Landscape As Narcotic


I couldn’t possibly stay in Vegas for 7 straight days, so I used 2 of them to take a trip to Death Valley. Desert places have always had a magnetic pull on me, my desire for them seemingly unconscious, a basic need. The question I ask myself is: Why do I love the desert so much?  Why not the beach, or the mountains, etc.?

I suppose it’s tied to some misanthropic tendency of mine.  I find it reassuring and comforting to be in a landscape so inhospitable and indifferent to humanity. Try as we might to overlay a human presence here in our minds, no matter where we look we find a relentless barrenness that offers not even the slightest possibility of comfort.  It’s great!

Unpeopled space of a certain scale has an almost narcotic effect on me.  This effect is in direct proportion to the amount of that space I can make myself aware of, and there is no better place to experience this than Death Valley. It starts with the long drive over hundreds of miles of similar landscape required just to reach the place. The topography in the Park affords excellent long views from various heights, and the close presence of 11000 ft mountains adds a vertical aspect to the vastness. The vastness is temporal as well, as the utter lack of vegetation and resultant exposed geology transform our measurement of time here from the seasonal or yearly to the millennial. ◊
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