Tuesday, April 19, 2011

American moonscape

The second leg of the trip to San Diego was from Houston to San, and I was awarded a window seat. An hour of cloud cover the first hour, then it was clear or small scattered clouds over west Texas, southern New Mexico, southern Arizona, and lower California.

Desert. Mountains. Rocks. Dry riverbeds.

Even having lived in the Southwest for years, I was astonished to see how much of the United States is uninhabited, or nearly so, desert. The picture from 36,000 feet us is a convoluted gray and brown abstraction. Short gullies with desiccated tributaries, like the tracks of a giant bird. Faint streaks of dirt roads from nowhere to nowhere. Now and again the rectangular pattern of irrigated areas in mismatched shades of green set in an overwhelming wasteland. Endless geographical variations: folds, fringes, ridges, spikes, whirls, as irrational as a dream. A moonscape.

And there appeared spaces you couldn't even call flyover country. It was not country, hardly even looked like land, just a featureless void. The Mojave Desert, I think.

At one point, there arose from the tawny inert plain a narrow rise, like a peninsula with beaches on either side. Maybe that is what it had been millions of years ago. Maybe that is what it will be millions of years from now, when there is no one to see it, again.

* * *

Greetings from San Diego. I will not have a break like this again, so it's cheerio till next weekend.

--RD

6 comments:

Maria said...

I've had the same thoughts also, while driving over the Grapevine and seeing how utterly desolate much of the land surrounding LA actually is.

It's all dependent on cheap energy pumping in imported water. No more cheap energy, no more imported water--bye bye LA and San Diego both.

Van Wijk said...

Those who can walk through a desert and see nothing worth noting lack a suitable pair of eyes.

Live in the desert long enough and it will get into your cells. It becomes part of you in a way that is beyond my ability to explain; its influence is all-permeating, and in this it is unlike any other type of landscape. And desert people don't mind a bit that others find our treasure unpleasant. We prefer you move along.

Mansizedtarget.com said...

I've often thought this on long cross country flights. The unihabited aspect of the West is amazing!

yih said...

This is more a reply to your post on 'high-rise' living. About another drawback they have. Shared plumbing, in this case a friend who lives in a 14-story building on the 5th floor. This past Tue. (April 19) sometime in the evening the downpipe for all the kitchen sinks in that section of the building failed. Right below her sink. Nothing like getting up in the morning to squishy carpet. Maintenance fixed the pipe and cleaned up most of the mess. While cleaning up the kitchen I said ''Be glad it was the kitchen pipe and not the bathroom one''. That would have been 9 floors of, um, yuck.

Rick Darby said...

Hi, everybody! I'm back from my business trip and have several postings on tap. Look for one today or tomorrow.

Maria said...

Van Wijk: I love the Western desertscapes also, but it's not meant to support millions of people naturally.

Check out this blog post on what our unwanted visitors from the south are doing to our beautiful desertscapes:

http://www.limitstogrowth.org/articles/2011/04/22/earth-day-musings-2011/