Written by Ostin Woodfin |

Wind burns the edges of the ear, in return for its words. The secrets of the desert are held in the words of the wind, the screams, the tears, the laughter, the silence. The Mojave is a home to many, including myself, the blood in my veins run with the rustic dirt, my bones tinged with the colors of the rock, my brain has the shapes of the walls etched into it. Early childhood was spent climbing and running the vast and numerous tunnels in the sides of canyons, learning the secrets that were scrapped into the rock. Nothing will ever feel safer than the emptiness of the desert. My life is tied to the iron rich soil, even being on the opposite side of the country, it’s not the town or the sights of California that are missed it’s the untouched and beautiful empty vastness of my true mother, the Desert.

If there is a God, they must have made me the voice of the desert. Only the desert truly knows the heart that beats inside this chest, for it was the one who molded it and created the curves and rhythm that defines it. Take the ideal of the connection between a sailor and the sea, or a pilot and the sky, the connection between my bare feet and the dust of the desert floor will never be broken. The life that has been created and destroyed in those lands, has given it its knowledge which it has passed to me, like a gift from a grandfather to his grandson, it is an heirloom to be passed from generation to generation. Religion is about faith and belief; I believe that when my life is over it will return to its mother to be welcomed and added to the collective of the children of the Mojave. 

There are many roads in the mind, mine are made from sand and dust. The same dirt that holds Joshua trees to the earth and the material that makes the layered rocks of which I dream. My memories and life force are tied to one specific cliff, which is the landscape my mind chooses when happiness is needed or when a journey of the mind must be taken, and down the path of mental exploration it leads to one end. A mantra in which all living things follow: Ashes to ashes, Dust to dust, we all to the soil as we must. Our place as humans is to create beautiful things to better the planet around us, or at least leave it the way we found it. I found this truth on top of a cliff in Death Valley of the Mojave Desert, on where you see the curves of the world and all the canyons and mountain within a hundred miles. 

A cliff that combines the sight of individual layers of the canyon rock, and the large sharp sheering rock that is the mountain. This cliff is where I visit in my mind if I ever need rest from the outside world. I am flooded in with the rustic scent and updraft from the desert floor, the hawks screeching as they plummet to their prey, and the burrows that graze to the view of a natural world. Standing so close to the edge of the cliff it almost felt uplifting from the wind, the sight of an untouched world floods the mind and the wind narrates the definition of life in your ear. “This desolate landscape to most people is an oasis to those who understand the secrets of the rock”, speaks the wind, “many live here with abundance it’s just a term of what is considered abundance”. The wind is the voice of the desert, just as the rock is its body, and the hidden water its soul. The desert is a God to some, including myself, specifically because we idolize it as a mother to our earthy bodies and nurturer to our souls, it is our place to protect and love what we have been given by our gracious mother. The reason we bleed red is from the iron from the desert dirt, the texture of our skin is the dry lake beds, and eyes are the precious gems found in her rock walls. We survive because our mother wishes, and she deserves the respect to protect her and provide pride through our deeds. 

The desert is a home to many, and will be for many more, our lives are short, but the desert counts not the years but the kindness it is shown. To those who believe the desert is desolate and in capable of providing life will never know the gifts that wait for those who understand the kindness given. The desert has plentiful bounty of water, shelter, and nutrients, it just takes the right eyes to see. The Joshua trees follow the water and will be found next to springs and cacti, the shelter comes from canyons and rock formations, and the nutrients from the fruit of the cacti. These will hold a wise person over until they are capable of finding others, that is some of the kindness that the desert offers. The desert is willing to provide, it is up to those in need if they are willing to accept the gift.

Our mother is seen as a harbinger of heat, but the truth is that she holds the cold too. The nights in the desert are profoundly cold, as a reminder that our end will not be met by the warm embrace of the sun, but more the cold dirt in which we return. But along the cold reminder there is solace, for the stars that float above are our brethren who have been reclaimed by our mother before us.

Just as the stars shine bright at night, the ground is a source of light, but its bio illuminates from the life that the desert holds. The scorpion hides under rocks and comes out at night to stalk the ground for the nutrients that is provided. Along the same lines the snakes and smaller creatures eat things like scorpions, and in turn those smaller creatures are eaten by the owls, the great horned and barn owls, which are common to the desert. The cycle of life is strong in the desert for it reminds us constantly that this is where we return.    

Upon reflection of my writing, it felt both freeing and difficult to compile my feelings and relationship with the desert. The beginning of the paper was a difficult composite, it took a lot of reflection on a time in my life that was hard to remember but to fulfill the idea of the paper, I had to dive deep into the emotional memory of these experiences. Granted that my age at the time was close to 10 to 12, I still have a very memorable experience with the desert, in which I feel I really put those emotions from those experiences on paper. This piece of literature that I have created really took some serious focus to give those experiences life, especially the kind of life that I feel does a justice for what I felt. I do feel that my biggest mistakes were on grammar and spelling, granted I am not great at these I did do better than I do a majority of the time. The story telling and the emotional depth of the paper is probably the best parts of this piece, but nothing is perfect, and it could be more linear and cohesive. 

In my more formative and adult years, my visits included things such as more experiences in the desert, but these are separate from my young years because of the deeper understanding of my emotions really play a part of these experiences. The desert is a safe space when I became older, the transition from agricultural land to desolate desert does wonders for the stress and issues that had piled up the week prior. This is a defining part of the ability to describe the intricacies of the desert, because of the ability to absorb the information that really gives the description life by using select wording to really set in concrete details of the landscape. I feel like the description adds a depth to the paper that allows it to be a moving work of art, and like most great artists the work is in constant editing and will growing while myself is growing too. I truly believe that this is a piece that I can gladly accept as a testament to my feelings towards the desert. I found my experience both young and old, religious in a sense of what I was told to believe they were, that sense of understanding and euphoria. Truly those experiences opened something religious and beautiful in me, for me to fully put on paper what it was like to be a part of something bigger.