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Falling in love with the desert

March 3, 2009


For the first couple of years that I was in the desert, I hated it. My friend Jessica and I would sit at Starbucks (in the 90’s this was the epitome of coolness as they weren’t quite on every corner yet, and it made us feel metropolitan. Which is, of course, much cooler than living in a small town.) and drink our coffees, and smoke lots of cigarettes and talk about philosophy, and religions, and how fucked up the world was, and about how we couldn’t wait to leave.

More than ten years later, the desert is one of my favourite places in the world. Those brown mountains that used to be the ugliest things, that were there every day, looming oppressively around me and over me, taunting me with their barrenness, and holding me in, over a short period of time became something magical and alive.

It started when I gained weight. Most people gain 15 lbs in college. I gained 30. It was all that unlimited food and those cookies and the tubs of ice cream. I went home over the holidays to see my parents, and I saw a picture of the family and I asked who the fat girl in the corner was, and my mum looked at me shocked and said “that’s YOU, Rebecca.” My insides recoiled. My face had been swallowed by a mound of adipose and all that remained of my fantastic bone structure was my chin (which I had always been self-conscious about being too big and now that fear was confirmed).  I decided to start exercising.

My mum had started hiking with some of her friends, so I tagged along. I huffed and puffed up and down the ‘bump and grind’ (also known as the dog poo trail—a four mile round trip outdoor gym, that has been carved out of the mountain with a tractor, and where the majority of the population of Palm Desert goes every morning for a work out). And then I went for a muffin and a coffee with mum to congratulate myself on not dying.

I started hiking the bump and grind every morning at the crack of dawn on the mornings when they weren’t hiking.  It got easier and easier. My right calf muscle got bigger than my left (I still don’t know why this happened but I thought it was an interesting observation), and when I would get to the top, I would sit down and look out over the desert for a while. The top of the bump and grind is beautiful. Lower down there isn’t much vegetation, the trail had been carved out of a mountainside that had already been carved up, so there isn’t much to look at, except the back of Target. But higher up, that boring brown mountain actually has a lot of life to it that you can’t see from far away. Like being up in an aeroplane and if the ground is covered in trees it just looks fluffy and nice, and you (I) feel like, if the plane were to crash right there, we’d be okay because we’d be landing in all that fluffiness. Which isn’t true of course—it’s just a matter of perspective. It’s the same with the mountains.

I moved back to the desert a few years later, and discovered different hiking trails. Prettier ones. Greener ones. Less busy ones, and ones that weren’t covered with dog poo.

One day when I was sitting on top of a mountain, it occurred to me that these mountains weren’t dead at all. They were very much alive. I could almost see them snoring. Like big sleeping giants, watching over the land. I watched the light change and the sun set and the colours creep up the mountains like they have every day for thousands of years, and that’s when the mountains and I started to become friends.


I think if you spend enough time in one place, you get to know it quite well. Places are like people in that way. They have personalities and ‘moods’ about them, just as we do. It’s so easy, in Palm Desert, to be deceived by the gated communities and the buildings that all look the same, and the over-60 population, and the ‘everything closes at 9-o’clock’, but the real personality of the desert doesn’t unfold itself until you actually get out there into nature.

And when you do, you realise that it isn’t barren and boring at all.


That barrenness is actually openness.

And that boringness is actually peace.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Maria permalink
    March 3, 2009 13:01


    That’s a very inspiring blog. Thanks for sharing your world perspective through it. I recognize so many things of myself but being unable to put it in words. That creativity is inspiring. Thank you 🙂


    • fairybekk permalink*
      March 3, 2009 13:26

      Thanks {{Maria}}


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