I prefer winter and Fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape — the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show. ~Andrew Wyeth

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Living a Mary Oliver sunrise in the desert

“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves..."
(Six o'clock a.m. on Tuesday morning... walking into the desert in Dayton, Nevada.)

'Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers."
(Even though I was still in the cold morning darkness, the hills to the west were accepting the suns rays.)

"Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again."
( I saw two geese flying across the landscape, heading north and speaking with their beautiful voices. But the mountain caught fire with sunlight and  my attention turned toward the beauty of the hills and away from the flying geese.)

"Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,"
Then the sun rose over the eastern mountains and took my breath away. It was so cold and yet, for a moment, I was overwhelmed by the warmth of the sunrise.)

"...call to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting..."
(The sun lit the landscape with its magical, morning light, as if to say, "I did this especially for you... to let you know that you are part of this world and this is your gift for wanting to see my radiant performance.")

"...over and over..."
( I stood on the cold, desert floor and waiting....listening. I waited for the sounds of birds, then the noise of humanity... the click of my camera.  But mostly, in the early minutes, before anything else... the quiet.)

( No snakes or rabbits yet. Just the beautiful light... and me standing there. )
"...announcing your place
in the family of things.”
~Mary Oliver~

I left the house before anyone was awake. Quietly walking out the back door, through the fence and into the field behind the house. It was quiet and cold. No one was outside. As if, like a movie, where you wake up to find the town's people have all disappeared, I felt alone. For me this was a good feeling.
 Walking onto a land so hostile and dry, I wondered at the ability of this place to survive the onslaught of man. It's probably not surviving very well. But, one on one, man will not win. Man will not outlast this land. The plants that survive the heat and cold of this area. , greasewood, chaparral and sagebrush, are the true survivors in this hostile world.
But on this cold, April morning, with the golden light shinning across the field,
This was were I needed to be and the desert was providing nourishment.
 I was really cold. My fingers could hardly hold the camera and heavy lens. I took one more photo...of the wild horses on the distant hills.
and one more, of my shadow trying to be one with the sagebrush.
If the desert has memories, I hope it remembers that I was there.
I returned to a warm house and friends that were awake... fixing coffee and tea.
The warmth felt good.



  1. oh my...I have been rEADING mARY oLIVER TODAY MYSELF!

  2. To my friend the poet!
    Yes, there is a certain type of beauty in the desert but it has always given me the feeling of despair. Nevertheless, as usual your photos are magnificent!!!
    My heart knows what the wild goose knows,
    I must go where the wild goose goes.
    Wild goose, brother goose, which is best?
    A wanderin' foot or a heart at rest?
    Frankie Laine, an all-time favorite.
    Love, Dawn

  3. Beautiful post Connie! Such beauty in such a harsh environment.

  4. smiles...lovely...the pics...and also your sojourn out into the quiet as well...its nice to do that...and let nature guide you...

  5. stunning photos C, I was shivering as I looked at them, your description of the cold morning sun so exquisite. Love Mary Oliver...need a little more of her today!

  6. breathtaking and lifegiving

  7. Mornings in the west are so different than here in the Midwest. I miss them.... The sunlight, the mountains, the desert.... Will be making a trip to Cali in July so I'll get a fix soon.
    Your photos are just amazing! :-) Sue

  8. A perfect Mary Oliver poem for your post. Oh, I can so relate to the desert sunrise, living here on the high plains. So many of your images and feelings are familiar to me. What happens so naturally and beautifully is worth the early morning solitude; oh, that we might observe and cherish what we often don't take time to do. Lovely post!

  9. Your beautiful photos took my breath away. The desert can be a beautiful place. I have traveled across Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico many times going to visit my folks in California and the beauty of the desert in the states I mentioned always amazed me. I enjoyed this post very much. Have a blessed Sunday. Madeline

  10. poetry and art in motion through your hands and mind...such quietness and beauty is sometimes overwhelming...what a precious gift indeed!

  11. A perfect pairing of poet and pictures. Absolutely gorgeous! Thank you!

  12. Not having been in the desert, "cold" is not the word I would have expected, but these photos really capture the sensation of dawn there! And you have chosen the perfect poem for them. It's beautiful.


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