Will you walk along the edge of the desert with me? I would like to show you what lies before us. Here things are sharp, elemental. There’s no one to look over your shoulder to find out what you are doing with your hands. If you’ve been listening, you must suspect that a knife will be very useful out here, not to use, just to look at. There is something else here too, even more important: explanations will occur to you, seeming to clarify: but they can be a kind of a trick. You will think you have hold of the idea when you only have hold of its clothing.

Feel how still it is. You can become impatient here, willing to accept any explanation in order to move on. This appears to be nothing at all, but it is a wall between you and what you are after. Be sure you are not tricked into thinking that there is nothing to fear. Moving on is not important. You must wait. You must take things down to the core. You must be careful with everything, even with what I tell you.

This is how you do it. Wait for everything to become undressed and go to sleep. Forget to explain to yourself why you are here. Listen attentively. Just before Dawn you will finally hear faint music. This is the sound of the loudest dreaming, the dreams of boulders. Continue to listen until the music isn’t there. What you thought about boulders will evaporate and what you know will become clear. Each night will be harder. Listen until you can hear the dreams of the dust that settles on your head. I will give you a few things: bits of rock, a few twigs, this shell of a beetle blown out here by the wind. You should try to put the bits of rock back together to form a stone. And if they cannot fit, try to find the stones that do.

All my life I have wanted to trick blood from a rock. I have dreamed about raising the devil and cutting him in half. I have thought too about never being afraid of anything at all. The desert is where you come to do those things. To not to be afraid of desolation but to relate to it.

To let it open you. I know what they tell you about the desert but you mustn’t believe them. This is no deathbed. Dig down, the earth is moist. Boulders have turned to dust here, and the dust feels like graphite. You can hear a man breathe at a distance of twenty meters. You can feel the secrets of creatures invisible to the eye so perfectly camouflaged and awaiting to ambush or be ambushed. There is no rest in the desert. Only survival. There is no peace either. If you listen close enough you can hear the war for water. But you are here for water, to be in it. You can see out there to the edge where the desert stops and the oceans begin. You think it is perhaps ten miles. It is more than a hundred. Just before the sun sets all the colors will change. Green will turn to blue, red to gold, yellow to purple. And below you a khaki world.

I’ve been told there is very little time left, that we must get all these things about time and place straight. If we don’t, we will only have passed on and have changed nothing. That is why we are here. It is why we come to the desert. To be reminded of what we have done. Not to regret, but to promise.

I must tell you something else. When you have done these things, when you have absorbed the desert like a thirst, you will know a little more than you did before. But be careful. It will occur to you that what you have done is silly or easily done. This is a sign, the first one, that you are being fooled. Resist this. After you have finished with the stone, the twigs and the beetle, other things will suggest themselves, and you must take care of them. You must stay until the answers appear. This is the pain of it all. You can’t keep leaving. Do you hear how silent it is? This will be a comfort as you return to the world you think you know. Do not laugh at this. You will see. You will only lose time by laughing. I will leave you alone to look out on the desert. What makes you want to leave now is what is trying to kill you. Have the patience to wait until the snake kills itself. Others may tell you that this has already happened, and this may be true. But wait until you see for yourself, until you are sure. But this is the desert, where nothing is sure. Except its sand where it meets the sea.

Mick, Gabriel and Mason dive into the psychedelic desert groove
(With an excerpt from Desert Notes: Reflections in the Eye of a Raven By Barry Lopez. Andrews McMeel Publishing).


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