MY DESERT JOURNEY In the desert, the line between life and death is sharp and quick

I can never forget the first time I drove into the desert Southwest. It was a definitive moment in my life. It was 2014 and I was in San Diego. I love doing night photography and thought the desert would be an amazing place to do it. The Anza-Borrega Desert is about an hour east of San Diego so I headed east by myself to try and take some pics.

Anza-Borrega Desert

I was new to photography at the time so these pictures weren't the best, but it's the only documented evidence of my journey. My photography has improved considerably, but these pics are very important to me. 

What draws us into the desert is the search for something intimate in the remote. -- Edward Abbey

When I got there the I had not taken the Moon into account so it was too light for long exposure photography. I did however try to take some pictures to document what I was seeing. The desert was a vast expanse of nothing at first, but as the night went on I could feel a pull into the void. I decided to park the car and walk 30 minutes into the desert. I was nervous, but started my journey, it changed my life.

I was used to the sounds of planes, mosquitoes and other creatures in Florida, but in the desert the silence was deafening. The silence was broken by a wind gust that came out of no where. It felt cool to my skin, and I had to stop and breath it in. The air smelled clean and pure with a trace of mesquite. I could feel the energy fill me and I felt reborn and new. I know it sounds hokey, but I closed my eyes and remembered praying to God to thank him for giving me the ability to experience this. I pressed on.

The path

After the brief break I pressed on further to see how much deeper I could go. A verse from one of my favorite Tool songs, Lateralus, was running through my head.

With my feet upon the ground I lose myself between the sound, I open wide to suck it in and feel it move across my skin. I'm reaching up and reaching out I'm reaching for the random or whatever will bewilder me, what ever will bewilder me. And following our will and wind we may just go where no one's been We'll ride the spiral to the end and may just go where no one's been. Spiral out, keep going Spiral out, keep going Spiral out, keep going Spiral out, keep going.

I came to a spot where I finally stopped and just tried to take it all in. I knew I was going to be heading back to Florida and may not be back for many years and I never wanted to forget a moment of the experience. My mind began wandering. I felt almost an out of body experience. I felt absolutely alone and isolated. The wind had stopped and I was stuck with my thoughts.

I started realizing the inner silence of the body was connected to the desert. Without distractions my mind began to wander deeper. I could see my past and had to come to terms with it. I could see my future, not clearly, but I knew I was going to eventually make the desert my home. I then looked up into the moonlit night and couldn't believe how big the sky was. Without buildings and trees to block the view the vastness of the sky startled me at first. Then it encompassed me like a warm blanket.

A light wind started up again and the breeze broke the silence and returned my back to the moment. Then the strangest thing happened, I imagined how many people had walked through this valley. How many Native Americans, how many prehistoric people long before them may have walked through as well. They left traces of themselves in Petroglyphs and artifacts. Spaniards bringing supplies and riches back and forth into Mexico. Then I could imagine pioneers and miners heading through the valley with dreams of riches and a new life.

Eventually I returned to the moment and decided it was time to head back to the real world. I decided I would find a way to one day feel this connection again. I entered the desert that day one person and left another. I knew one day I would be back to stay. Five years later I am now living less than 45 minutes from that place and am surrounded by the Sonoran Desert. I am home.

Created By
Mark Spence