Joshua Tree 2021

If you get through my lamentation over black holes, there's some pretty pictures.

This was originally published on .

If memory serves, my phone lit up one night in October with a new message, "We're going to Palm Springs. Meet us." and then I landed in the desert on Thanksgiving night, waiting on Casey and Hayes so we could head to Joshua Tree. I don't recall much happening in between.

As if an elephant didn't just make its grand entrance into the room, the last few years have been a bit much. I say "years," but that doesn't begin to do this time justice, does it? Everything has been on hold and uncertain and—something no one seems comfortable saying, so I'll step up—just plain unprecedented, and somehow despite pressing our pause button, it's inexplicably two years later? I'm not a mathematician, but how.

If I may tangent here, having recently revived my interest in space—a natural response to sheltering in place—it's frustrating not to be able to call the pandemic a "black hole." The last two years certainly feel as massive but time slows down near a collapsed star, it doesn't speed up. On top of everything else, we don't even get the satisfaction of a familiar metaphor. The nerve of it all.

I suppose that metaphor is a lost cause, not just due to our current understanding of physics, but also considering that reconnecting with friends after a decade apart is half reminiscing and half bringing up to speed, time bending as we go. Somewhere along that curve, I came out rested and revived, but still disconnected from the me I kept trying to find, before the weight of grief multiplied. I'll take that as a blessing because it means I can't do a cliche and say that I went to the desert with my friends and found myself, living my 90s coming-of-age movie fantasy.

That didn't happen.

I think the point is that I came home more present, more accepting that there isn't an old me to revive.

And I had a blast with my friends, but those memories are not for this.

If we want to continue to ham-fist this black hole metaphor and, hey, I do, should you find yourself in a personal singularity and you aren't moving through time as you'd like, turn yourself into Hawking radiation and escape the event horizon and return to normal speed. None of this is how it works. It's fine. Everything is fine.

I didn't have a camera that could capture the stars I saw, but we hiked a few trails in Joshua Tree National Park and I still don't believe that place is real but I have "proof" "allegedly."

A large backyard landscaped with desert bushes and succulents at dawn, with powerlines along a road in the distance.
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Rocky hills with desert bushes and catci in the foreground.
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A person standing on top of a large rock formation, saluting the camera from their distant position.
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The slope of a rocky hill.
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A rocky hillside with some bushes and a barren tree.
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A series of large hills, made of chunks of dark rock. They look like piles of pebbles.
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A large rock formation that resembles a snail in its shell, with a pouty bottom lip if it had a human-like face.

This rock formation had a very proper name that wasn't "Pixar snail rock" and tell me there is justice when confronted with that.

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Trees growing among a bunch of large-ish boulders.
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A small hill made of large rocks, its face is nearly vertical and smooth, with some desert bushes in the foreground.
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A group of big horn sheep climbing a rather steep rock formation.
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A desert landscape of bushes and cacti and joshua trees, with nearby hills and distant mountains in the background.
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Ancient petroglyphs drawn on the side of a rock formation.
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A desert landscape with rocky hills in the distance.
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A small group of Joshua Trees, seen from near their bases.
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A person standing in front of an arch-shaped rock formation. The opening of the formation frames the person.
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A landscape of desert rocks, rounded and spread out evenly.
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A large boulder, shaped almost like a diving board, casts a shadow on a steep hill leading up to it.
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A joshua tree silhouetted by the sun, with some nearby hills in the background.
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A grouping of a delicate flower on a green vine.

I think this is bougainvillea. It was everywhere, and even though it definitely is not, I kept hearing Sting's "Desert Rose" in my head when looking at it. I hope that powerful tune is in your head now. We've had a moment. Look at us.

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