Desert Whispers

Joshua Tree National Park at night, the sky is a deep blue color and is full of stars. There are boulders with soft, rounded rocks pushed together and small trees in front of them.

An Ode to Joshua Tree National Park

Written by Noel Leon

My only preconception of a Joshua Tree was the title of an excellent U2 album. As my fiancé and I drove into Joshua Tree National Park, these Seussian plants popped up one by one, peppering our peripherals… Oh, the Places You’ll Go. Time slowed gradually with each stretch of open highway, the frenzy of modern attention demands dissipating until all that was left were these plants and giant overarching boulders that screamed: Welcome to the Wild West. Our sole aim was to bear witness to the vacant self-sufficiency of nature and I couldn’t help but prey on its beauty.

Joshua Tree National Park at sunset. The sky fades from a dark blue into a light yellow color at the horizon. The desert is full of small shrubbery and joshua trees.

We whimsically embarked on an off-roading expedition through one of the park’s designated trails, heading deep into dusk like outlaws. Bounding in and out of boulders, filled with adrenaline, he pulverized our Toyota 4 Runner over harsh terrain while I meditated, feeling a primal reckoning with my humanness in this vast unaltered landscape. The Toyota reached its limits miles deep into the wilderness, not a soul in sight. We parked and laid on its roof, pausing our wanton voyage to flirt with life’s mysteries.

As dusk deepened into night, faint desert whispers guided my thoughts through empty space, a soft wind filling this blank canvas. We bathed in the light of the moon, photographing the stars in their purest, most unobstructed essence, capturing glimmers of hope inside us. I engaged in a staring contest with glistening galaxies, afraid to blink in case their light dimmed like a faint memory. 

Our sole aim was to bear witness to the vacant self-sufficiency of nature.

Joshua Tree is the in-between, the place where reality and dreams play. I could see how artists flock here, enticed by maddening extremes of the mind when given such space to wander. Feeling the familiar childhood rush of “breaking curfew,” of glimpsing into the unknown, sleep became a willful opponent. I sat still, listening to hear the desert whisper. 

A woman and a man smiling for a picture in Joshua Tree National Park with two dogs. The moon is out and the sky is a dark blue, in the background is a mountain range and small trees.

Come dawn, sun rays etched the horizon, bouncing off boulders as if fueling their unfaltering strength. My problems looked like specs in the cosmos compared to the billion years these boulders have seen. They protrude through an infinite prickling desert plain, providing a harsh contrast to the palate of bubblegum hues that seep through the sky: blues, pinks, purples, and yellows. I stood on the car’s roof and sang an echoing farewell (by U2) to Joshua Tree: I’ll show you a place high on the desert plain… where the streets have no name… Oooooh, oooooh. 

On the drive home, my eyelids finally rested, heavy. Falling into slumber with the hum of the Jeep’s engine, I slipped out of the Wild West into vivid dystopian dreams of far-off galaxies and anthropomorphic trees… Oh, the Places You’ll Go. Still, when I close my eyes, I can hear the desert whispering through the Joshua Trees. 

Joshua Tree National Park at night and the sky is a neon blue full of twinkling stars. The desert has a large mountain range and is full of shrubs and joshua trees.