Kurt Bell

A life of courage, joy and independence.

Desert Thinking


I leave the desert
A more honest man

Even great mountains
Cannot compare
In scale or depth
To the perspective of desert
Only the sea
And only when upon it
And far from land
Can some similar measure be found

Deserts prescribe lateral motionDesert pavement
The traveler is rarely confined to any path

The near desert is casual reflection
While the deep desert is powerful inquiry

The best thinking requires no effort of thought
Deserts encourage such deliberation

Tell it to the desert

How can I refute the desert perspective?

There’s no perceptible sentience in the desert.
It’s an empty mind where hard facts and reality don’t give a damn what I think.

I just walk until the thinking stops
Then the motivation
Then the forward motion
At last I sit wherever
At peace in the desert

There’s so much to lose out here…

In my journal just now I wrote “There’s nothing to be found in the desert” though I suspect my meaning may be misunderstood.

Desert peace is not like silence
There’s little rest
And many reminders of mortality
There’s a lonely alienation
And a gravity of mind
Relentless pulling
Incessant downward motion

The desert is a great place to silence the mind. Though you may not appreciate this brand of peace.

No thoughts to trouble my thoughtsDesert cold

It’s good to go to nature
Better if you go alone
And best if the distance is far and remote

Deserts destroy certitude
But only if you go alone

Ideas, musings and reflection are the surest desert harvest.

I’m alone now in a frightening, lonesome wilderness. There’s a part of mind suggesting Spirits. It’s driven by fear and my wish to get out alive. I even caught myself performing impromptu propitiation. This must be how such things begin.

The desert won’t hear your apology. Nor will it offer any.

There’s an acsetic quality of deserts which invites dismissal of fleshy thought and social concern. The mind empties into the wastes. Issues scatter like sand in the wind and worry rolls away like a tumbleweed. What’s left is as stark and dry as the landscape. A bare and essential perspective, silent and dear. No emotion. No thought. Barely a pulse.

The desert offers no councilMy first desert video
Only the senses speak
Words filtered through bias
Colored with emotion
Truncated with reason
A false interpretation

It’s time to go
The desert is scaring me

The mountain Muse speaks with the voice of rustling leaves and falling water. The sea Muse talks through crashing waves and wind over the swelling deep. The desert Muse though suggests everything with silence, reinforced with the argument of nothing.

The desert provides it’s own trails sometimes. I’d wander randomly without them, these natural paths, corridors of more convenient passage, prepared for anyone but me. The place they lead is as good as wherever I’d planned to go. And I’d step this way gladly and again, should I ever find my way back.

Great winds are battering the desert today. I wish I could be out there. And hear the beast’s inanimate roar.

The place I have in mind for Friday’s desert hike is like a long swim to a deep water island.

The harvest of a solitary desert hike is an empty, quiet mind; devoid of reflection, ambition or want. The longer away the more still the motive, and more lasting.

The vast landscape of my own ignorance is like a depth of night beyond the glow of a campfire, where the darkness only deepens with the added light of knowledge, and my meager fuel will soon be spent, with no hint or promise of dawn.

I love the desert as a place devoid of philosophy. A place where silence and emptiness speak their mind.

Whoever said inspiration lives in the desert must have known madness lives there too. I can’t be sure which is the greater muse.

There’s little here to kill meCalifornia Route 66 immigrant camp - softypapa adventures
Besides the desert itself

Deserts deceive true distance
Both landscape
And reflection
I never trust a desert mile
Nor the hazy
Apprehensions of mind

In deserts you can’t escape your thoughts, which trail and pester.

Deserts are a great place to cultivate the fine art of walking very slowly and very quietly.

The mute, silent indifference of deserts is a hard argument to refute.


I go to the desert for the thinking
Or rather, the lack thereof
There’s nothing like a mindless wander
Over trackless waste
To tease out irrelevance
Add wide margins to thought
And provide fresh, blank canvas
For the endeavor of living


Someone recommended I try gold detecting
Though the ore I’m after is more precious
And exceedingly rare
And never available
By any technology
Or common investigation


I recently rediscovered a desert community called Newberry Springs. It’s an interesting place, surrounded by ghost towns and nearly dead itself. It’s the kind of place just far enough removed to have once drawn those who didn’t want to be found. Maybe that’s the reason the cemetery is full of unmarked graves.


The sea envelopes our thoughts, while forests adorn them with superfluous life. Cities crowd ideas with companionship, while locked doors remind us we are alone. Only deserts offer sufficient space, isolation and freedom of motion to make way despite all good advice or precedent.


Desert solitude is nothing like being alone on a mountain, or in your room, or even alone with your thoughts. Every step subtracts something. Adds emptiness. Makes space which needn’t be filled.


The desert is surely flooding this week. And my thoughts are with a plant with a name I can’t recall which clings to life like a man hanging from a cliff by his fingers. The plant evolved during a period when Southern California resembled the savannas of Africa, and mega-fauna like mammoths, camels, giant ground sloths and sabre-tooth cats roamed the margins of a chain of enormous lakes stretching from Victorville to Las Vegas. At that time the plant relied on the abrasive action of the digestive tracts of herbivores to create cracks in the otherwise impenetrable outer coating of the seed, which is an adaptive trick to prevent the seed from germinating until it is ready to be deposited on the ground within a nurturing pile of dung. Without the giant herbivores of the Pleistocene the plant might go extinct, as there would be no way to ensure the right circumstance of abrasion and moisture to get the seed off to a good start. Though the big animals are now all vanished the plant has managed to hold on, finding tentative footing in the ecological niche of the desert arroyo, the one place nature has provided which serves as a suitable alternative to a camel’s gut. For when the flash floods arrive they wash the seed on a rugged ride down the impromptu river, chipping away at the external coating to deposit at last in a bank of soil rich in nutrients and moisture. A lucky last chance for a plant which gambled all on the stomachs of giants and found a lucky break in the flow of the flash flood.


Wilderness thoughts are like captured wild animals. You can secure them. Bring them back to the lab for study. But don’t get any ideas of taking them for a walk in the neighborhood or making them wear a cute sweater. They’ll have a finger if you’re not careful, before scampering off to the nearest park or open space. It’s best to let them be. To observe in their natural habitat. Like a bear meandering along a stream. Take a picture in your mind. Record in memory the wild notion in its natural habitat. Let the beast roam.


Going alone into the desert requires much energy and time. The gold miners of the past knew this; risking everything for a little precious ore. There’s still much of value out there now. Though you don’t need a pick, shovel or mule to get it. Just bring a hat, some water, and a small budget of time. No companions. Not even a dog. You may not even be able to share the treasure you’ll find. More precious than gold. More fleeting than life.


Returning from solitary adventures in the mountains of Japan and the rugged landscape persisted in my head like an intimate and cloistered hideaway. The desert however, unfolds in the mind like a great and empty map; devoid of sanctuary, exposed and utterly impersonal.


Going alone into the desert requires much energy and time. The gold miners of the past knew this; risking everything for a little precious ore. There’s still much of value out there now. Though you don’t need a pick, shovel or mule to get it. Just bring a hat, some water, and a small budget of time. No companions. Not even a dog. You may not even be able to share the treasure you’ll find. More precious than gold. More fleeting than life..

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