Joshua Tree National Park


The roadrunner ran along the sandy dirt road as if being chased, a freshly dead lizard hanging limp from its long beak. It disappeared around the bend into the sparse desert scrub that was scattered with proud tree-like yuccas called Joshua Trees and 14 different species of cactus.

I saw a lizard alive in the soft circle of light that illuminated the heap of shit and toilet paper at the bottom of the pit toilet ten feet below me. I dreamt of ways to save it, but ultimately let the fear of other people’s waste prevent me from getting my hands dirty. I held onto the hope that he found a way out.

Cactus wren songs pulsated through the dry windy air, creating the very sound of the desert. The wind bellowed with gusts at 60 miles per hour, scattering Tupperware across the campsite in the middle of the night and muffling the deranged yips of coyotes running wild.

The desert was a bowl bordered and filled by small mountains of broken granite artistically arranged and balanced together. Pieces large and small piled on each other as if shaken into place.


During the day I tasted desert sand and dust blown into my chapsticked lips. My clothes smelled of burnt wood from campfires, which partially masked the body odor accumulated over days without showering.

My hair continued to become greasier, and I carefully watched the water supply as the nearest source was a 20 minute drive away. The water always ran out before I expected it would.

My skin began to shrivel and dry and separate from my body in places, eager to fly off into the wind and join the black-throated sparrows, Say’s phoebes, black-throated gray warblers, oak titmice, and rock wrens.

I saw shapes in the boulders piled in jumbled heaps around us. The Old Woman, The Blob, The Cyclops. The massive boulders perched atop each other in unexpected ways and I wondered what would happen if there was an earthquake. Do rocks have souls like some traditions believe? My skin turned red and broke apart if I held onto them too tightly or for too long while I climbed up their spines to stand above the desert.

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