Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A Memory of the Desert

Many years ago I lived not far from the Anza Borrego desert in California. It is the largest state park in California and the second largest in the continental United States after Adirondack Park in New York.

The park is named after Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza and the Spanish word “Borrego,” for bighorn sheep.

Eons ago the desert floor was an ancient seabed, and it is to this day festooned with tiny seashells. I was amazed at this when I visited the area and camped there to experience the wonder of sunrise and the hot breath of the desert when no one else was around.

It was a poetic inspiration for me, and the result was a poem entitled, “Carrizo Wash.”

A desert vast to see and feel
What is true and what is real.
But streaks and scratches on the land,
Did tear the nature from the sand.

It’s tracks of cars — tire scarred,
Old bed of sea now wheel marred.
Barren dry, yet full of life,
Eroded by the weather’s knife.

Granite grays and sandy stone
Black basalt and sun-bleached bone.
Sages grow in pale hue
And green and cream rendezvous.

Fossil dunes from tranquil past
Beneath a sea that didn’t last.
This solitude with crusts of shell,
What ancient day felt your knell?

Thou sacred sweep, what is worse:
No ocean cover or man’s traverse?
Intruding sounds in paradise
Make this silent place die twice.

I’ve not been back to that desert in California, but I wish I could; not to intrude, but to enjoy and share its history. It was a moving experience of ancient time and modern awareness. I remember slowly walking, step by step, as my weight crunched the ancient shells and I felt an intruder into the pristine nature of this atavistic space. Wherever I stood, I could feel the ocean currents and the tides of ebb and flow, but also the ones of time.

I walked gently away from the shell-crusted dunes and left with a memory of profound wonder.

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