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Desert Notes

An excerpt from the book I'm reading: Desert Notes by Barry Lopez.

It's really good.

I have waited out here for rattlesnakes. They never come. The moment eludes me and I hate it. But it keeps me out here. I would like to trick the rattlesnake into killing itself. I would like this kind of finality. I would like to begin again with the snake. If such a thing were possible, the desert would be safe. You could stay forever.

I will give you a few things: bits of rock, a few twigs, this shell of a beetle blown out here by the wind. You should try to put the bits of rock back together to form a stone, although I cannot say that all these pieces are from the same stone. If they don't fit together look for others that do. You should try to coax some leaves from these twigs. You will first have to determine whether they are alive or dead. And you will have to find out what happened to the rest of the beetle, the innards. When you have done these things you will know a little more than you did before. But be careful. It will occur to you that these tasks are silly or easily done. This is a sign, the first one, that you are being fooled.

I hope you won't be here long. After you have finished with the stone, the twigs and the beetle, other things will suggest themselves, and you must take care of them. I see you are already tired. But you must stay. This is the pain of it all. You can't keep leaving.

Do you hear how silent it is? This will be a comfort as you work. Do not laugh. When I first came here I laughed very loud and the sun struck me across the face and it took me a week to recover. You will only lose time by laughing.

I will leave you alone to look out on the desert. What makes you want to leave now is what is trying to kill you. Have patience to wait until the rattlesnake kills itself. Others may tell you that this has already happened, and this may be true. But wait until you see for yourself, until you are sure.



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