Far to the north, the clouds are roiling like water boiling in a cauldron and overflowing the brim of the mountains. The sun is setting down in the west just as a full, brilliant moon rises up in the east. The sky is lit with a myriad of kaleidoscope colors reserved by nature to places on earth where the air is so clear and weightless you feel as if you can reach up and grab a star. The colors blend with your soul and you become as one with the sky.
The mountain tops are illuminated starkly as lightening traces the crags and peaks with an eerie, glowing silhouette. Drifts of vaporous mists trail tendrils downward towards the valley floor but succeed only in reaching halfway before they blossom upward to join the mighty thunderheads reaching ever higher into the darkening night. I know I will soon be going through the very passes where the static in the air will be looming as a physical force, filling the void between heaven and earth with multitudes of electrical charges bouncing in as many random directions. The stillness will be oscillating with a strobe effect causing shadows to shift and dance constantly. I have seen such storms before, but tonight I sense there will be something different. I feel my anticipation growing.
No rain is yet falling as I begin ascending higher up the mountains. The wind is bringing the damp, dusty taste of rain falling on distant, sun parched ground. It is a refreshing smell. Refreshing in the truest sense of a soothing relief, a renewal. Ahead of me, I can see jagged bolts of lightening ripping the clouds asunder as they streak to unseen destinations.
I continue traveling to ever higher altitudes. From one summit, at about fourteen hundred feet, I see a sight few men have the privilege of experiencing. The panoramic scene I witness at that moment will be forever sketched in my memory. I pause to savor the most brilliantly unique display of nature since the first moments of creation. I am awed. In the canyon below me, a thunderhead is trapped in a natural arena between the immovable sheer walls of a canyon and by the heavy pressure from above created by other storms at altitudes higher yet than I. Spikes of lightening are doing crazy ping-pong type ricochets, piercing through the cloud as they collide back and forth between the parallel walls. Just as the canyon trough slopes down to the flat valley dells below, so also does the animatedly enraged thunderhead dispatch its immense energies down, searching the shadows for a way to escape. Violating and penetrating hidden cracks of darkness with a thundering barrage like the fury of a cornered beast. Echoes reverberate continually from nature's outcry for release.
Then a soft rain begins to fall. It lends a sense of tranquillity to the harsh drama below. The rain is cool. You can almost feel the ground heave a contended sigh as she absorbs the life giving moisture. Flowers spring forth in triumphant jubilation. Stunted Joshua trees seem to stretch out twisted limbs like children holding out their arms and twirling happily as they let the rain splash on their faces. They laugh as they try catching the raindrops on their tongues. I smile as I raise my own face upward and feel small rivulets run wetly across my cheeks and down my neck with cleansing tingles. I continue my travels with a heart light with innocence and with an eagerness to see what lies ahead.
The rain quits abruptly. I have risen above yet another storm layer. I am in the high desert country of the lower Sierra Nevadas. The storms rim the horizons in all directions. The sky above is clear and lit by starlight. Enclosed by the fierce barrier I had just penetrated, the wilderness is calm. But, even here, modern technology has left its searing, selfish, and progressive marks. Gigantic steel structures, supporting and transporting hi-voltage electrical lines, march in single file over the ridges to the north and south. In the old days, a few of the more envisionary knights used to tilt at windmills. A windmill is a forebear of power plants. No one could stop progress then, nor can we even now. These truly looked like giant metal robots linked overhead by wires and anchored by cables to the ground. Tonight they put on a show of their own.
I remember reading in books about a phenomenon called "St. Elmos Fire". It was common at sea aboard large sailing schooners when they would enter into the eye of a storm. Their masts would come alive with balls of fiery static dancing and prancing about the riggings. They were viewed as "sea sprites" and considered to be an omen of safe passage.
These steal giants, looking so alien in this untouched land, carry their own power source. Small pixies of glowing blue sparks are dancing on the stalwart metal arms and rushing down support wires to the ground like blue spears radiating pulses of power. There is an acidic taste in my mouth. I am glad to leave this modern imitation competing with nature. I begin my descent through the next storm layer. The fog of clouds envelop me and block the giant sentinels from sight.
This side of the storm is benevolent compared to the advance invasion of the storm front. The rain is dropping undisturbed by any wind. The light darkness of the sky is enhanced by occasional glimpses of intricately woven streaks of lightening illuminating the rugged skyline of broken ridges, jagged peaks, and dancing shadows. Tonight, the desert is full of life. The sounds of nocturnal creatures can be heard calling all about. Crickets are chirping. Owls are hooting. Coyotes are baying at a moon that plays in and out of passing clouds. Predatory birds can be heard cooing as coyly as pigeons. The rain is reviving dormant inhabitants of the desert. I arrive at my destination and bed down. Sleep claims me as I listen to the peaceful sounds of the night's symphony. I dream of my true love and of the day to come.
Morning is to come at 6:20 this day. I get up before then and gaze up at the beautiful grayish white lilt of approaching dawn. I drive out to an area destitute of any houses. I am near the spot where Three Pines Canyon meets Indian Wells Canyon. The full moon can be seen setting in the west. The moon fills the gap of Walker's Pass, west of where I stand. Owen's Peak and Morris Peak frame this picture painted by nature. The Scodie Mountains and the Kiavah Mountains form a beautiful skyline in the south, accenting the higher backdrop of the Sierra Nevada range along the southern horizon. The ragged peaked edges of these mountains, honed sharp by desert winds, begin to catch the rays of the rising sun long before the shadows are ready to flee the valley floor where I am. Their edges reflect the tempering effect caused by centuries of applications of rain after days, weeks, and sometimes months of sun having heated them to a glowing heat-radiating state. The morning's sun spotlights the western horizon as if it were a stage. The flowers surround me in the pseudo-night of the shadow cast by the eastern mountain range. The blooms of plants look peaceful and tranquil as they sit facing towards the increasing lightness and warmth caused by the reflected false dawn in the west. I turn my back to the east and watch. The drama unfolding before me, on the spotlighted western stage, holds me captive with its spellbinding swirl of colors blending together. The spotlight increases in size and intensity. The stage grows ever larger as the delicate petals of flowers retreat into the safety of thick protective sheathes. The color of the desert changes to dark shadows of rock as the rainbow of colorful flowers fades. Even the shadows retreat as they are illuminated by the indirect reflected light. The rocks soon don their own magnificent colors as the light grows stronger and reveals a kaleidoscope of red and brown hues.
The seamed and wrinkled landscape is becoming more defined beneath the unrelenting barrage of advancing dawn. Soon, the sun will top the towering mountains, separating Death Valley from the Mojave Desert, on the western skyline. I feel an intimacy develop with this wild desolate land as the transformation occurs. There is a feeling of a wave approaching as the metamorphosis continues to happen. Each time it is a little closer. Each time a little more dramatic. Each time a little larger the stage grows. The audience of flowers becomes less dense as it hides from view and leaves behind just empty seats. I retreat also by entering into the shady depths of a ravine running down in angles toward the general direction of where I had parked the van earlier.
I had begun this grand adventure while the cool blanket of night's twilight still covered the desert. I follow the shadows now as a mist rises, the rain of a few short hours ago also retreating from the coming heat. The sand dries and a fine layer of silt quickly vaporizes into dust. The dust will lay pensively until the shadows return and the air begins moving, caused by the uneven cooling of the mesas at dusk.
The people dwelling in this area adapt to the wiles of this arid climate much as the desert flowers have been blessed. The desert dwellers gain the proud and beautiful stature of the defiant desert blossoms. Just as the rocks unveil true natural earth tones under the full glow of the desert's cleansing light, so too do the purest personalities of character emerge and reveal the true mettle of men and women. They take pride in knowing that today's challenges await conquest. A conquest fueled by man's indomitable spirit. A personal conquest to survive as one with nature. It is not a vanquishing conquest, but one of coexistence. God's hands can be seen at work in sustaining the delicate colors of the flowers. His gentle caress can be felt sustaining the visions of the men and women willing to accept the grueling challenges of personal windmills. His love is felt in the preservation of spirits exposed by the cleansing light of the desert. Just as He designed the day's protection for the flowers, His protecting presence surrounds you. Behold how good and pleasant it is for man to dwell together in unity with nature.