By Jim Miller
As I noted last week in my reminiscence about my Ocean Beach hideaway, the contemplation of outside space is sometimes intensified when put in sharp contrast with a small inner space. And the quality of immensity that comes with this is, à la Bachelard, a kind of meditation, “Far from the immensities of sea and land, merely through memory, we can recapture, by means of meditation, the resonances of this contemplation of grandeur.”
So if the sea provides local access to immensity on the coast, the Anza Borrego Desert is the home of our immensity of land. Vast, varied, and full of wonder, the largest desert state park in the United States covers 600,000 acres from the Lagunas to the lowest point of the floor below sea level. While lovely during the periods of spring wildflower bloom, one might best experience the solitary heart of the desert during the peak of the scorching summer heat.
Go there when it’s well over 100 degrees, get a duplex room at the Hacienda del Sol in Borrego Springs, and use it as a base for your predawn hikes or runs when the temperature is in the low eighties. End your trek with the glorious sunrise over Indianhead Peak on your sweaty way back to your room for breakfast.
Insane perhaps, but there is an intangible quality to the combination of heat and immensity and timelessness.
During the day, alternate between the patio, pool, and your air-conditioned hideout, like a seeker in a postmodern sweat lodge. Most of the fancier set who brave the heat stay at La Casa del Zorro or one of the other pricey resorts, so what the Hacienda del Sol offers is delicious, inexpensive solitude, with the rare fellow visitors likely to be wandering Euro-tourists, couples on secret trysts, or other travelers bent on reading and drinking quietly by the pool.
Surely you will find yourself abandoned to your imagination, daydreaming between lines of poetry or a suitably contemplative novel. And when you do, you’ll find that you are lost in the middle of nowhere and at the core of everything.
The heat shimmers on the horizon and the silhouette of the mountains in the distance is both majestic and unreal like something emerging out of the collective unconscious and displaying itself right in front of your sunglasses. Once the temperature hits over 115, jumping in the pool is a baptism, renewing you in the face of the sun’s extremity.
All the while, you know that getting lost without water in the surrounding desert could kill you. Indeed, nature will bat last on our warming climate, but, for the time being, you have air conditioning. Back inside you sleep and read and sleep some more.
After finishing your book, perhaps you stroll out to the toasty but shaded patio and notice an ocotillo reaching upward with prickly arms, the jack rabbits looking for water, a hawk in the near sky, and just as you sit down to crack a beer, a roadrunner appears before you on the wall like an apparition. So you sit quietly for a long time looking at him as he looks at you. You feel your heartbeat struggling against the heat, but you stay still and attentive to nurse every last second of this sacred communion.
Eventually, the roadrunner leaves and you have your beer, go back to the pool, and head in later to make some dinner in the kitchenette.
When night falls, before bedding down early, you step out to witness the ocean of stars in the warm night sky. You can see the Big and Little Dippers, the Milky Way, and shooting stars falling like rain.
Everything is as it should be.