Desert Silence

Desert Silence2

There is something about how hiking in the silence of a desert that is addictive, as though this absence of civilized noise experienced miles into the hike is something you’ve craved your whole life but didn’t know it.

The experience is not truly silent, respective to the definition. You hear your breath, rhythmically marching and retreating, your feet insulated in hiking boots taking up a hiker’s cadence of choreographed crunching, and the carefree wind, working its away across the desert plain as though you aren’t there and never were as far as it’s concerned.

In the Norwegian explorer Erling Kagge’s book ”Silence – In the Age of Noise” said:

Nature spoke to me in the guise of silence. The quieter I became, the more I heard.

… and …

You cannot wait for it to get quiet. Not in New York, nor anywhere else. You must create your own silence.

There is no such thing as pure silence, a place devoid of any sounds. In documented experiences, those trying to obtain absolute silence in truly desolate and lifeless places or in man-made soundproof chambers, found that while external sounds and noises were absent, they could not escape the mortal sounds of their hearts beating in their chests and some even claimed to hear their veins pulsing.

Yet, when we attempt to reduce our ”civilized” world sounds and listen for what is within, interesting things happen. Erling Kagge:

But I tend to think about silence as a practical method for uncovering answers to the intriguing puzzle that is yourself, and for helping to gain new perspective on whatever is hiding beyond the horizon.

I learned to meditate from a girlfriend who was a trainer at a Korean Zen center in New England. My naiveté at the time expected the purpose of meditating to be one of blocking out or eliminating all external and internal sounds. Turns out not to be the case, and that while an objective is quiet the ”monkey mind” inside us all, quieting means not responding to or chasing it until the monkey stops chattering, and doing the same on any external noise during meditation.

As I hike the desert, quiet in my thoughts at first, but later in more of a meditative state, I am aware of the handful of natural sounds from the endeavor yet stay detached from them and let the general silence embrace me.

These weeks and months in the desert of southeast California find me frequently heading off on hikes. I gear up with my proper hat, my trusty hiking pole that’s been with me for over twenty years and countless hikes, a bottle of water, and my expectations to resolve something I’ve been thinking about. Or perhaps it’s working through a clumsy part of something I’m writing. Whichever the ulterior motive for putting one foot in front of the other, invariably a mile or so into the hike all pretenses of objectives melt away and I enjoy the silence from civilized noise, and the quiet in my mind as I am in step with my breath, my footfalls, and the wind as my desert guide.

Time Machine: Cloud Museum Part 2 – Antiques & Ephemera

Yesterday’s post showed a few of the 150+ vehicles available at the Cloud Museum. I thought it was interesting that while I appreciated the restored models, I was more in touch with the well-used, rusting hulks that predominately cover the outdoor part of the museum. Something about that patina and what must have been (at the time) wide-spread marvel at these mechanical vehicles made me appreciate these rusted knights of a time well past.

Today’s post will feature a small taste of the antiques and ephemera available at this amazing little-known museum. There is a vast amount of items in this category, and if you’re fluent in antiques and ephemera of this era, then you’ll go crazy over all that’s here.

The Cloud Museum had one building set up as a period post office, complete with antique safe of this era, post office boxes, and a small clerk’s window to the public. Adorning the walls were a variety of wanted posters, although back in these days I doubt these were framed!

If you travel to this area of southwestern Arizona, be sure to check out the Cloud Museum. It’s definitely worth the time to wander through the grounds and buildings.

Time Machine: Cloud Museum Part 1 – Autos

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Cloud Museum

Between Yuma, AZ, and the Imperial Dam LTVA (long-term visitor area) where I’ve been hiding from nasty Michigan winters for the last few months, there is a private collection of cars and machines from a bygone era. The Cloud Museum is one person’s vast lifetime collection of vehicles, antiques, and ephemera from the 1910s through the 1930s.

On my runs to Yuma I’d driven by this tempting place to stop and wander back through time, but was always thinking “next trip.” On a warm and sunny day last week, I finally made the stop to wander through the vast collections of old cars, appliances, and ephemera from that interesting and sometimes violent period of American history.

The collection includes over 150 Model T and Model A autos, some restored but most worn-out veterans of the early age of automobiles. As their brochure touts, “The President of the Model T Ford Club of America stated…’It probably is the largest collection of Model Ts in the world!'” If these early Model Ts and As were all that was here, it still would be fascinating, but fortunately there is an extensive collection of antique farm equipment, motors, small appliances, and other extensive antiques and ephemera.

I took well over a hundred photos while there, far too many to post in this blog. This post features a selective gallery of auto-related images, and part 2 will explore some of the more interesting antiques and ephemera.

New Campsite, New Hike

Coming late to the party here at the BLM’s Imperial Dam LTVA (long-term visitor area) near Yuma, AZ, I had to take an available campsite from the handful remaining. But over the weeks, I kept my eye out for a better spot vacated by someone leaving early (season here ends April 15). Finally, patience paid off and got a spot I will stay at until I leave here in late February (my third campsite here). This one overlooks one of the deep, arroyo canyons with a nearly unimpeded view of the mountains beyond. Too bad photographs do not convey well what the human sees, relative to distance and perspective. In reality, these mountains are much taller and closer than the photo would suggest.

To commemorate catching a choice spot, I took a three-mile hike into and along the deep arroyo, a quiet, solitary hike providing continuing appreciation of this desert landscape. When I left the arroyo a few times to walk the level plain above, the landscape resembled a moon landscape more than Earthscape. Obvious that little water falls here, but equally obvious the plants and living creatures thriving here are amazing and have a beauty unique to them.

On this hike, as with many other hikes in the past, I came across a few small, hand-painted stones along the path. There must be a name for these, but since I do not know what, I coined a name for them: smile markers. If you know the name and the premise behind them, please add a comment and let me know. Whenever I come across them, whether on a nature hike or walking in a city or town, they make me smile and appreciate both the artistry and the selfless giving of something handmade to the wild and to the passing hiker.

Change Is A Fickle Muse

Why do I seem to get restless and sometimes embrace change as a curative? Is it boredom? Do I accept or settle too early on some arrangement, thing, or situation before the idea’s baked enough?

Or is that we humans should probably never stick to one plane of thinking and instead, like a nomadic Zen bird, happily float to wherever the wind of change takes us.

Sometimes Ms. Change shows up wearing her evolutionary colorful robe, making me think I was the one discovering how to do something different or arrange something better (when it was really her idea).

Other times, Mr. Change appears clad in prison garb, as though his only option is to escape from or to something.

Or those moments when Mrs. Change knocks on my mind’s door wearing random, miss-matched clothing, each still with the price tag affixed from whatever store she klept them from. This wily muse sometimes offers dangerous suggestions, such as “You should go spelunking but to make it interesting, wear those funky shoes that look like your foot’s painted, the ones where you can see each toe’s, and, oh I know, do it in cutoffs and a tank top emblazoned with some forgotten band from the 60s.”

Don’t get me wrong: sometimes change, no matter which muse brings it, can be wonderful and make us think it’s a highly needed course-correction change, taking us on a path where the sun shines in a crystal blue sky, 70-degree temp, with a fresh, light wind.

Then there are those times when he/she/it/they don’t seem to help but instead make things worse, hell-bent on causing chaos and emotional hari-kari. Does change have a gender? Maybe, but if so, probably random and, despite the humor attempt above, certainly not stereotyped.

Yet what fun would life be doing the same things over and over, in the same place, always with the same people? Rutted. Colorless. Boring-ish… meh.

If you examine a life lived long, no doubt you’d see a life lived in phases, with each phase shifting what that person was like, or liked to do, or choices made. So change is not necessarily a bad thing and, in fact, is probably part of our human DNA, so to speak, evidenced by such phases lived across a life’s long timeline, or through self-examination realizing our own phases lived through.

So embrace change, challenge it, ask questions, but don’t automatically dismiss or avoid it. Okay, maybe that one time it suggested I take up skydiving wearing only a thong, but that’s an easy one to say no to. Probably.

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If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy this previous muse post (fictional, of course… or was it?).