Anza Borrego: On the Lightness of Dust and Other Desert Paradoxes

We are in the car; the only car on the road…

Desert Paradox

Under a sky incomprehensibly large and blue, the road stretches forth and curves into the landscape before us. In the rearview mirror, Dust rises up chaotically and settles back down on the road behind.

“A lot of holes in the desert, and a lot of problems buried in those holes,” says my companion, recycling the oft-used line from the film Casino.

Dust Settles

Funny thing about a hole in the desert…

If it’s dug one day, it will probably be gone the next. Upon returning to the spot of the dig, you might find that your hole has inexplicably vanished, or that somehow, your road is now snaking away to avoid it entirely. Or maybe more likely, during your journey, the hole effortlessly gets obscured by Dust, while the problems within fade into the desert’s distant memory. As our car speeds down the road, a muted brown and grey Dust cloud cyclones in our wake and obscures briefly the sky; suspiciously I watch it fluttering calmly back down to the floor. From where I sit in the back seat, the cloud could very well be Desert Dust’s long lost cousin, Sea Sand, disturbed by dark, scaly limbs and then drifting down to rest once more in the sea bed.

Dust (and Bones)

“All there is, is Dust,” the Zen master says.

The Zen master believes that Dust merely sits still, thoughtfully minding its own business while preserving the memories of small paws as they scurry lightly across the desert. But that passivity is far from the truth. As the Zen master paces and turns his eyes to the sky, Desert Dust emerges quietly from its shy hibernation, and goes to work, insistently turning problems in holes into bones. From following roads to being problems in holes, and then finally turning to bones: this is Man’s lifecycle, methodically driven by Dust.

No Perspective

Another paradox of the desert

The higher you go, the bigger the landscape is, and the larger the sky. As you rise, you think you should be able to see more; but, as if awakening from a deep slumber, Dust simply inhales, stretches out comfortably to fill your vision, then exhales, and continues to cover holes, making problems fade into memories. Although he would never admit it, this paradox is endlessly frustrating to the Zen master, who climbs the rocks to seek fundamental truths. The higher he gets, he does see more of his path; but it aimlessly winds through the landscape, with no beginning and no end.

All there is, is Dust.

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