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July 2013, vol 9, no 2

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Ray Rasmussen

Desert Walks

In mountain wilderness, my habit is to walk from sunrise to sunset. Friends have suggested that I should pause more, that I should "be in" rather than "move through." But if a meditation serves the spirit, why meddle? Buddhists chant, Dervishes dance, I hike. And sense of place slips in quietly through body's urban armor.

But here, desert's sun insists on a change. Dry stream beds shimmer with heat waves. Sun's rays ricochet off sandstone walls. And, where friends' platitudes have failed, sun trumps mind's will to move. Body, wiser than mind, has closed down—eyes, nose, ears. Skin cringes.

Midday Sun: I travel short distances, from pool to pool, pools of water, pools of shade; seeking out springs in lusty anticipation, wetting hat and neckband, letting hands and feet linger.

sensuous meanders
in muddied places
shared with tadpoles.

Late Afternoon: Sun's glare diminishes. Winds whisper; skin opens as to a lover's caress. Body's senses unfold, slowly, like a butterfly's wings having just emerged from chrysalis. Eyes inherited from a people who evolved in the filtered light of forest canopy begin again to take in.

Dusk: Frogs sing their lust; bees hum in blooms of fragrant yellow barberry. An owl's call, the yip of a coyote—celebrations of dusk's softness. When only a few hours ago, the junipers sagged like dusty tramps, turquoise berries glow like fireflies; grasses pulse with iridescent greens; alpen glow creeps up sandstone walls.

The desert is dancing in color!

Darkness: I reach camp, a chill in the air, slide into the campfire circle, gather food & drink, share stories.

land of little water –
washed clean
by the walking