It occurred to me this morning, on the drive from Palm Springs to Joshua Tree National Park, that it must be a terrible responsibility to live in the mountainous Southern California deserts. To be surrounded by such beauty, to be constantly inundated by so many sources of awe and inspiration, cannot help but demand of the people who live there an equally inspired existence.
But after driving past and/or through the gated communities, RV parks, and mobile home villages of the area, I realized that the local residents have achieved a higher level of enlightenment than I: they have obviously freed themselves of the universe's expectations.
Fortunately, the universe continues to supply awe in abundance around here, and I have been the grateful recipient of much more than my share. I cannot begin to count the number of times today (and, indeed, yesterday) when words failed to describe the beauty around me. The best I could do was to stop and sigh, "Wow," again and again. And then take a picture. I knew the pictures wouldn't capture the big sky beauty of the Park, but I hope they'll come closer when they're larger, and in any case, I'll be glad to have them.
When b&c and I go hiking, it usually doesn't take long for us to end up separated. At the beginning of a walk, I stop more frequently to take pictures and to try to absorb some of the glory around me. He tends to walk more determinedly from exhibit to exhibit, rarely missing the printed word. I am, of course, a big fan of the printed word, but it has its place, and its place is not so much where vast boulders meet the sky or in the middle of seemingly unending fields of cacti or Joshua trees. I would rather read about the park before I come or after I leave. I certainly have nothing against an intellectual comprehension of where I'm going, but I mostly want the awe. It's a little bit hard for me to understand how someone doesn't get the awe. That's another reason for walking apart from other people. I spent almost the entirety of the walk around Barker Dam Loop in a state of scenery-induced ecstasy. The last thing I need is anyone harshing my mellow by explaining the volcanic origin of the rock formations when I'm experiencing a prolonged state of reverence.
Sometime late this morning, well into my second day of such reverence, was the first time it occurred to me that my experience of awe had been totally unalloyed with any sort of theistic considerations. Once I noticed the lack, it also occurred to me that a lot of people experience sites such as Joshua Tree as an affirmation of the existence of divinity. In my case, the thought is more, "If God existed, this is probably where he'd want to live. At least in the winter." I don't know exactly when I managed to separate the notion of God from the experience of spiritual profundity, but I take my ability to do so as a giant step forward in my personal development. YMMV.
Anyway, it's been an amazing vacation so far. I have not spent as much time in wine-selling supermarkets as I would have liked, and it is now highly unlikely that I will get to spend any evening hours star gazing in the desert, but otherwise, I've done most of what I wanted to do on my first couple of days. I have a few observations of a decidedly non-profound nature.
On our first night here, we stayed in a resort in Borrego Springs. The property was clean, comfortable, and entirely devoid of character. There are not so many hotels in Borrego Springs, and Priceline didn't have any name-your-price options, so I ended up spending about twice as much as I'm spending per night in Palm Springs and San Diego, where we're in higher-rated hotels. Still, it was a fine room. We were, in fact, in Room 420. Given the room number, I had hoped that I'd return from dinner to find a joint on my pillow, but no such luck.
Mexican food, unsurprisingly, is ubiquitous in the area, and, also unsurprisingly, it's much better than it is in Maryland. Margaritas are similarly ubiquitous, but I mostly find them overpriced. The exception was in Borrego Springs, where I had a very large Margarita for only $4.95. The Margarita at the Blue Coyote in Palm Springs was better, but it was so strong that I was having trouble focusing on the very attractive waiter.
I discovered today that I may have a moderate phobia of extremely windy mountaintops without guardrails. There were a couple of minutes late this morning when I was not quite able to move. Fortunately, I recovered.
I think that some day I might like to come back to the area as a camper. In part, that's because I'd surely get to spend plenty of time staring at a night sky unpolluted by city lights. But it's mostly because I've noticed that the sort of people who camp are predominantly young, male, and attractive.
The hotel here in Palm Springs has a coin-operated washer and dryer, so I was able to do a load tonight. I never quite feel that a vacation has been a success unless I'm able to use the local laundry facilities to wash clothes at least one time.
I don't know how well it will work, but I think I managed to upload a video I shot with my digital camera today. I'd known that it has a movie feature, but since it's a digital camera, I hadn't expected it to have a microphone. Not that you can hear anything other than wind.
Tomorrow, we'll spend some more time around Palm Springs, and then it's off to San Diego.