In Not Out

I’ve made the drive from Los Angeles to Idyllwild or Palm Springs or Palm Desert more than a few times, but these days in Banning have been a reminder of the difference between observation and experience. Passing by in a car, looking out through a window (not an unpleasant experience for a tracking-shot-impassioned cinephile), beyond the always striking impression of surrounding mountains, the landscape out here was never all that interesting. Now that I’m out in it daily on my bicycle, and more often that that walking Homer and Penelope, the experience is an altered state. I feel rather than see the expanse of the ranges and horse land that run between the mountains, and how they run up into them. I sense the contained energy of the horses and recognize suddenly what is so natural to others with different lives – the connectedness, like a system, of a person on a horse upon the land against the foothills. Cruising over the side roads near the end of the winter-shortened days, the surrounding peaks pulse a dusky azure. Standing in a field with the dogs, the high, dust-driving winds that blow here in the pass whipping the fine earth against my face, I stare at a tall, solitary, barren tree etched upon the sky, and I think of what Terry Morgart said to me. Terry is a non-Native who works for the Hopi Nation. (“My job is to keep people like you away from them,” he offered, but he has become a helpful correspondent.) Terry said, “I think if you dropped a non-Native in the middle of the desert and let him wander without food and water long enough to hallucinate, maybe then he’d begin to have some idea of how Hopi relate to the land.”


Banning, California; November 2008