Lost in the Desert

California, 2014-2015.

I grew up in a small desert town in southern California, surrounded by a landscape a lot like the one in these pictures. My house was remote even by small-town standards; I walked miles to the bus stop or to visit the few friends who lived nearby.

I would get lost in my thoughts on those long, hot walks, humming tuneless songs and dreaming about running away into the mountains. In my imagination I’d set up a camp in an abandoned school bus and befriend wild animals, living on my wits and gifts from strangers.

I did run away a few times, but never made it more than a few hours in the desert before I gave up and returned home. No one ever knew I was gone.

Then, as a teenager, I moved to the east coast and forgot about the desert for long time.

Circumstances change, though, and twenty years later I’m back in southern California. The smell of the desert after the rain is like Proust’s cookie; memories flood back after many years dormant. The specifics of that time are mostly lost to me, but the feelings of those long desert walks remain.