Driving on deserted roads through the desert can be quite unnerving if you haven’t the right company. I remember thinking of those brave folks who ran marathons across the Sahara desert with nothing but a compass for company, and I must say I felt all the more grateful for the companionship that I did have in the bleak desert just then (Girls trips have a joy of their own!). There are times when one feels alright alone with a compass and the stars for company, but that day it felt just right to have your friends about you – squealing and laughing at the jokes and the non-jokes with equal joy.
We had been to Joshua Tree National Park during the day. The park literature spoke highly of Cholla Cactus Gardens, and I must say I was yearning to see them too. After the tall tree-like cacti of Sedona, Arizona, I was curious to see their west-side cousins. Would they be dwarfish like their tree brethren? The Joshua trees were nothing like trees, but were trees alright. What would the cacti be like?
The cacti, it turns out, were beautiful. They sort of creep up on you when you least expect it. There are miles and miles of desert, punctuated with outsized boulders on all sides. The boulders! Really – some of them were the size of buildings just sitting out there with the wind whooshing past them, and the sun beating down on them.
Desolate, barren, comical. I suppose they would make marvelous spots to star-gaze in. (It is a desperate thing to yearn for the night skies on a bright, windy day, but the signs for star gazing were there everywhere. It sounded marvelous,. I have seen pictures of star trails in the Joshua Tree National Park area, and could only imagine the thousands of stars visible in the night sky from there. )
The cactus gardens grew there in the middle of the desert, elegantly shimmering in the rays of the sun. Round a bend, when you’re least expecting it, the cactus gardens open up (not the same beautiful as William’s Wordsworth daffodils of course, but a different kind of beauty altogether). A beautiful array of life – glinting in the desert sun, reminding you of the resilience of life on this planet. There were beautiful in their own way. They reminded me of coral reefs – only in the desert and bathed in brown hues.
We approached a happy couple coming our way to take a picture of us. They glowed in the setting sun, and beamed. They had apparently gotten engaged to each other a few minutes ago, and were bursting with happiness to share this with us: fellow human beings, who were there at the time. We wished them both happiness together. It was a beautiful feeling of strangers sharing their happiness and good wishes. We may never meet again, but that moment of their happiness was ours to remember.
The cactus bore testimony to human paths forging a life together, the boulders : indifferent, but providing the backdrop for a proposal and an engagement, the Joshua trees branches of every shape delivering a message of love.
In the infinities of the desert, there was a small pause: punctuations of happiness, and joy.