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Desert Dwelling

Here is a piece of writing on my first time in the Mojave desert, illustrated by pictures I took on a disposable camera, it's so beautiful it's almost impossible to take a bad picture.

The first time I ventured out into the desert it was only one of many landscapes I was due to see on my month long West coast road trip. From San Fransisco to Los Angele, down the Big Sur then inland into Nevada through Death Valley to Vegas and down through Joshua tree, the Salton Sea, Palm Springs and out of Los Angeles with the compulsory stretch of Rote 66.

My love affaire with this landscape was first sparked by a short film on the Salton Sea, an accidental body of water in the middle of the Californian desert caused by the disastrous rerouting of the Colorado river at the turn of the last century that flooded one of the lowest land basins in the U.S and never dried up. In the 1950’s land developers saw it’s potential and it quickly became a holiday destination, a sort of Palm Springs meets the Riviera. Homes, hotels and schools quickly erected.

But then the tides turned, the waters unusually high salt content and extreme summer temperatures caused mass die offs of fish created a thick low mist over the region, the stench made it hard to stand in the warmer months. People fled leaving their homes, schools, and local business; turning what was once a boom town into a ghost town. What is left behind is hauntingly beautiful, dead palms frame deserted streets filed with derelict buildings slowly crumbling into the sea, with white beaches not made of sand but the bones of countless fish.

Nearby, towering out of an otherwise unbroken horizon you can find Salvation Mountain, a bright and colourful manmade construction built over 30 years by Leonard Knight, who lived on the land in a trailer with no running water. The main reason for this pilgrimage was to meet this beautiful soul, anyone that has watched Into the Wild will know who I mean, the scenes in which he features bring tears to my eyes, he died two weeks before I made it out there, it still provokes many feelings in me.

It’s hard to describe the feeling you get as you first approach the desert, it’s gradual and yet seamless as civilisation starts to fall back behind you and the world starts to open up with limitless expanses of blue sky and rolling sandy dirt mountains. It’s vast and open and still, everything feels calm and it quite literally takes your breath away.

The first time I saw this landscape I knew I was in love, it provoked a reaction in me that I had never experience before. It all seemed alien, the closest I will ever get to being on an other planet. This place was special to me and it’s absence of sound made it feel like home, I’ve left part of my heart there. Every time I return its the same feeling of bliss belonging and a pure happiness.

In particular Joshua Tree located in the Mojave desert, California. With its beautifully distorted  Joshua trees that break up the otherwise endless horizon. I wasn't meant to visit but was recommend I stop by whilst in the area, i’m glad I did. it’s a place of contrasts and severe weather climates. There is something magical about Joshua tree it inspires creativity and is the birth place of many great albums, stories and works of art. People still flock there to escape society and charge themselves with it calming ways.

I’ve visited in the summer, i’ve been caught by surprise in a thunder storm, seen it immersed in fog and witnessed the most beautiful desert flowers in spring. I’ve yet to see it in the snow, i’ll save that for my next trip.

Zaza x



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