“What draws us into the desert is the search for something intimate in the remote.” Edward Abbey, author, essayist.
As this summer begins to sit low in Palm Springs, with cooler temperatures knocking on this hemisphere, I am grateful. I grew up on the East Coast, three thousand miles from my San Gabriel Valley birthplace. My mom gathered us up in a cranberry-colored Camaro with a pristine white vinyl roof and hightailed it back to Baltimore after her divorce. It was her hometown where she spent much of her teen years. Shirley, her high-school best friend still lived there as did her only sister. Much like Barry Levinson’s “Diner”, she romanticized the harbor town.
The thing I remember most about living in “Charm City” is trudging through some of the winters. When the snowstorms came, it covered everything — as it still does along the Eastern seaboard — followed by freezing rain which then froze again. If you had snowshoes, you were able to walk across my elementary school’s football field like Jesus walking on water. I didn’t have waffle-like foot accessories. I only had the inexpensive tennis shoes bought at a downtown department store. My feet were always wet and cold.
I feel as if I’ve spent most of my life trying to keep warm.
Forty years later, I’m in the California’s low desert country. I think of it as my Walden pond, far from the distractions of urban life. It’s warm. Always. (We have a pond with a nesting heron. I’ve named it Hope after one of the neighbors.). If someone said that this is where I would be, I would have snickered because I loved the sophistication of cities. I felt safe congregating with multitudes of people going to and from – it didn’t matter where they were going just as long as I was with them. Then it became exhausting. The work I had was great but I didn’t get to expand it. I didn’t get to grow with it. I was feeling stuck. I know it happens to other people. I’ve talked about it enough to know I’m not the only one. Out here in the desert, I’m writing more. Discovering. Learning. I was always working for something – but never quite knowing what it was I was working to achieve — as if whatever I achieved would satisfy me. I wanted things. I bought things. They disappeared into a box, stuffed deep into a closet to be pulled out only when we moved.
On social media, I see people doing fabulous things but I know underneath it all, we all just want to be warm and safe. It seems perilous lately.
Here, in Palm Springs, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we can make this work. That I can finally be comfortable and warm with my two dogs and Nick, contemplating my purpose and exhaling, “Oms.” Yes, I’m simply grateful.