For four days, we live in an abyss, a dry, hot lifeless place that's
desolute, yet immensely beautiful. (In the picture, we are the first
camper on the left, with the red car in front of us.)
We're in Death Valley, CA. No electricity. No phone service. No
Internet. Lifeless. A dead zone.
We have water. In fact, water flows from underground springs
throughout the valley, accounting for the pockets of life we do
Move away from an oasis, though, and Death Valley's lifelessness
Inhale. Not too deep. The air is saturated with dust.
Feel your skin. Leather.
Blink your eyes. Dry.
We hike with our dogs through the canyons and each step (of foot or
paw) releases a puff of borax or more dust, drying our skin even more.
Making us sneeze. The hills we climb have no dampness to hold the
soils together. The ground crumbles and gives way under each of our
The aridness, the dryness is unimaginable to a Central New Yorker,
former Southern belle, who grew up near the Kanawha River and now
lives a block form the Erie Canal.
I say this place is lifeless, yet at night the sky twinkles with life.
After dark, I see stars, shooting stars, planets, satellites, solar
systems and, last night, at least one UFO. (I didn't see it. Others did.)
And, after we tuck ourselves into bed, the coyotes come and howl and
yip, right outside our reach (scaring the patooties, I bet, off the
teens (Boy Scouts?) who pitched their tents just before dusk.)
In the morning our bath towels dry within minutes. Spilled water
evaporates in a flash.
I say this place is lifeless, but as I sit on a gravelly slope and
look down. I see a tiny yellow flower. All by itself. No bigger than a
pea. Looking at me, A single flower. I focus and see that to the
right, an even smaller white flower waves at me for attention. Oh.
Wait. The wave is not for me. It's moving because a salamander snaked
around it on its way to hide from me.
There is abundant life in Death Valley. I must first learn where it
lives, then slow down and enjoy it.