The Santa Rosa Mountains near my desert home rise from the valley floor, unannounced by rolling foothills or slowly increasing elevation. They spring jagged, rugged and breath-taking from the flat arid land at their base. Their command is complete over part of southern California’s Coachella Valley.
Each evening, the sun descends behind this rugged Santa Rosa Range. At a certain moment, when the mountains are backlit, the sky is illuminated in pale blues and warm beiges, reminding me of skies in the work of artist R.C. Gorman. Then, slowly, the sun continues its journey and the outline of the Santa Rosas disappears. Night arrives, bringing quiet, darkness, starlit skies. Peace.
Once upon a time, this desert land was beneath an ancient lake. Over the years, the water receded and disappeared. It left its waterline along the mountainous base, a dark and steady mark, forty feet above the desert floor. In the sand remain pieces of mollusks and other water life. I forever marvel that I live in a desert once covered by a large body of water; that this desert-scape continues to lure and inspire me. That over time its spiritual essence has captivated me.
I find the attraction strange because my childhood was spent near water. The Great Lakes of Erie and Ontario. By Ellicott Creek, the Niagara River, Niagara Falls. It was spent near old rolling hills, eroded by time and weather. Near outcrops of cold, hard granite, the Niagara Gorge and the Niagara Escarpment. I walked in the rain. I played in the snow. How odd I now am lured by shifting sand and young, rugged mountains.
Through the course of a day as the sun moves across the sky or a cloudy gloomy day descends, shadows slide into the mountainous crags and canyons bringing with them shades of purples or browns or grays. Sometimes the mountains hide in haze. More often their surfaces bask in the sun, brightly lit, the rocks and sharp edges finely etched.
I ponder the contrasts of the desert land, feeling I want to reach into the thousands of years that surround me. I’m reminded of how life continues, of the eons of time behind me, of the eons of time that will come after me. For a moment I feel insignificant in the world’s grand scheme. In the next I feel happy to be a part of this mysterious universe. Then in the next, I feel full of life, blessed by my very existence, grateful for a passion and desire to create. To write. I seek the ideas inside me, can feel myself reaching for them.
I’m forever thankful for the land. For the inspiration. For the peace where I can listen … and hear my thoughts.