Editor’s Note 2: If you are browsing this on a phone, don’t stop — you’re at the right place. But when you do get a chance, check out these photos on a larger display. It makes for a more authentic and immersive experience.]
Americans are weird. I mean, everyone’s weird but Americans are weird even in the way they are weird. Not being a hater — love America, love Americans. But what is up with walking around with giant containers full of beverage and hydrating on-the-go? Weird.
See, I have a whole theory about what I call “American Weirdness” and how it is what makes America ‘exceptional’ and this very exceptionalism is the reason why, as an immigrant, I have made this country my home and have chosen to raise my children here. By now you’re wondering what any of this has to do with the subject of this post. It’s simple actually. I’m convinced that landscape shapes a people just as much as people shape the landscape. And America has some … weird landscapes.
Anyone who is familiar with Southern California knows that the area east of the I-15 is on no one’s bucket-list. Harsh? Maybe. But mostly true with one big exception (as I recently discovered): Joshua Tree National Park.
Where the Mojave and Colorado deserts collide, a really peculiar looking tree rises from the dirt (sand?) and dots the landscape for miles in every direction, interrupted only by the occasional pile of boulders, sometimes the size of hills.
Except that it’s not a tree but a cactus. And that it gets its name from Mormon travelers who saw, in the shape of the tree, Joshua raising his arms in prayer.
Which is funny because I swear I saw the tree prostrated in Muslim worship ..
Anyway, it is without doubt a surreal, beautiful and moving landscape that is designed to tug at the strings that bind us to the physical world.
It also happens to be a mini-, self-contained ecosystem with distinct flora and fauna.
The boulders are an unusual sight. Why are they there? I imagine them as symbols of defiance. As if, at some point, they refused to give into the elements that would turn them into sand and so what we see now is what would happen if someone hit the pause button on a desert in the making.
I wasn’t there for it but my guess is — and those who have seen it confirm — the combo of the JT landscape and the night sky is when the real magic happens. And so I have a reason to go back. Also, 👆🏼this is a very small snapshot of everything the park has to offer. So watch this space for that post, whenever it happens, Inshallah.