Becoming Desert

My hometown Claremont in Southern California is slowly drying up.  The town was carved out of sagebrush and cactus, 50 miles inland and over a set of low hills from the Pacific ocean in a rich but desert valley.   Developers sold it to farmers and academics who wanted to create an east coast neverland of deciduous trees, stately colleges, homes and orchards all fed by water they took from others. 

Imported water kept the illusion of plenitude alive until now.   Climate changes, water becomes more scarce and lush lawns disappear as zeroscape policies become the norm.   Water is getting scarce and temperatures are rising. The desert is taking back this village and thousands of other towns and cities all over the world.  The mortgage taken out against our future is due.

No dark futuristic morality tale or radical rhetoric, here. The question isn’t whether we are willing to make necessary changes to save a charming but outmoded way of life.  That’s already terminal.  The question is how we will adapt to our new one.  Central will be our interpretation of what this desert is, what it means to us, and what joys and fulfillment we will find.  

Faced with intolerable change to their way of life, the early Egyptian desert fathers and mothers adapted to a new and more harsh environment.  Like them we find ourselves seeking new meaning and importance in our lives in a sparse, more challenging home.  We must find what they found.

I relish the changing seasons with a spring and fall—leaves turning color and piling up in gutters, fresh new leaves and bees and blossoms.  Becoming Desert offers images and short poetry exploring themes of, sentimental resistance vs openness, critical vs appreciative sensing, and outer materiality vs the inner spirit.  I am joined in this search by a powerful team:  John Brantingham (co-author of A Sublime and Tragic Dance), his wife Ann who draws exquisite desert flora, and Elder Zamora, noted photographer specializing in black and white.

The paintings are selected, writing is commencing, and I anticipate completing Becoming Desert poetry by January, 2019.

Desert, 2017 Becoming Desert Series #1
Acrylic and canvas 40X30”


Up past city streets
path to the interior climbs
beyond our darkness.

New Day, 2017 Becoming Desert Series #2
Acrylic and canvas 30X24”

Another New Day

Sun bakes everything into
vision blinding midday light
column of pilgrims appears
ethereal procession progressing
amidst boulders dancing bright

Place & Time, 2006 Becoming Desert Series #3
Acrylic and canvas 40X30”


Eastern horizon light,
promising warmth in this grim cold
Later, much too hot.

So Much Left to Know, 2006-2017 Becoming Desert Series #4
Mixed medium 42X30”


Small rock flying past
riders cling to circumstance
barely holding on.

Transformation, 2006-2016 Becoming Desert Series #5
Mixed medium 42X36”


In the night you come
and tell me I am enough;
then I wake, reaching.

Desert Father, 2004-2016 Becoming Desert Series #6
Mixed medium 40X30”


I have come to know
to touch, hear, everything
beyond town’s vacant clamor
waiting here alone 
I sit, senses uncovered.