Life and Death in the Desert and The Intelligence of Nature

Desolation in the Desert ©Lynne Buchanan
In the process of writing my book, I have come across many photographs I made during my cross country journey that are striking a chord with me now.   Sometimes people succumb to the mistaken impression that they are more powerful than nature.  Yes, the hand of man has done many things to harm the environment by being out of balance, but when it really comes down to it nature is more powerful.   These ruins were from the town of Kelso.  Today, the mission revival style former depot located down the street serves as a visitor center, while this is what has become of the town around it.  I am not alone in being fascinated by ruins; many people are drawn to them likely because they show what becomes of the havens we construct to "protect" ourselves from the elements the instant we begin to neglect them.  Nature can be harsh and inhabitable for human beings when we don't work with the environment.

Sunrise, Mojave Desert ©Lynne Buchanan
Though there are hardly any people residing or even visiting the Mojave National Preserve, in comparison with other National Parks, it is teeming with life.  In fact, the Mojave Desert is one of the most diverse places in the entire southwest in terms of wildlife, with 38 species of amphibians and reptiles, 50 species of mammals, 300 kinds of birds, and even a native fish in the two ponds within the preserve.  In the springtime, there are carpets of desert sand verbena and dunes evening primrose, but even in the fall the desert plants were abundant and beautiful though non-flowering.  This sunrise was one of the most spectacular moments of my journey.  To get to the Mojave Desert, I'd driven straight through on I-5, the real wasteland, from Redding to Nipton.  The moment I got out of my car and stepped foot on the desert, I could feel the energy of all the life around me.

Joshua Trees, Mojave Desert ©Lynne Buchanan
Even after the sun had risen, nature continued to put on a magnificent show that morning, as dramatic clouds filled the sky and the light was soft enough to subtly illuminate the desert floor studded with Joshua trees and the mountains behind.  Yucca moths lay their eggs in the pollinated flowers of Joshua trees and disperse the seeds, while 25 bird species nest in them, and lizards and other invertebrates use them for shelter.  These tree homes look in much better shape than the houses the gold miners built and abandoned.   Afterwards, I visited the cinder cone lava beads and the Kelso dunes, before heading on my way to the Grand Canyon.  There is something that speaks to my soul when I see plants and animals survive and thrive in seemingly hostile conditions, and I know it is because they have learned to work with the environment instead of fighting against it...