Friday, April 9, 2010

Life in Death Valley

Life in the desert seems sparse, almost dormant. There are scrubs and shrubs and sand and dirt and rocks and everything from the same washed-out, hazy color pallette. At first. Then I start to notice the movement among the quiet stillness---wind, alive and terrible, tiny critters like chipmunks and lizards, bright green tufts growing out of the Texas spring that runs right through our campground.

In Death Valley, I feel alive. As I hike the dry hills, feet sweaty inside my boots, I climb, and my throat hurts, and yet I don't want to stop, destination-bound, not even to notice the life. The life! Wildflowers blanket the hills, little blossoms of yellow and pink, white and purple. When people talk about the desert blooming in springtime, I pictured giant showy diva flowers, like orchids and lilies and birds of paradise. I felt a little let-down, a little womp womp womp about these little buds, so humble and timid. I had to get right down, face to face, to examine the dark red heart-like shapes stamped on the inside of delicate pink petals. I shoved a tiny white tuft, like a furry lollipop, up my nose to breathe its sugar. I sneezed for an hour afterward, and knew, at once, the majesty of these wildflowers.

Life in the desert is sparse; for what is life without water? So when you do find it, it's tame, gentle, the small offering of a child, not the proud present of an adult. The desert must conserve its energy, not waste it. The flowers are even more beautiful to me now that I've walked through their valley of death, slept in its parched arms, woken to brand new sunshine to quell the wind.

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