I am wide awake and up very early, refreshed, cleansed, renewed. I see the stars and the moon, and then, again the strong winds bring the clouds. The sunrise is a dance and again, I catch the moment when the white mountain is first struck with light. I twirl outside, 360 degrees, trying to capture it all. Which way do I view?
We leave Death Valley, rainbow guided, led through the beauty of valley, rock, hills, and sky. As we cross over on 178, we could be back in the 50’s and we sing along with 50’s songs. We enter Trona, greeted by a junkyard of old trucks and cars, pause to look at the factories of Searles Valley Minerals. The town is dilapidated, a sad example of the loss of the middle class in this country. Stores are boarded up and we are alone as we fill our car with gas. It is odd to see the contrast between this “town” and the website for Searles Minerals. Have the designers of the website or the leaders of the company headquartered in Kansas ever been to Trona, CA? I wish now I had taken pictures to show the contrast.
We continue on and enter the Kernville Preserve and drive up to Kernville for lunch. Now, here is a pretty place. We eat at Cheryl’s Diner, where four generations hang out and work. It is fun to feel part of this small town. We consider staying. They had a great deal of rain before we arrived and the air is ozone-filled as the river roars and topples past. We decide to travel on and follow the river by car, skirting along a part of the Sequoia National Forest, on 178 and arrive in Bakersfield which we, while stopping at a multitude of traffic lights, pass through. In Button Willow, as we again gas up, I look at a map and we set out on Highway 58, where we see one car going the other way in about 85 miles.
Again, the landscape is exquisite and completely different from what we've seen before. We wind south, west, north, over and over again. Finally we reach 101 and continue north, spending the night in Paso Robles and then, again starting out after breakfast early the next day. San Francisco is bumper to bumper traffic in the middle of the day, quite a contrast to life on the eastern side of the Sierras and crossing the state. The “kitties” run to us when we arrive home and all is green and lush and the birds are singing and still I wonder about life here and there. We passed rocks, mountains, hills, plants, so many niches, so many places for each of us to know a little more about ourselves.
I recommend Edward Abbey’s book, Desert Solitaire, A Season in the Wilderness, A celebration of the beauty of living in a harsh and hostile land. He is writing in Arches National Park, outside Moab, Utah.
The wind will not stop. Gusts of sand swirl before me, stinging my face. But there is still too much to see and marvel at, the world very much alive in the bright light and wind, exultant with the fever of spring, the delight of morning. Strolling on, it seems to me that the strangeness and wonder of existence are emphasized here, in the desert, by the comparative sparsity of the flora and fauna: life not crowded upon life as in other places but scattered abroad in sparseness and simplicity, with a generous gift of space for each herb and bush and tree, each stem of grass, so that the living organism stands out bold and brave and vivid against the lifeless sand and barren rock. The extreme clarity of the desert light is equaled by the extreme individuation of desert life forms. Love flowers best in openness and freedom.