Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Mojave Desert to Oakland.


As I drove through the desert of Arizona and California, the clouds had cleared. Stars! I could see stars! It has been a long time since the clouds, urban lights and my schedule had all allowed me to see the stars. Off to the Southwest, a bright light; probably a planet. Dead ahead, Orion. He has always been my favorite constellation, though I'm not sure why. Off in the dark to my right, railroad track runs parallel to the highway. There are often huge trains of containers going by. Tonight, the moon reflects on the shiny top of the rail; burnished by all that fodder for American Consumerism. Reflecting on the rail, the moon spot chases alongside the truck like the mechanical rabbit at a dog track.

As the sun slides into dawn, the desert shrubs begin as clumps on the hills and then splotches in the darkness as it crosses from black to charcoal grey. Supposedly, there's elk around here; signs have warned since Flagstaff. I haven't been privileged to meet any. In the early light, the desert is white tufted with brown and tan scrub grasses; like a meringue.

Morning breaks and I'm crossing the mountains, passing Bakersfield and coming down into the San Joachim Valley. I am just blown away. The sheer size of all this agriculture is astounding. Fields, groves and cultivation surround me and go to the horizon in all directions. I've lived in Michigan, Indiana and Florida; seen big farms and groves, but the magnitude is different here. There is cotton, oranges, corn, pecans and almonds; I smell garlic or onions. It goes on for 200 miles.

Coming up out of the valley and then down into Oakland, even the hills are shaped different around here. They seem to be tufted and folded rather than the rolling hills at home. There are wind turbines all over the place. They say that Texas is like a whole other country, well California certainly is too.

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