I love the desert. It is harsh and dangerous yet filled with surprising beauty. It is a stark beauty that one must become accustomed to, an appreciation that must grow on one gradually. I love the wide open spaces, the huge sky, the dramatic lighting, and the rustle of secret tiny lives somehow surviving. The very air itself challenges and confronts the wanderer with extremes of temperature and force of movement. I think it is the only place where I have heard perfect, utter silence, and experienced total solitude.
I recall walking years ago along a dry wash, slogging through the soft hot sand, surrounded by rocks and dry stickery plants. I suddenly came across, in the slight shade of a boulder, a flower. Exotic, delicately formed, like an orchid. A single bloom without leaves, a three-inch treasure amongst the worn and broken rocks. The desert is full of such surprises, such rewards. It is no wonder that it is so often a metaphor for a spiritual struggle, with its hard limitations and sudden moments of grace.