Land Of Solace: Part II - Foreword
I've spent many nights, looking up at the stars, a warm, crackling fire by my feet, closing my eyes as a light breeze blows across my face, singing and playing songs on my guitar for no one to hear. Taking longer and longer pauses between strums to listen to the silence, to remind myself that I am alone out here, the buzzing of civilization miles and miles away. These are the kind of nights I crave. The kind that remind you of the vast world we live in, where you can stop moving long enough to remember you are just sitting on a rock, that has been flying through outer space for more years than we can measure, and what you do in this life doesn't really matter, your existence passing quicker than the blink of an eye. Some would think it's a pessimistic or negative thought, but not to me. It's something I long to feel, to be reminded of my place in this world; to know that what I do is ultimately meaningless, so that I might be a little more moved to adventure and take risks, and not take this one, single life that I will live, so seriously.
These places where we can be taught our insignificance are becoming more and more scarce, which probably explains why we are becoming more and more narcissistic, believing that the world and the stars revolve around us, everything at our disposal, and less conscious about the harmful effects that our reckless actions have on our environment. The less we can experience space, silence, stillness, and darkness, the less introspective we become; too much noise and commotion around us to realize what we are really doing, sending us down a dark, self destructive spiral. This is why areas like the Colorado Plateau, Death Valley, and the entire Desert Southwest, where we can look off in the distance for hundreds of miles, are becoming more and more sacred. These big skies, these grand views, these vast lands of 'nothingness,' change you.
I feel extremely fortunate to have been born in this time, while there are still at least a few of these sacred places left, that allow me to find my head again and give me the insight I need to navigate through this crazy thing called life. Too many times to count, when I have been faced with big decisions, I have found the answer only by contemplating it over in complete solitude and stillness. I don't know what I would have done without that option. I dread to imagine a future world without wilderness, without places of solace, where the mark of modern man has yet to be made; miniature worlds for us to escape the hustle and bustle of our overcrowded, concrete, human filing cabinets, where the imagination has no constraints, where concepts like money, fame, and social hierarchy immediately lose their relevance.
Often while I am in the desert, time disappears, no longer linear as I begin to see both the beginning and the end of life simultaneously. Never quite knowing whether I am looking at life making its final struggle, on its way out, or still in its fragile beginnings. Surrounded by geological features that have been around for longer than my mind can fathom, unchanging, and almost permanent, and yet so fine and delicate at the same time. I ask myself "How long has this exact scene been taking place, day after day? How many times has this spectacular, glowing light illuminated this corridor? How many millennia passed before this was ever seen by human eyes?" The mind can only wonder, and I am glad that it still remains, despite the abundance of scientific data we have today, mostly a mystery.
Much of the Southwest is completely void of all movement, except for the sun slowly creeping across the sky. Here, plants do not compete for the sunlight or soil. They do not crowd or impose on each other. Instead, they seem to evenly space themselves out from one another, perhaps out of a mutual respect for the harshness of the environment in which they live in. I feel there is a great lesson to be learned from this, in a time where our species continually overcrowds our precious planet, hogging its resources for ourselves, leaving nothing for the rest of the millions of other life forms around us. Maybe the answer lies in coexistence instead of the now widely disproven "survival of the fittest" approach to life.
While I love the desert, it is disturbing to know that much of the dry, inhospitable land in America, has been caused by climate change. In 1878, John Wesley Powell determined the 100th meridian as the end of the arid Desert Southwest and the beginning of the lush, damp plains of the East in a more humid climate. Now, in just 30 years (since the first episode of Seinfeld aired on television), that boundary has moved farther east, to the 98th meridian, 140 miles. This now continually expanding, unnatural desert, is much different than the Desert Southwest that has existed since long before the origins of man. It is bringing death and destruction to all living things in its path. Permanently displacing countless life forms, sending them farther and farther away in search of more hospitable land. Environmental changes are now occurring faster than life can adapt.
I could write pages and pages about the negative effects we know we have made on the environment, but that's not the point of this particular story I am trying to tell. The Earth has many different types of environments, varying landscapes and ecosystems. Each is unique in its own way, and each is a deliberate creation of Mother Earth. Everything alive on this planet contributes to something, nothing is exempt from the circle of life. I feel the desert contributes as a counter balance for all of the places of heavily concentrated life, some of it consisting of almost no life at all. This is all done, to create and maintain balance, and as we continue to throw this delicate, beautiful system farther and farther out of balance, I am afraid to see how this living planet will react.
These images I am sharing with you today, have been shot over the last couple of years in all four of the different seasons. In extremely cold temperatures, where I could hardly bear to pull my hand from my jacket in order to operate my camera, as well as extremely hot days, where I questioned what the hell I was thinking while out hiking under an unforgiving, relentless sun. But most of them were taken more during the in between seasons, where the desert becomes delightfully pleasant; beautiful days where the radiant sun filled my entire soul with light, and mildly chilly nights that make breathing a pleasure, as the crisp, fresh air enters in and out of your lungs. This is the time I prefer to be there, but I have learned some of the greatest lessons during the times that it feels least hospitable. You can only truly understand a place when you have seen it in all of the different seasons.
When we hear of our negative effects on the environment, I think we all ask ourselves "what can I do to help?" I believe it all begins with each of us understanding the great, sacredness of our wonderful planet. With feeling an overwhelming gratitude that we are able to live here. I captured these images in hopes to tell you of the preciousness of these places that still preserve space, stillness, silence, and darkness, in a busy, fluorescent, chaotic world. I would love for you to feel how important it is that we leave them be, that we do not try and fill them with more freeways, shopping malls, and sprawling urban jungles. The true value does not lie in what they can be sold for, or what can be taken from beneath the ground, but in leaving them perfectly intact, exactly how they are. I implore you to go out and experience them, respectfully and mindfully; then raise your voice for them however you can.