The Desert Paradox

I kissed my burnt fingertips as I climbed into the driver’s seat, mentally preparing myself for the inevitable scorching grip on my steering wheel. The Sonoran Desert was in record-high heat- I’d just made a solo journey across the country, and refused to let the blistering Arizona sun discourage my wanderlust.

My lifelines at the moment appeared to feel otherwise; my debit card and Johnny Cash cassette melted and puddled across my dashboard, crying in agony. I put my cell phone under my seat in an attempt to save it from it’s own inevitable death. My air conditioner had betrayed me days before in Reno, but even in an environment scorching with hellfire, I was determined to satisfy my itch for discovery.

Where was my next destination? I decided that was up to chance. It was critical that I simply go. Navigating arbitrarily through Phoenix neighborhoods, I let a stifling breeze dance through my windows, convincing myself it was, in fact, cooler than the interior of my “mobile oven”. Delirious from the searing sun-rays and my shaky, arid breath, I fantasized cooking on a skillet in my passenger seat. Laughing to myself, I spoke aloud, as if reciting a spell, “I need shade.”

With the next turn, there was a clearing. Beyond the stucco walls, beyond the heat haze fluttering above the pavement, and beyond the deceptive palm trees, alluding to some sort of tropical haven, there stood a lone mountain, reaching to the sun in isolated zeal. He was cloaked in a magnificent copper hue, tanned by the infinite summer he resided in. His crooked stature gave him a glow of confidence, unabashed after being exiled by the flatland around him. He was bejeweled in green mosses and sharp cliffs, gracefully defining his stamina above the insufferable Sonoran Desert. Mesmerized, I knew I had to meet him.

With no phone, no GPS, and no map, I was still determined to find solace in my new acquaintance. I began to travel towards him, sometimes seeming closer, and sometimes worried I was only getting further from my goal. My faith was restored when I could no longer see pueblos in my rear-view mirror, and instead, gentle hills formed in front of me. For the better part of an hour, I haphazardly raced towards him, intermittently wiping sweat and tears from my eyes, yearning for a sanctuary in the devilish blaze.

I continued down a lonely road, parallel with the mountain for several miles. I began questioning if I was going the right way, wondering if I would ever make it. Then, like magic, I coasted down the next hill, dazed by the lush, moist greenery appearing in the valley below. The road curved toward the mountain, welcoming me to his home, eager for my arrival. I found a clearing in the shrubbery, and parked next to a little trail, seemingly placed by the mountain himself so he could greet me properly. Hammock on my back and keys in my pocket, I ventured down the trail. The air was no longer stifling, but salty and crisp. The echoes of a desert highway were now replaced with birds singing hymns. The further down the trail I went, the more foliage that reached out to embrace me.

Finally, there he was. The mountain was not forsaken like I originally believed, for he was bound eternally with a river below. Her majestic waves gently caressing him, nourishing the vegetation around them, climbing up the mountain like children scrambling onto their father’s back. Their relationship was tumultuous, but strong, a perfect dichotomy of stillness and liberation. Taking a deep breath, I looked across the water, sprinkled with crystals cut from the sun itself. A dozen wild horses arrived by serendipity, angels in refuge, enjoying the river and all her benevolence.

A smile spread across my cheeks. I was no longer in solitude but surrounded by new friends. After conquering through hellfire, and finally resting in this nirvana, I began to question if this glory could be real. Perhaps the sun boiled my blood and this was nothing more than a mirage. I swayed in my hammock and rejoiced.

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