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Big rocks and funny trees

I spent Wednesday at Joshua Tree National Park. It's about 150 miles east of Los Angeles in the California's Mojave Desert. Flew to Palm Springs Tuesday night, flew home today (Thursday). So, a very short vacation.

Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia) are native to the Mojave. It's a forest. A really sparse, dry forest of weird little trees. The national park is a million acres of the native habitat of this strange flora.

And then there are the rocks. And the ravens.

I came in at the south entrance and stopped first at Cottonwood Spring, a little oasis where 30 gallons or so of water a day trickle out of the ground, enough to attract all the bird life in the park and sustain several magnificent California fan palms.

While wandering around the Cottonwood Spring area, I encountered a large raven.

Raven is a trickster in Native American mythology. He steals the sun. This one put on a show for me, clacking his beak, dragging something presumably dead and yummy out of the shadows with his talons, and then flying directly toward me, all black wingtips like fingers. All I could think, as my camera utterly failed to focus or shoot fast enough, was "Damn." And, "I need a faster camera."

Joshua Tree is an otherworldly landscape, in a bone-dry valley three to five thousand feet above the desert floor. Geologists have ideas about how the big rocks got there and then how they were shaped. I read about these theories in the exhibit. I did. But then I walked out among the rocks themselves and went back to thinking, "magic."

It was about 90° F up there. Whole lotta sky.

You'd think Henry Moore had had a hand in it. For scale, these two rocks are about eight feet high apiece. The forms are purely the work of nature.

Monumental head of the fallen Baby King. Or, you know, more work of nature.

Skull Rock. Homer Simpson's skull, perhaps?

Suggestive, to say the least.

I spent a half hour or so lying under that hanging rock. It's about six feet across and maybe ten or twelve feet above the ground on the prongs of those two bigger rocks.

Here's the lying-down view.

Another landscape.

Wildflowers at Key's View, the highest point in the park, looking out over an ancient seabed. The haze is smog from Los Angeles.

As I was leaving the park late in the afternoon, Mr. Raven was there to say goodbye.

I drove back to my hotel in the Palm Springs area, and flew home Thursday morning. Met Gwendolyn Awen Jones, a fascinating author and healer, on the plane. A huge coyote loped across the runway as we were waiting for takeoff. I nudged Gwendolyn and said, "Look! A coyote," and she said, "You have a Trickster."


( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 12th, 2006 08:51 pm (UTC)
Wow. Those's pictures are gorgeous!
May. 12th, 2006 08:57 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Glad you like 'em. Honestly, Joshua Tree National Park is so beautiful and so photogenic that these photos mostly just took themselves. My job? Point, shoot, crop. That's about it.
May. 12th, 2006 09:46 pm (UTC)
beautiful, just absolutly beautiful pictures! and strange yet fascinating rock formations. and now i have rock!slash on my mind.
May. 12th, 2006 09:55 pm (UTC)
Rockslash! Hee! That's different from popslash, right?

Glad you like the pictures. JTNP is a strange and fascinating place. Especially on a hot Wednesday when almost no one else is there. I didn't find the place where the pivotal scene in "War Stories" was filmed, but take it as read that I saw a lot of similar spots.
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May. 13th, 2006 03:26 pm (UTC)
Wow, that's gorgeous!

In the realm of subtext, the rocks at Joshua Tree are brilliant. Half the things you see in these photos I didn't see in person--but I'm sure my subconscious picked them up. It was fascinating going through my whole photo set with different family members, because each saw different things in the rocks. Rorschach blots, they are. I should use them as a personality test.
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May. 13th, 2006 10:31 pm (UTC)
Well, I did try. But apparently comment on any subject or photograph with even the faintest modicum of the whisper of a suggestion of anything like...you know...that--well, it's too scary to respond to.

Either that or someone's very, very busy.

May. 13th, 2006 07:22 am (UTC)
Gorgeous photos. Awe-inspiring rocks.
May. 13th, 2006 03:39 pm (UTC)
They really are. At the risk of sounding like Drusilla--or River--I swear I could hear them singing.
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May. 13th, 2006 03:36 pm (UTC)
They're also bound up in the myth of the Kingdom of Great Britain, and must never leave the Tower of London. (I've been doing some reading.) Raven is a shapeshifter, and steals the sun at the winter solstice. He's sometimes depicted in Northwest Indian art as having the sun-disk in his mouth--looks a lot like the Chinese dragon with its egg-pearl. I made an icon! He's so clever that the Indians on this coast considered him the creator of the world.

So yeah, Raven was a good sign.
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May. 13th, 2006 10:22 pm (UTC)
Oooh, lovely. And clever. Very nice.
May. 13th, 2006 04:20 pm (UTC)
Absolutely stunning. Thank you for posting these.
May. 13th, 2006 10:22 pm (UTC)
I'm so happy you enjoyed them!
May. 14th, 2006 06:00 am (UTC)
Faaaabulous pics! Now I want to go! :-)

Have you ever been to the Carlsbad Caverns? Neat geology there too. It remains one of the coolest places I have ever been.
May. 14th, 2006 06:02 am (UTC)
I've never been there. But I've seen pictures and it must be an amazing experience.

Glad you liked the pics. You should go sometime. It's an awe-inspiring and peaceful place.
May. 16th, 2006 09:39 pm (UTC)
Wow, how lovely.
May. 16th, 2006 11:50 pm (UTC)
If your travels haven't already taken you there, I highly recommend it. It's a glorious place.
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )



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