Desert Monoliths


Trona Pinnacles National Natural Landmark, California

This is a forgotten place, the edge of a lake that is no more. Alive once, not anymore -- if the desert has a story, that is it. Eyes forever seek life and find only death. From a distance, the pinnacles are a city skyline. Closer, they are ruined castles. At arm's length, the phantom mirage shimmers and disappears. There is nothing artificial here, and that seems unnatural. I choose a tower, feel stone against skin, and climb. I look down to see myself trudging away across open sands. Sharp sunlight cuts the land. Meaning eludes me.

Two pure white monoliths appear. Could anything be more out of place, more unexpected? The mind struggles to grasp what the eye sees. Among these coarse textures, straight lines and smooth surfaces are beyond grasp. A quest into deep geologic time has turned into a space odyssey. All things seem to be pointing to the sky, but what is the message?

Time passes. The shadow of the earth rises. Cool moonlight floods an alien landscape. A bush bursts into flame. The stars wheel above, and meaning becomes meaningless as sleep comes.

These things happened long ago, or maybe are yet to happen. What is real, what is a ghost of the mind? All time in the desert is dream time.

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Revised: August 28, 2004
Copyright © 2004 Joe Orman
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