Gravity is a beastly phenomenon under the desert sun, an oppressive heavy handed caress that will make your whole body cry with sweat. You sulk and your shoulders droop and sag under the magnified weight creating a ripple effect through your body absorbed by the knees where your soul appears to dwell. And it crumples with each step sunk in the sand. And your skin burns. Your psyche shrivels attempting to find shade within its own survival instinct. And the stark desolation becomes a blank canvas for the imagination in distress …
The old man dressed down in sky blue shuffles abstractly through the trees, an eerie and faceless human presence among giants. Around him the Redwoods spring up out of the Badwater desert, a towering mirage of forest shaded green and magic fed by the Pacific nowhere to be seen. Here, east of the Sierras, its vastness has given way to the shimmering heat and bedrock colors of Death Valley, an evaporated, time-worn ocean of delirium and rock and sand that washes up against the massive trunks of the Ancients standing watch over the wild stillness. The Inner Sanctum. The whole shifts over the dunes, effortless in the furnace breeze as the crow soars on the physics of the afternoon swelter, your eyes follow, your feet drag behind you in the sand unbelieving. With little fanfare other than their quiet size the trees draw on your sense of wonder, curiously tugging on your bones, the depths of you.
Standing on the edge of the forest the timid movement of your soul is soft to match the unexpected lightness of the trees, discovered when you finally muster the courage to extend your hand, touch skin to woodland skin, deeply grooved and fragile, a well-toned sensation at your fingertips.
It resonates from the tree’s core with an unnerving living warmth, wise and unmistakably delicate in its understanding of time made manifest in its woody flesh. Coincidentally, flesh being the primary form of currency in the forest realm, consider your actions with great care as there are always debts to be paid, bellies to be filled, a balance to be maintained. Blood and bone are most often the high price of human stupidity and, more predominantly, Natural Law. So remain mindful, but know that your place here is one of honored guest. There is still much fun to be had and for play, adult sized children, grown but still hopeful, well-behaved yet incorrigible gain access to this wonderland if one is THIS BIG of Spirit. And the price of admission is merely sincere humility; a portal of your own simple creation that opens into a one-way mirrored reality where there is you and only goofball you, all others being hidden, judgment contained behind the glass.
In this protected space there is a welcomed freedom to enjoy your own naked disposition, fantastic in its scope and desire for fun.
And the ravens, bred enormous to keep proper scale, usher you past the main gates. Take a moment to empty the sand from your boots and eyes and ears and other primary crevices. Breathe easy. Laugh off the initial sense of trepidation, the feeling of having mistakenly wandered into famous museum x after hours, unchaperoned … a hushed sand and salted spell roams the deserted forest halls, exploring every long branch and sunlit brushstroke, light that tickles, snakes across the art rising mighty from the ground. Admire their bone structure, the process and the method of creation. Engage the full spectrum of your senses as the sound far above you, the trees that quiver, make out, spar, dance in the stronger winds further inspire exploration of this world apart.
Unshackle your body, allow yourself a certain swagger on a path inward, the magic of this place is yours to wield as long as the light holds. And in the late afternoon hours the shadows grow long and playful, guide your way through a labyrinth of imagination, hidden trails, sculptural antiquities, fantastical creatures of lasting impression. Some uprooted from the earth gently devour the air while they lay in wait for prey of greater nutritional value. Others of the more traditional woodland type scurry and scamper on errands unknown, perhaps even to them. Perhaps you attempt to mimic their behavior in an effort to understand their skittish existence, zig-zagging, jumping logs, crossing paths with several of nature’s many spirits. The old man of sky blue. A stranger reflection of life well-spent drifting nonchalant and always forward around the bend, near as clouds, casually shifting form from abstraction to physical curiosity. In the moment he is a peripheral itch as we loop our way through this remarkable terrain, our wonderment rooted in the slow grinding history of patience incarnate, deep earth wisdom heaven bound, bow your head to the oldest living creatures on the planet. Notice the splintered growing pains, the history steeped in the passing seasons, the smile lines and laughter and high kicks for days. It is a mystical playground magnified by imagination. It is life plain and simple, a wilderness far from being tamed.
As such the wind and light make the inevitable shift towards darkness accompanied by the ravens calling you back to the entrance. Keep in mind that night falls more quickly in this land of giants. Shadows combine and blanket the forest floor, evaporate and hang thick in the air. Casually, they subvert any confidence for survival past the setting of the sun. And the deep greens waver exposing once again the desert rock and heat, the old man of sky blue shudders and begins to lose form and there is a sudden tug at your thumb, a bow-tied string, a tether gone unnoticed until now. How quickly this gentle pull of force becomes an urgent need to discover his significance in your future, the desperation filling the void of his fading presence. But to catch him is to hasten your departure from this refuge, death valley laying just past the tree line. There is no hard reason to rush when you can walk leisurely into the Truth of all life. Listen to your heart, snap a few more photographs for posterity, ask somebody for a hug, step back out into the light …
There is a quick grimace as the heat envelopes you once again and the memories from a week ago sink back into the sand, leaving only a thin smile and the knowledge that there are few things finer than the stars that define the cloudless night sky of this merciless hellscape. Take note of your thirst.
Rumor has it there is an air-conditioned roadside biker bar not far up the road. No windows, one ungodly heavy door, and ashtrays still in wide abundance. Seems as good a cave as any to ride out the rest of the afternoon peeling back the label on my beer, curiously pondering the string still tidy and tied to my favorite evolutionary digit. Delightful musings, indeed, but minus wisdom to be sure. The bottle I am drinking from appears to have a hole in it.