and retreat to their quiet slumbering. Thank you for taking us along.

  3. The healing power of nature is a great thing to write about on this day especially. Glad you are getting a chance to be in Joshua Tree. Happy Earth Day!

  4. Hi all, and thanks for dropping in. Zanna, happy Earth Day to you, too, and Joshua Tree opened up a whole new level in the Junior book I'm writing. It never fails.

    Lil, you have been awarded one trillion Frequent Comment points and a Certificate of Appreciation to go with it. Hope the Post Office doesn't lose it.

    And Jeffrey, let's get up there together one of these years. Or you could just, ahem, invite me to Mykonos.

  5. As long as my heading up the mountain with you doesn't involve my carrying stone tablets back down, I'll follow you anywhere. And if you make it over to Mykonos, I'm sure we can find some pretty little succulents for you to identify here too.