The sky was more than azure. Indeed it glowed like sapphires, gently brushed with the brightest white clouds I have ever seen. Mile upon mile lay before me under the brilliant yet almost heatless sun and a gentle wind breathed life into a landscape that was perfection in its solitude. The desert sand was a clutter of Joshua Trees, cacti and enormous formations of granite rocks; stones as big as buildings stacked neatly into structures that could have been mistaken for the work of children were they not so huge.
Such is the landscape of the Mojave desert, preserved in nearly immaculate condition in the Joshua Tree National Park in California. This is a place of folklore and myth. It is the birthplace of rock and roll's greatest legend and one of its greatest musical masterpieces. But it is neither the image of Gram Parsons' ashes mingled with the sand nor the subliminal U2 soundtrack that relentlessly runs through your brain that makes this place memorable.
Rather, it is the overwhelming feeling that you are a guest in a world that has never nor will never belong to you. It is the silent voice of the desert that says "Welcome friend, be kind to me and dwell with me in peace." It is the exclusion of all things made by humans, the inability of the outside world to disturb the serenity of the rocks, the sands and the plants. It is the mystery of the glyphs in the caves, left behind by a people rendered sadly nameless by the passage of time.
Standing beside Cap Rock, one of the larger and more famous formations in the park, I was drawn for some time from the enormity of the granite by a solitary spirit. Soaring high above the rocks was a lone, majestic bird, floating effortlessly on the wind, hovering, hardly moving except to occasionally tilt a wing one way or the other to stay on course. For what seemed like hours he glided above me, wings spread wide, silently surveying the land and the people below. It was as if time had been destroyed.
How powerful it was to be at one with that creature even if only for a fleeting moment. How remarkable it was to forget about the human tainted world and to experience the perfection of creation. What a gift to stand in so vast a space, to be so blissfully alone and to inhale the very breath of God.