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DESERT DREAMS, Part One

David Curtis

On my last solo-journey, the one I tagged #desertdreams, I spent a couple of weeks driving to and through parts of the Great American Desert. It was another step in learning the art of being free -- to becoming a woman who lives by her own soul's laws and desires.

Perhaps the first female artist I encountered who inspired me in this way was Joni Mitchell, through her music. Not long after that I learned of Georgia O'Keefe; through her artwork, and through photographs of her life in New Mexico, I saw a picture of a woman who was powerful, connected to the land around her, and free.

I never stopped being inspired by these women, among others. I did allow life to take me down some side-streets.

One little detour can easily amount to a decade. And decades aren't nearly as long as we think they might be, especially when we're young. I remember my grandmother George Lucille, my father's mother, telling me in her last days, "It goes so fast, Jennifer. It all goes so fast, the blink of an eye. I wish I could go back and do it again"...I was in my early twenties. I knew she was speaking the truth, but it was easy for me to dodge the blade of her words. I felt safe within the protective womb of youth.

Is the fact of aging and dying the ultimate cosmic joke? Why does matter have to break down so quickly, as we are learning all the while to become more conscious (in theory at least)?
All to say, I do now feel the truth of my grandmother's sentiment. I feel the weight, I feel the bewilderment. I feel now what seems like accelerated time, the feeling that time is moving faster than it did before. I see myself change in the mirror. I note my own incredulousness when I see that time is working on me too, just like every single one of us -- and try to appreciate the (sometimes dark) humor of it all. And try to accept the Great Mystery of it all.

Time is a reality none of us can avoid. But living our own soul's destiny is one we can choose to follow or not...we can die trying, anyway.

In the last few years I have entered a time of serious accounting. A reckoning in the most personal of ways. A matter of letting some things drop away, and of holding on tight to others.
A matter of believing that art makes a difference, and proceeding on from there. In a way like a sinner believes in being redeemed. There is no proof, necessarily. Faith and its power can still not be quantified.

I have seen people keep going though, beyond their fears, beyond their failures, beyond all the limits they were holding in place -- and continue. I want to be of that tribe. The tribe of people who don't give up and keep creating and keep loving and keep asking and keep laughing and keep working and keep trespassing and keep giving. I see these people as free.

I've been learning too that you have to know what you really want, you have to locate your deepest desires, before you can enjoy any sense of personal freedom. I had a longing to see and experience these desert places that wouldn't let go of my imagination; finally I put together a journey (on a wing and a prayer) where I could do it by myself. I drove through Utah and parts of Nevada and Arizona into LA, down to San Diego, on to Joshua Tree, to Tucson and the Saguaro National Park, up through Phoenix and vast tribal lands, Monument Valley, through Utah again and back to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

In a time of extreme hyper-convenience, I know it is nothing compared to what generations of women before me have endured -- on any journey, anywhere -- but I still feel that it meant something to do it.

For me, this is where wings come in, and brilliant night skies and having the silence to hear myself think. And digging into the heart of things and responding to what is there. Trusting and embracing the truth and inspiration that keeps flowing from the natural world, in all its endless wonder. Appreciating a singular cactus  -- one that can be 70 years old before it produces its first bloom -- seeing how over eons, wind and water turn sand into stone. The gentle, comforting curve of a distant hillside, remembered. Seeing animals in humans and humanity hiding in the gleam of a raven's eye. Knowing I am not alone.

I'm beginning to believe this seeking is worthwhile.

More soon --
JJN