It’s hard to believe it’s almost a year now since we went to Joshua Tree.
Yucca brevifolia is evidently a species of agave, although until DNA tests proved otherwise it was believed to be a lily. I imagine it would be quite unsettling to find out you were not what you always thought you were, but since some of the Joshua Tree specimens are up to 100 years old, they are probably above all that nomenclature nonsense. They are what they are, and people come and go and say what they say.
I read that humans have probably lived in the area of this 800,000 acre park for close to 5,000 years. It’s easy to imagine: this is the kind of place that gives meaning to the word “primitive.”
The first time I ever heard of such a thing as a Joshua Tree was during my Anais Nin phase, back in my 20’s when all I wanted was to be a writer. It’s a little difficult to imagine Nin, the quintessential avant garde author, traipsing through the desert; but I remember that the landscape stirred her imagination. If it doesn’t stir yours, you have no imagination.
As I’ve told you, Mary and I went to Joshua Tree on the first day of my last annual visit because I thought it would be a good place to see the Perseids, the August meteor shower. You know how you have a litmus test for great lovers? Mine has been this: Who will take me to see the meteor shower?
Until Floyd came along, prospects fell like bowling pins. They. Just. Couldn’t. They couldn’t remember, or make it, or schedule it, or something.
Even though my dear husband has – every single year – made it his business to take me somewhere to see the Perseids, I thought that since their peak was scheduled for the day I arrived at Mary’s, the two of us should go directly from LAX to the desert. And so we did.
In planning this excursion, I selected the Joshua Tree Inn as our lodgings. It looked appropriately funky and suited to the wild landscape without looking shady. Its rooms had been occupied by a range of musicians since the ’60’s. While staying in the Graham Parsons Suite seemed a little morbid (he bears the distinction of having died at the Joshua Tree Inn), I thought the Donovan Suite would do just fine.
Graham Parsons was a very early figure in the fusion of country music with rock. Pictures of his long-haired, bell-bottomed hippy youthful self made me think of Austin’s Armadillo World Headquarters – a famous landmark that fell to the wrecking ball just before I arrived. Music fans at the Armadillo lived at the intersection of country and rock, and Austin lives there still. I felt connected.
The landscape of the Joshua Tree Inn is gently swept sand and drought-loving plants, with little art objects here and there. There was a little Graham Parsons memorial, with his guitar and boots, lots of candles, and an assortment of beer bottles and objects generally associated with the use of mood-altering substances.
It was remarkably peaceful for a motel right on the “main drag.” We spent a fair amount of time in old wicker chairs in one corner of the veranda, sheltered from the rain. The next morning we would drink our coffee here watching the housekeepers come and go with sheets and mops, taking time to talk to the sweet-natured baby in the stroller, who’d accompanied his mother to work.
Leave it to us, to arrive in the desert to await a clear view of a meteor shower, and encounter a thunderstorm. We heard and saw it coming in over the park, a blast of cool air, deep rumblings, and a smattering of rain.
When the storm abated, we ventured out into the evening. Our first stop was at a convenience store, for bottled water and chocolate to get us through the long night ahead. The clerk told us that the storm had been so ferocious up in the park that one old-timer had, in an extremely rare episode, departed the park for the lowlands.
It was late evening when we first drove into that astonishing landscape.
hers in California, mine in Texas,