Dust and Awe

Rock! Rock! Rock! Rock!We’re out the other side of our movie gauntlet, and to celebrate our having survived the pounding of the last few days, our jury wrangler — whose name, incidentally, is Ken Dorf, and who has demonstrated himself to be a very accommodating and infinitely patient host — drove us out to Joshua Tree National Park this afternoon.


It was my first trip into real desert, and it was spectacular. I can’t really convey the scale of it, or the eerie sense that everything I was looking at had been exactingly composed. Don’t get freaked out; this was hardly a religious awakening, just that human impulse to impose order on an alien sight, the way the mind organizes random shapes into recognizable anatomy. Still, it was a very strange feeling.

We spent a lot of time gawking at the immensity of it all, then taking pictures of everything we could. I found the cholla cactus particularly fascinating; puffy and bright with color, it’s like a hostile desert plant designed by Muppets. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s commonly known as the “teddybear” cactus.)

Then there was the vast rock field, part of something called a “contact zone” — which, if I understood the brochure correctly, is the result of an 85-million-year-old belch of magma somewhere beneath the planet’s surface that slowly worked its way up to become part of the landscape, cooling into granite on the way.

And now dopes like me get to walk all over it, looking for bobcats. Didn’t see any, though.

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