For me Joshua Tree is a place not of this earth, in fact many places are if you look at them with eyes that detach them from their physical placement and logical accessibility.
There was a moment when i first saw the asymmetrical shape of a lone Joshua Tree on a beautifully composed photograph by Anton Corbijn on the back sleeve of U2’s album of precisely that title. It stood there like it was waiting for something, like everybody seems to be in the desert. Breaking the scanty vegetated flatness with a shaggy brokenness and carelessly groomed wildness and i wanted to go – right away, off into a prickly forest of Joshua Trees.
You must know those moments, in which you incomprehensibly and violently want to leave, when some unknown thing or literal object draws you and you don’t even know why, don’t care to know why. It’s just the way it is and that’s that. I could probably explain all of it with my heavy-breathing-love for California, which i tried to avoid because everybody figured automatically i would love it and i just generally don’t like to act the way people think i will. But i won’t explain because some things don’t make sense and that’s how i like it.
So here we are now. Breathing in the alien landscape of Joshua Tree with it’s sweetish air. Miles of powdery sky and Joshua Trees of every shape and size on endless display. After a while soft rock formations, coloured in a shade of creamy unbleached silk, emerge and form little valleys at their feet. Everything takes place in slow motion. It’s a bit like being under water, the smooth surface and rounded molding of the rock, it’s texture suggesting that you could just cut through it with a knife.
We explore little trails, walk across Joshua Tree fields and climb the huge rocks at sundown. In the distance a man is lying on a Harley Davidson, feet on the handlebars, and i think that this is probably all the allure of the United States in an incidental illustration of what freedom must taste like. My dad always dreamed of doing this.
And then we stand atop a picnic table in the dark and memorize the lineament of Milky Way above our heads. We sleep in our car at Skull Rock and i startle up every few hours, dreaming of snakes sliding into the car.
We awake early to watch the sun rise. I didn’t get much sleep but i don’t mind. We are the only ones awake, not many travel the desert during the hottest time of the year and even less are awake at this hour. We drive down the single street. Every outlandish sound is amplified by the fresh morning silence and spiky silhouettes lean against the bright orange that is edging off the midnight blue. The most peaceful and beautifully detaching thing i have ever experienced may just be this: standing in the curve of the road, surrounded by cholla fields, capturing a papaya-whip sunrise surface behind an obscure mountain.
Before we leave we go to Cottonwood Spring where little forests of wild palm trees create shady dens and we can touch bedrock mortars left by the Cahuilla Indians who inhabited the territory about 2000 years ago. Joshua Tree is not of this world. This earth is not of this world.