There’s something beautiful about desolation. It almost seems the absence of life magnifies the presence of it. The human eye takes in a landscape where existence has no hope, and then searches for that one patch of green, that hint of movement, that bold, solitary expression against all odds of survival.
I moved to the Sonoran desert thirty years ago, transplanted from the lush, green mountains of eastern Tennessee. Immediately upon arriving I began something akin to the five stages of grief. First I denied the possibility this dry, barren land could be my home. I longed for the cool, tree-bristled mountains of home. Every opportunity was sought to find a way back to the humidity, back to the green, life-teeming vistas of the south.
But being young and marginally employable, the desert of Arizona is where I remained. The other grief stages ensued: anger, bargaining, and depression (lots of depression). Finally, after a few years of taking in the stark, craggy mountains and walking among the ponderous saguaro cacti, something shifted in my DNA. Suddenly, in places I previously thought lifeless there came a glimmer of something fragile and beautiful.
Seemingly from the cracks in the rocks and slightest depressions in the earth, I realized life found a way. Persistent here, yielding there, always opportunistic, often failing greatly, but forever pursuing an unseen purpose, life found a way. In the edges where desolation wasn’t looking there came existence like some swaggering dandy.
Whenever I find myself overcome by the insanity of humankind and it’s almost suicidal intent to destroy all things good, I sometimes stop and consider the desert. There are those who will always seek destruction, and at times they will seem to be winning the battle. But against all odds life will persist. In those forgotten places it will spring up. Wherever the slightest sliver of an opening remains it will shoot out a branch. At the edges where desolation isn’t looking, life will burst forth and feel the sun.