Now that I have my camp set up and staked out to withstand (I hope) some of these desert winds, I can enjoy some hikes out into the desert itself.
I hesitate though to call what I do hiking. I don’t usually pick a trail and set off to hike it. Walking, wandering — these are more apt terms. I seldom go far — a couple of miles is a pretty long walk for me. I meander, I loop around in circles and figure eights. I’ll walk several yards and stop to look and listen for awhile to let the sounds of the desert work their magic. I’ll often stand still in one place for ten or fifteen minutes — though I pay no attention to the time — just looking and listening. I look closely at everything around me, and every few yards there’s a slightly different view. Dead snags… interesting rocks… a clump of barrel cactus — these are all a little different everywhere you look.
At first I don’t hear much except maybe the breeze whispering across the open desert, and the ever-present thoughts that always bounce around in my head, but as I let those subside I begin to hear the other subtle sounds of the desert. A small bird flitting from bush to bush. The slight rustle of sand sliding down the side of a small wash after a rain. The even slighter scratching of a curious lizard skittering from rock to rock to check me out. Now and then the thump of a jackrabbit that finally lost it’s nerve after I’ve stood there for awhile. I begin to hear these sounds of the living desert.
After a while I circle back to camp, make a cup of coffee, pull a camp chair into the scant shade, and ponder what I’ve seen and heard. I may not have traveled far in terms of time and space, but I’ve traveled light-years in beginning to reconnect with this low desert, and in learning what it’s spirit has to teach me. I like it like that.