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10/25/2004 Archived Entry: "Third dispatch from the desert"

THIRD DISPATCH FROM THE DESERT. It's true what they say about desert nights. It gets dark very quickly, and once dark, it's cold - both phenomena due to the clear, cloudless skies.

Tonight was an exception. We had what old easterners call a mackerel sky - a vast sweep of high, thin, but puffy clouds, looking like a sky full of cosmic fish scales. The whole array turned spectacular orange, then magenta, before finally fading into gray. The clouds were dense enough to hold in the heat but so thin that the waxing moon (already risen before sunset) could still cast shadows on the ground as the cloud-scales drifted past it.

Too warm, I left my little shelter and walked up a knoll in the dark. I took a flashlight, but never needed to turn it on. My shadow, and the shadows of the dogs, stretched out before us. At the top of the knoll, we looked down on the lights of the nearest town (such as it is) miles off in the distance and then looked around at miles and miles of absolutely nothing on every other side. Just bluffs, washes, and hills, shadows against shadows.

I knew there were a few cabins and trailers out there, but they were dark and invisible against the landscape.

I've never been a desert person. I don't like brown, dry places. I need to be surrounded by green. But "surrounded" is the operative term in the places I usually stay. Forests are close and embracing. Even when you know you're all alone, you feel, if anything, that the trees and the animals of the woods are encroaching upon you. Out here, the vastness is as awesome as a moonscape. You really feel the scale of the land. Even when you know there are people nearby, you really see and feel how alone human beings can be.

Posted by Claire @ 01:10 PM CST

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