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Why the Desert?

In a world of zipline canopy tours, and all-inclusive resorts, why would you ever choose to vacation in the desert? I’ll give you four life-affirming reasons inspired by Ellen Meloy’s Pulitzer Prize finalist book, The Anthropology of Turquoise.

Reason One

“The highest goal a person can achieve is amazement.”

This is actually Meloy quoting the 16th-century German artist and philosopher Goethe, whose text, The Theory of Colours, is revelatory in its own right. Both authors tie amazement to color, and the desert’s canvas is unlike anything most of us have seen. The scale alone moves us to awe. Our window on the world typically measures in feet or inches; a five-foot windshield, or a three-inch screen, and yet the desert relates to us in yards, miles, and acres. Lifting our gaze to a far horizon opens our hearts, and the colors pour in. Whether the pastels of a New Mexican sunrise or the neon blooms of West Texas flora, the desert palate reveals hues and shades we thought only possible in dreams. A creative hunger blossoms in us as we bask in the light of watermelon cliffs, or take refuge in the shadows of sugar plum canyons. Why the desert? Because the desert will amaze you.

Reason Two

“Desert dark is velvet dark.”

There is texture to the night watches of the desert. Like velvet on antlers, sundown softens the hard-angled landscape. A creaminess pours in as the Milky Way emerges, and smoothness settles over the land like the trot of a coyote. Too often we hear our urban fears given voice in the saying, “the night is dark and full of terrors,” but to the desert dweller, “the night is silky and full of life.” Coolness descends, yuccas bloom, bats pollinate, ringtails feed, and panthers prowl. Like electricity through silk, the desert nights are charged with vitality. So come to the desert and embrace the nocturnal mantra of the Big Bend parks, where they say half the park is after dark.

Reason Three

“The bond between self and place is not conscious - no truth will arrive that way - but entirely sensory. Instinct and intimacy bring the feast closer, the river celebrates things we forget how to celebrate: our own spirits, the eternity of all things.”

The lack of excess in the desert gives rise to the clarity of the essential. We hear the high-pitched hum of silence. We feel the resonant frequency between bee and flower, rock and root. We can intuit our own heartbeat keeping time with the lapping of a river, and know the bittersweet bite of mortality beside eternity. All creatures great and small get about 2 billion heartbeats in a lifetime. Hummingbirds burn through them with luminous verve, and the tortoise doles them out with monastic calm. The desert is the place that asks how you will use yours.

Reason Four

“Surrounding me is a desert West as true as the secret, sacred, sunset-kissed place in a remote canyon, the cosmic navel, stripped-down-to-God, buffed spirituality West, where the coyotes howl and the desolate emptiness is stuffed to the mesa tops with meaning.”

Almost every spiritual tradition attributes the good, the true, and the beautiful to divine nature. The shade of a mesquite tree is good. The whispers of a windswept cottonwood are true. The gold of an Aspen leaf is beautiful. Likewise, the ears of a wild burro are good. The bounds of bighorn sheep are true. The orange, white, and blue eye feathers of a roadrunner are beautiful. Why the desert? Because the light at Ghost Ranch is good. Because the colors of Santa Elena Canyon are true. Because the desert is beautiful, and where we go to experience the divine. Come and join us on one of our West Texas or New Mexico trips.

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