One can read the history of Joshua Tree National Park on many research sites that explore the geography, geology and history of the expansive desert. But to see the park through the eyes of the rising sun, to embrace the seventeen hundred plus square miles of wilderness when the quails and road runners are just about surfacing, to awaken when the jack rabbits are stretching their limbs near their burrows and the lizards are wavering in the realm between darkness and light, is to see beauty unmasked. It is a physical and mental excursion. Pictures capture the expanse, the vastness, the unending formations, but cannot arrest the feel.
A recent visit confirms that we are insignificant in the vastness of the moonscape desert that encompasses the Mojave and the Colorado. Every second elaborates the length and breadth of sand and sedimentation. If you record the rise of the sun, the few seconds aimed at the horizon seem endless. Perch yourself on a rock thereby and let the glorious warmth emerging from behind the undulating mountains bathe you in the orange glow. Let the sun stare you right in the eyes so you begin to see starkness glorified. Gaze straight into that space as the undiluted colors tinge the top of your head and outline your silhouette. The warm rays transform the insipid ochre of the rocks to a beautiful irresistible auburn that in response to what it receives, reflects back on the land and creates a golden halo over the low-lying bushes. A contrast of ethereal loveliness in the silent rustle of the hardy Joshuas; rugged, robust, vigorous, just beautiful.
I’m loath to be reminded that the pandemic continues to trail and life is not as we knew it, but currently masked faces and deserted places are antithetical. Pre-COVID, the crowded spaces teeming with humanity, compromised their ability to showcase their vastness. Under current circumstances, the silence of the cacti, the echo of distant twitters, the no phone zones, and off-season touring made for a beautiful getaway.
I’ll be remiss if I do not mention the great dinners at the Kitchen in the Desert in Twentynine Palms. Established not very long ago, the restaurant offers a varied but concise menu. Brussel sprouts grilled over mesquite hardwood and homemade vegan quinoa burgers were absolutely delicious. The Caribbean roots of this Trinidadian family-owned restaurant where everything is made from scratch with fresh ingredients, is a treat in the tropical setting of a retired mining equipment décor.
My sketches with pen and watercolor are an attempt to capture the restaurant, the rocks and the Joshua trees of this hidden gem.