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Earth, Sun, and Rocks

Natalia J. Garland

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Suburban sprawl in the Desert Southwest has had a peculiar impact on my personal environment. I live in a rural area which is growing rapidly as other people also discover the beauty and simplicity of desert life. What used to be a quaint haven for retirees and a few artist types, is beginning to look and feel like the worst California suburb: unplanned development with no regard for the natural surroundings.

Houses are being built over vast desert acres of ravines, washes, cactus, greasewood shrubs, mesquite trees, and rocks. Bulldozers have plowed up and piled up thousands of rocks as ground is cleared for houses and roads. New home owners will never know what used to lie beneath the leveled earth on which they now plant their grass and palm trees. Rocks, an expression of natural desert beauty and ruggedness, will never again face the sun's brilliance. The huge piles will be ground into gravel and sold.

Some of these rocks, however, have been transported over the miles to my yard. I lifted each one: rocks as large as I could pick up and put in the car trunk; rocks worn round and smooth by weather, and rocks rendered jagged and sharp by bulldozers; rocks the color of volcanic bronze, burnt orange, glistening white, mottled cream, dusty rose, sea green, crusty gold, and soft grays; rocks that spoke to my soul and continue to nourish my daily comings and goings.

Before the new roads were graded and paved, the rocks had been inaccessible. It was too dangerous for anybody to hike so far into the desert. Before suburbia exploded, only the snakes, coyotes, and rabbits knew how to survive the heat and lack of water. The rocks could have been there for millions of years. Nobody disturbed them. Nobody could.

When a new suburb is developed, the roads have to be built first. This made it possible for me to drive to heretofore remote points and rescue rocks. Such development, from my experience, is extinguishing the rural lifestyle. But, as though to compensate, the development process enabled me to claim and transfer a part of the desert to my personal ecosystem.

Of course, I had to leave thousands of rocks behind. I selected, from my perspective, the most beautiful and those with useful shapes. They serve as borders and as decoration. Lizards have made their home within the shady protection of overlapping rocks. I have triumphed over the bulldozers with my own visual conception of color and design. I have attempted to live in harmony with nature's life-forms.

Someday, if suburban sprawl overwhelms my private space, I might consider either going back to a city lifestyle or deeper into the wilderness. But what would I do with all my rocks? I cannot leave them. In my imagination I see myself renting a big moving-truck just for the rocks, lifting each rock again, and driving onward. Naturally. (Written 12/04/06)

Until we meet again..............stay sane.

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Copyright 2006 Natalia J. Garland