It rained and the desert seems softer now. The warm temperatures and moisture have caused some of the plants – like brittlebush – to bloom early.
This morning I decided to hike around the “back forty” of the Arboretum. Up the steep slope that empties itself against Arnett Canyon, I waded through damp beaten grass and marveled over the brilliant green spikemoss (Selaginella arizonica) growing low against volcanic tuff. Few animals were around; only my shadow and small twittering birds flitted amongst the shrubs. Along the crest of the ridge I stared directly across to Picketpost Mountain and down into the Arnett drainage where autumn still hung on the yellowing leaves of cottonwoods. No breeze, no passing jets. I imagined that there was some tone – some deep humming accumulation of life and geology – that I couldn’t quite hear.
I prefer the small near things to the large distant vistas and I can’t sufficiently explain why. Perhaps I find comfort in what I can touch. The smallest things are their own cosmologies. A spider’s web bejeweled in dew drops compares favorably to the crystalline rocks that litter this hillside. Both web and rock reflect the sun’s light, encapsulating it in round or faceted frames, glittering and thus becoming small stars cast to earth. I wonder how a spider perceives a web full of shining beads of light?
On one side of the ridge is wilderness; on the other side is the Arboretum with its parking lot and trails and nearby highway. There are no trails where I am on the hill, no simple geometry suggesting which direction I’ll go. I meander. Saguaros and ocotillos twisting up to the sky are my only guideposts. Does it matter where they lead me?
Being in nature, I am aware of mortality. My eyes see the immediate environment but my mind dwells on the past and future – the Alpha and Omega. I say: nothing before and nothing after. It should be a comfort to be temporary. It should be a comfort thinking that I won’t always be thinking. In this place my shadow is hardly less substantive than the body that casts it. Who am I when I’m alone in an indifferent landscape? “One day”, I tell myself, “I’m going to keep walking ’til the horizon runs out.”