I finally got tired of sand dunes, wind and empty desert. My partner wanted to stay in that region of Southern California, and I needed a change of atmosphere. We parted ways for a few weeks. I packed up Priscilla and left the Sonoran desert behind, heading to the Mojave in Arizona. Did you know that there are several distinct desert environments in the U.S.? Where the Sonoran has limited plant and animal life, the Mojave is at higher altitude, has relatively cooler temperatures and more precipitation. Compared to where I was, the Mojave desert is lush. It’s still dry, but there is a much more diverse ecosystem, including the iconic saguaro cacti. I’m parked at a friend’s property outside of Salome, Arizona. He and his family have spent the past few years slowly improving an old shack on this land that he bought for the airplane landing strip. It used to be a cattle ranch, and an old windmill looms ever present. I have access to water and electricity, and a lovely porch with a work table in the shade. My friends come by a few hours each day to work on the house, which, besides my partner, is more interaction than I’ve had for almost two months.
Going for walks by myself is a lot like my artistic process. No straight lines from point A to point B. I don’t like to walk on roads, but prefer to follow game trails. I wander off after jack-rabbits or birds, or follow the trails to dried up watering holes and poke around for tracks and other signs of life. Every once in awhile I come across an old encampment littered with rusted tin cans and broken glass bottles. In this region, they are most likely from cowboys tending herds or gold prospectors.
The other evening I crossed a coyote trail and saw one watching me from several hundred yards away. They call to each other after the sun sets. I've noticed a pair of ravens that patrol this area a few times a day. One in particular is recognizable because it constantly talks to itself as it flies.
There's a few coveys (flocks) of Gambel's quail. They hide in the bushes, and you wouldn't even know that they are there, but when you get close they start making lots of racket and fly or run out in several different directions, including straight at you, making a squeaky toy noise. They come in from the desert really close to my camp. Even as I sit here typing in the hammock on the front porch, the little guys are on all sides of me. Every once in awhile I hear little feet patting furiously along, and a quail or two go running past, almost close enough to touch. The question marks bobbing on the tops of their heads makes them seem particularly comical.
It occurred to me the other day that I’ve become feral. I enjoy seeing my friends here, but interacting for any length of time tires me and causes anxiety. One had some interesting perspective about this. We were talking about my life-long conflict of a desire to be outgoing, but how interacting with people is painfully awkward and exhausting.
She's a retired literature professor, and mentioned the conflict of the protagonist in American literature, torn between conforming to society and being true to their authentic natures. Classic American literature doesn’t end with the same tidiness of European literature, where the hero delves into their inner conflict and resolves it in the end. In contrast, the American hero ultimately returns to their conflict and to non-conformity because to do otherwise would be inauthentic. She said, “You are an American Hero!” This paradigm shift somehow gave me a sense of peace, knowing that at least I am true to myself.
This morning I stopped at a roadside mercado to pick up some fresh vegetables. A man with a long black ponytail and warm piercing eyes sold me a bag of emerald green avocados, giving me a few extras that were perfectly ripe. As I sat alone in my camper, relishing the creamy lusciousness smeared on a tostada with a dash of salt and chili, I wondered about the man. I've seen him several times through the years that I’ve returned here. Always the same old van, always the table set out by the road, a hand-drawn sign taped to the front simply stating, “Avocados and Oranges”. I wonder if he is also an American hero. I wonder if he has dreamed of a world outside of this hot windy desert, or has left and come back again to his life here selling perfect avocados on dusty roadsides. I wonder if he is content or conflicted. I wonder if I will ever become sociable enough to ask him.
The Adventures of Frida and Kathrine
Frida has gotten interested in photography lately. She asked Kathrine and I to pose for her. I think she did a nice job with this shot.
Artist, homesteader, teacher and adventurer. Turning over every literal and figurative rock that I can find, living curiously and creatively outside of the conventions of the common world.
facebook: Karrie Steely Fine Art and Creative Services
Youtube: Homesteading and High Adventure