Notes from the desert

Helga’s Post # 58 — Have you ever wondered what triggers creativity? Something that acts like a fertilizer to the brain that boosts an artist’s imagination, pushing the boundaries? What sensory stimuli give us those magical and fleeting days when our writing is just perfect?

The question occurred to me recently after I arrived at a location totally new to me. That’s where I am writing this post.

I have shed my Vancouver November grubbies of sweaters, socks and fur-lined slippers for sandals, shorts, tank tops and, for much of the day, my swimsuit. In fact it hardly ever gets dry because I am constantly in and out of the pool.

For the first time in my life I am visiting the desert. Not the Lawrence-of-Arabia or the English-Patient famed one, nor the Sahara of Morocco, or Genghis Khan’s Gobi desert. In fact I am staying with friends in the Coachella Valley, just west of Palm Springs.

Anyone unfamiliar with Vancouver in November will not understand the culture shock of stepping from the plane after a mere two and a half hour hour flight into the pure bliss of a blue cloudless sky, a landscape framed with endless palm trees and colour everywhere. From the light pink hue of Oleander blossoms to the deep magenta of Hibiscus flowers all framed with the formidable backdrop of the San Bernardino Mountains to the north and Santa Rosa Mountains to the south.

Pure magic for a visitor from the Wet Coast. Especially the blue sky and clear light.

Vincent van Gogh came to mind. To create his most magnificent paintings he needed to see the particular blue sky characteristic of Provence. He needed that sensory stimulus.   I am sure that the same holds true for countless writers. What is it about a blue sky that so seems to inspire the arts?

Some great books were written in and about the desert. Not necessarily the desert around Palm Springs, but any. I am familiar with some titles, and now I have added a few more to my reading list.

One that I read years ago and found intriguing is The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell. A huge work that is actually four books: Justine, Mountolive, Balthasar, and Cleo. It transported me to a desert far away that felt as if I was living there.

Some others on my reading list:

Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz (ranks amongst the author’s most enduring works)

Desert Solitaire by Edmond Abbey (It’s non-fiction but told like a novel.)

Wet Desert by Gary Hansen (shocking and tense)

Pearl in the Sand by Tessa Ashfar (historical fiction)

There are hundreds more titles, all inspired by a desert location. What is intriguing to me is the passion of the stories and the popularity of desert writing. I would not be surprised  if the impact of the blue sky and brilliant colors have something to do with it. A sensory trigger.

I hope that my surroundings will trigger some of my own creativity during my short stay in the desert. But now it’s time for a break at the pool with a good book. I will add some pictures next time, because iPad is a pain in the butt to do that.

3 thoughts on “Notes from the desert

  1. I just drove through the Palm Springs area last weekend on my to Arizona, and the weather was gorgeous. It finally cooled down in Southern California just in the last couple days.

    Have you ever read anything by Barbara Kingsolver? She has a great way of describing desert landscapes, too.

    • Kingsolver seems to absorb the atmosphere of every location she writes about, then reflect it back in the most brilliant images. Just started her “Flight Behavior” for my book club and am not disappointed.

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