Essay #9 of the 52 Essays in 2017 Challenge.
Deep in a valley ringed by reddish purple peaks, like brilliant bruising. Has a sunset ever been so sustained? It seems to last for hours. The sun's actual rays are visible; they shoot off from the yellow-white orbit like spotlights, bursting across the pacific blue. I want to tilt towards the horizon, disappear into the layers of blue and gold and pearl pink. A kind of quiet exists here that is unique to the desert; the only sounds are different variations of rustling – the whooshing of the wind through the valley, a faint serpentine swish across the rocks. At midnight, coyotes yowl like college frat brothers. Spindly ocotillo plants jut out from the rock like Giacometti sculptures. All around us are the desert and the mountains and the moon, like one of those garish t-shirts you can only buy at gas stations in the Midwest, the ones with a wolf face or giant dreamcatcher emblazoned across the front. The warm glow of the sunlight on the rocks, that’s what sticks with me. And the solitude, the kind that fills you up.
Solitude can be measured on a spectrum according to the landmarks that surround you: Desert-lonely isn’t like ocean-lonely (call it a saltwater-specific ache). It’s not mountain-lonely, where your bones sense immense possibility but it’s all so removed from you (your hive of a city life) that you end up feeling alienated.
No, desert-lonely isn’t like those things. The nothingness in the desert is well-acquainted with you, and you with it. And if you stay out here long enough you just may start to understand some things.