Broad Gestures, Frame of Reference

The desert isn't a creature. It doesn't have eyes nor ears, nor hands and feet, nor does it have a language. But I think it has a tail. I know it has a heart. Always, strangers come and try to define it. Anyone who doesn't speak will be defined by strangers.

I walk around picking up small rocks and large stones, my mind calling them "rocks" and "stones" but also wondering there you are, who are you, how would you like to be held, would you like to be held, thrown over there, left alone, stepped on, flipped over, taken from here and collected and put on some table in front of a television with maybe some music playing.

Or the desert is a beautiful and complete world bounded to the west by the San Francisco Peaks, to the north by Mt, Hesperus, to the south by Mt. Taylor and to the east by Mt.Blanca.

As a teenager I read stories about arid pits and cliffs. In Desert Spring the moss on a dry river bed after the rainy season padded and silenced the camels' feet. In A Distant Episode, the well-meaning stranger's tongue is cut off because he doesn't belong there and it's obvious to me he never belonged anywhere, yet believed his brain was enough to tell the desert what it was. 

I would hear Chinese farm music in the cliffs on the Arizona side, between Tuba City and the Grand Canyon. Bikers would pass on the dirt trail that they believe the Anasazi once passed on foot. Farm music, played on strings, seems always about a frame of reference for an isolated thought. Farm music on flutes seems about broad gestures for small steps. 

Warm air settles at your ankles as day runs west. When night comes the cold reaches your hands first and your fingers curl like a petal of one of those flowers that sleep and wake in the course of a day, that why haven't I ever been able to name.

When I was small, I accepted all the significant things the Irish nuns and Jesuit brothers told me, and thought it was right that there are people who can complete your sentences and even your thoughts for you. Now I live among people who have experienced something like that, who are poor in a wealthy country, and who don't know what to make of me.

The northern Arizona and New Mexico high desert changes with each storm. Winds will carry the desert from one side of a highway to the other side. In a sudden snowstorm, at twenty degrees below seasonal normals and in freezing high winds, the desert may flurry in all directions in an icy mix of snow and sand, remaking its partitions and changing from every point of view.