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November 7, 2009

With the cool Autumn air blowing down the mountain, and the hot desert sun beating on my back, I take a walk out into my favourite canyon. People often ask me why I like the desert so much. I have a friend from Costa Rica who was astounded when I said that it’s just so alive. To her, life is bright and colourful– the rainforest is alive, and vibrant. To her, the desert looks much more dead. Still beautiful, but dead. And I understand that because once upon a time, I too felt that way. But it’s what makes the desert appear dead to some that makes me love it so much: its subtlety.



I sneak past a couple of tourists (it’s easy to do with tourists– they walk so loud you could probably run behind them and they still wouldn’t hear it) and head up into the canyon. Little bird carcass on the right, and then further up, the remains of some sheep bones. Somebody has picked over them (as somebodies do) and so I bury the rest in case another somebody came along… I don’t know why exactly but I feel fiercly protective over this land– as if other people with their loud footsteps and loud voices and inability to listen are going to cause more harm than good in one of the few remaining spaces that is still sacred. And you can FEEL how sacred it is– when you half close your eyes all of the rocks wiggle and the plants have this potency that you just don’t see too much anymore. Seeing people trudging through there picking over bones and pulling branches off plants and leaving their trash makes me furious, and also ashamed– ashamed that I am a part of it too, ashamed that I don’t quite know how to communicate the importance of what it is that I don’t know how to say, and ashamed that I burn with rage instead of compassion.

So many people come through here and speak of its beauty as if its something that was put there just for them to experience– not like its a living breathing place that has existed for ages before they came and will still be standing long after they are gone. Not like its aware.
It IS aware. Not in the sense that you and I are, with our flitting emotions that cloud everything we do. But it’s an awareness, none the less, and an ancient one at that.
I think maybe sometimes if more people knew this then the planet wouldn’t be in the state that its in.

I climb up the dry waterfall– at the end of the summer in the desert, everything is parched. The air is so dry that it sucks the moisture out of your skin and your mouth, and yet, because it’s so cold, it feels refreshing. I keep walking. Past the caves on the right, through the dried out palm oasis that will be bright and muddy in a few months, up another dried out waterfall and into a little dried out lagoon. The sand is cool and silky; I lie down and close my eyes.


After a while of being surrounded by silence, your ears start to pick up little things. Much like after a while of being surrounded by the dead desert, you start to see little signs of life everywhere.
The beauty of the desert is in its subtlety.
Silence expands. The birds become louder. The dried out leaves rustle in the wind. Little stones trip down the cliff faces to land on the canyon floor. Little bugs run around on the ground and on the rocks. And then, underneath it all, there’s this humm. This canyon sings. It sings constantly, in the most beautiful clear tone that penetrates your cells and makes them sing back. It sings, and then sometimes the people who used to live here sing too, in response to the immense beauty that is in the small details, and if you listen hard enough you can hear their songs bouncing off the walls that are humming. Silence, sometimes, can be very very loud. I lie there, listening and feeling, for so long that I can’t tell where I end and where the canyon floor begins. For so long that I can feel the tourists walking back down the ridge up on top of the wall. For so long that the sun gets high and the air gets a bit warmer (which is a bit of a relief because my fingers were getting very cold). The tourists are gone, and I’m alone.

That’s one of the beauties of being out in nature. Being completely alone, and yet not alone at all. Being separate and yet completely connected to everything around me. These are the paradoxes that make up the entirety of life.

Alone but not.

Separate but not.

Changing but the same.

Like a river, like the wind.


3 Comments leave one →
  1. November 8, 2009 06:02

    I like that thought I have now, of you, my sister, lying down in the desert and just being, being so alive. It makes me happy.
    {I want to hear the earth sing too}

  2. Julie Tennis permalink
    November 8, 2009 11:55

    What a wonderful description about how to experience a place, and how not to! Thank you!

  3. Mark permalink
    November 9, 2009 19:49

    Beautiful Bekka. Simply Beautiful.

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