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in the desert

2014 March 27
by Rachel Turiel

Getting to the desert was like a backwards game of Twister, untangling ourselves from work, homestead responsibilities, the comfort of warm beds and stocked fridges. There’s always that feeling, zooming away from home, car crammed with stuff, that we’ve forgotten something vital. That our busy adult lives could fall apart without us there to prop them up, like yanking the mannequin from the clothes.

And that is when I know we’re doing the exact right thing.

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comb wash5When you ask Col and Rose what they did on our desert trip, they reply, we played in the sand. Precisely. The older kids cartwheeled and somersaulted in the sandy wash, while the three-year old simply flopped down on his belly and swam. They conducted sand-digging contests, transported sand from one place to another via shirts, buried each other. It was as if sand were a new medium, and they the scientists charged with understanding its every nuance.

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And me? I read these two books, rambled around the slickrock, managed my 1900’s-era diet via cooler and campstove, brought and ignored work, enjoyed old friends and our new bonds through parenthood, prayed to the god of corneal eye protection (on account of all the flung sand), provided lap space for children around morning and evening campfires, and objectified my husband as he chopped wood with breathtaking form.

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I’m programmed to search for life’s meaning the same way I search for my glasses in the morning: patting down my bedside table vigorously and with hope. This is both a strength and a weakness. I look back at Rose’s courage to ford the spiny tumbleweed river; Col’s astonished “wow,” when he crawled from our tent and saw the night tapestry of stars. Is that it? Is that why we came? Was it to give the kids three days where every sandy, rocky, sagebrush treasure belongs to all and yet to no one? Was it enough to hear the wingbeats of ravens paddling the emptiest sky? Or to simply be where the differentness of desert slows time like a long exhale bookended by regular life?

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Really, I don’t know. Perhaps it’s all that and also having said yes, lets go, the echo of that yes reverberating for a long time forward.

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32 Responses leave one →
  1. Becky permalink
    March 27, 2014

    Thanks for sharing the desert with us. What causes those holes?

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      March 27, 2014

      Freezing and thawing and water smoothing and carving out the edges? I’m stabbing in the dark. Any geologists here?

      • March 30, 2014

        FROM OUR RESIDENT GEOLOGIST: Often the holes are created by freeze-thaw and pooling of water in low spots. Wind erosion usually creates a different pattern. It is likely a combination of weakly cemented zones in the rocks, freeze-thaw and water erosion, and some wind erosion as well.

  2. Sara Parks permalink
    March 27, 2014

    Yes. Thanks for reminding me. My family and I need to do the same.

  3. Andrea permalink
    March 27, 2014

    Oh the desert! The reds, yellows, and orange! Against that blue sky! Oh oh if I get my face close enough to the screen I can feel warmth, and maybe get a little sand in my eye. Thank you for adding this to my… Gray.

    And yes! (To objectifying husbands who chop wood)

  4. Anonymous permalink
    March 27, 2014

    Love the photos and descriptions: for example, “like yanking the mannequin from the clothes.”
    Yes, travel does take us out of our routines and, so far, has been worth all the prep before.

  5. March 27, 2014

    Wow. Fabulous photos and beautiful prose. So love your posts. When we left Colorado, I was ready to go. But the red rock landscape will always be pulling at my heart. When I am old and gray, I may just retire to the far back end of McElmo Canyon and commune with the sand until my last breath.

  6. Bree permalink
    March 27, 2014

    I’ve never been to the desert having lived by deciduous forest and the lake my entire life. So, thanks for taking me there so often through your blog.
    Your photos are stop-and-breathe-deeply amazing. And (do I say it all the time?) I love your writing. I really do.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      March 27, 2014

      Thank you truly, Bree.

  7. March 27, 2014

    I agree with Bree on all accounts. I saved reading your post for my self-imposed lunch break and it was a wonderful. For a few minutes I felt far away from our still-snowy boreal forest…

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      March 27, 2014

      Sunny kisses and gratitude.

  8. Kathy permalink
    March 27, 2014

    I could’t help but chuckle. The desert is vastly different in West Texas! I did not expect mountains and greenery until I scrolled through the photos! Your photos are gorgeous and the “desert” as well. So are you and your children. How awesome for your family and friends to experience all you have shared with us. Thank you!

  9. March 27, 2014

    Okay, it’s official. I am totally redrock desert deprived. So glad you all made it…

  10. March 27, 2014

    I’ve never been to the desert, and just look at all I am missing!

    Please tell me that the tapestry of stars is indeed still brilliant there. It has faded where I used to go looking for it, in the sky above my New Hampshire lake. I want to know I can still go find it somewhere not too, too remote.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      March 27, 2014

      Oh yes, most definitely.

  11. Ellie permalink
    March 27, 2014

    Two lines stopped me in my tracks: the one about objectifying your husband and the one about being programmed to search for life’s meaning. Thank you, as always, for the beautiful ways in which you speak.

  12. Rachel permalink
    March 27, 2014

    Your writing is beautiful, as always. And mmmm, objectifying husbands…

  13. Donna Mae permalink
    March 27, 2014

    I love your description of searching for life’s meaning the same way you search for your glasses in the morning. It touches my heart and soul because lately, when the boys wake up too early for me to get up, I cuddle them in my own bed. They humor me for a minute or so, crawl off the bed, go to my nightstand and hand me my glasses…saying, “Glasses! Mommy!” and it’s time to start the day. So, my baby boys bring me my glasses! My search is over.

    • March 27, 2014

      Leave it to the 2 year olds to communicate the true meaning of life: get yo ass out of bed Mama and play with us!

  14. March 27, 2014

    I’m curious to find out what blokg platform you happen
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  15. March 27, 2014

    We, too, are desert-loving creatures who count sand as one of our top ten toys.
    A friend recently shared your blog with me- what a treasure! Your writing is as beautiful, clear and quirky as the red rock forms. Thanks for this wonderful post!

  16. March 27, 2014

    Wonderful! Seeing those red sandstone rocks made me so happy. I love living in the desert.

  17. Susan S permalink
    March 27, 2014

    Funny, the first picture made me think immediately of water, of waves and the way green things grow on the silty soil brought level by water, fed by water, holes in the rock face made by water (and how beautifully contemplative rose looks as she basks), the dry river bed where the children play in the sand. In the desert, there is always the memory of water.

  18. Carrie permalink
    March 28, 2014

    I really think I can smell the sagebrush. Mmmmm.

  19. March 28, 2014

    Oh Gorgeous! I can’t wait to be back in that desert. Soon!! And thank you for such beautiful writing, as always (I’m programmed to search for life’s meaning the same way I search for my glasses in the morning: patting down my bedside table vigorously and with hope = WOW!).

  20. Jen permalink
    March 28, 2014

    I’ve been away from your blog for a while – reading this post was like breathing deeply for the first time in ages. thank you so much!

  21. Julia permalink
    March 29, 2014

    We had such a wonderful time with y’all! Thank you for capturing it so beautifully and immortalizing our sweet camping trip. Love you!

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  23. March 31, 2014

    “the echo of that yes reverberating for a long time forward.” this really applies to so many aspects of life, doesn’t it? nice photos and as always, beautiful words.

  24. nan permalink
    April 2, 2014

    Thank-you so much for showing this video. I live in Alberta where the wolves were captured and sent to the U.S. There were a lot of people against this ,on both sides. I am so very happy that is working out.I wish people would understand the balance of nature.

  25. April 4, 2014

    I just can’t get over these pictures, this light, these colours. I could stay on that long, soft-shaped rock for ever. How did you manage to leave after three days? This is not a rhetorical question ;o) Just thinking about having to makes my lungs hurt. And I’ve never been there.

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