Tuesday, April 19, 2016


Lately we've had a heat wave, and the campus is strangely quiet.  Maybe it's the approach of finals, but no one seems to be out, even at Noon.  The streets are not crowded, Sproul Plaza is not crowded, and there doesn't seem to be much traffic either.  It's almost as though the old place is tired and sagging.  Or maybe that's just me, and I'm projecting.

As I wandered back from the taqueria at the end of the Noon Hour I was struck by the torpor.  Telegraph was thinly peopled south of Channing Way.  Here and there a grimy, gray green street person mooched along; a blotchy-looking dog quickly sniffed it's way up the gutter, avoiding the sidewalk and looking sidelong at passersby.

I started to imagine I was in some broken down burg somewhere in the Sonora Desert.  I felt the electric twang of the heat, and smelled the dry earth smell.  I walked east, then north, coming to the edge of town and a small hill, topped by an abandoned shack with a windmill sitting next to it, completely still.  I climbed the hill and sat on the stoop of the shack in the foot and a half of shade it provided on the windless day.  The wood was dark gray and pitted from sand storms.  A small sand colored iguana disappeared in between slats in the wall.  Black and copper rocks lay strewn around the area in front of me, and in the distance stands of saguaro and yucca broke up the emptiness.  Grey blue mountains swam in the distance behind the heat waves.

Land that had once been roamed by the Apache now was the home of no one in particular; a few ranchers, and a few survivalists, and still even a few Apache.  Occasionally, the husk of an ancient miner in a slouch hat would wander into town and sit down in the dark of the tavern for a few cold beers and a sandwich.  He would nod hello but offer no words.  Had he forgotten how, or did he just not want to bother anymore?  No one could ever remember where his claim was, and no one alive seemed to know his name.  He'd rise up from his bar stool, pay his bill, croak his thanks, and shuffle out, looking yonder from under the brim of his hat as he headed back to wherever he came from. 

For sheer impenetrable quiet, the desert on a still day is unmatched.  If you sit and stare at it long enough, and say nothing to break the silence, strange things begin to happen.  I sat and stared and began to see the earth breathing.  As I gazed out across the plain, it rose and fell with perfect, peaceful regularity.  With every breath the earth relaxed under the Noon day sun.  I leaned back against the closed door of the shack and the hard wood seemed to give a little and the desert whispered in my ear that it was time for a nap.  There's no job to go to, no need to be anywhere.  You've worked long and hard and life is stressful.  Stay right here and breathe with me.  You won't regret it.  No one ever does.  Breathe.  Breathe.