I haven’t been in a lot of deserts, only in Israel, Egypt and the Sahara. The first time I was in Israel, I had the feeling of coming home. A little cliche, but also in the sense of the climate, the dry heat, I felt like a fish in water. It is a false sense of nostalgia, especially since my grandparents grew up in an extreme continental climate, but I really felt alive physically in the dry heat. It was the same feeling arriving in Arizona: as far as the climate goes, I immediately felt at home.
The cacti were almost funny in that context, almost a parody of the Wild West. Because it’s a totally different kind of desert.
I don’t really know if there is a relationship between the emotions of the day before (the Memorial Service) and the vastness and emptiness of the desert. In a lot of ways, because of the vastness of the desert, it’s almost as if there is no need to reflect or meditate. As if the usual closeness and closed-ness of your mind gets transferred to the exterior. Instead of holding thoughts inside of you they expand outwards.
Contemplating the Saguaro petroglyphs
One important moment was when I was looking at the petroglyphs of the Hohokam tribe, I felt a connectedness to all the tribes that were moving from one place to another, trying to survive the harsh climate, and then later being chased by the white settlers. I had a vision of these people moving over the desert landscape.
The petroglpyhs in Saguaro National Park near Tucson, Arizona
You could make a connection to the diaspora and some people say that the native Americans were the ten lost tribes. But maybe the real message is that so many groups of people in the final analysis have a same history of exile.