Friday, June 17, 2011

The desert, solitaire

Desert mornings always bring me back to Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire.
Vast mornings, animals crawling along the desert floor, heat building, sweat falling.
Sunlight so bright - you cannot squint enough to block it.
Water in your canteen - so hot it burns your lips.
And wild horses who have no need for a stable, a stall, or your hay. 

In Desert Solitaire, Abbey presents a story titled "The Moon-Eyed Horse". The moon-eyed horse wasn't a wild horse, he was an independent horse. He had a been owned, tamed, branded. He was a gelding, a worker. And he had problems. Once he got free, he never returned. Abbey wanted to find him and keep him. But Moon-Eye had no use for Abbey, no use for being kept. For ten years, Moon-Eye had been a desert horse. He had no need to go back.

Abbey searched and searched, and did find Moon-Eye and tried to coax him to his side. "You've been out here in the wilderness long enough, old man. It's time to go home."(pg. 165)

Moon-Eye watched Abbey. And watched.

"My head ached from the heat and glare and for a moment I wondered if this horselike shape in front of me was anything more than a hallucination." (pg 166)

“But that horse wouldn’t come, though I waited a full hour by the sun. The horse moved only once in all that time, lowering his head for a sniff at a bush near his foreleg.” (pg 167)

"He waited. I squatted on my heels and passed my forefinger, like a windshield wiper, across my forehead, brushing off the streams of sweat. My head felt hot, damp, feverish. "What's the matter with you, Moon-Eye?" (pg 168)

"The horse stood motionless as a rock. He looked like a part of that burnt-out landscape." (pg 170)

“We waited then, the horse and I, enduring the endless afternoon, the heartbreaking heat, and passed the time as best we could in a one-sided conversation. I’d speak a sentence and wait about ten minutes for the next thought and speak again. Moon-Eye watched me all the time and made no move.”  (pg 170)

Finally, Abbey gives up. "We faced each other across some fifty feet of sand and rock. No doubt for the last time, I tried to think of something suitable to say but my mouth was so dry, my tongue so stiff, my lips so dried-out and cracked, I could barely utter a word." (pg 171)
followed by "... (I) started homeward, trudging over the clashing stones and through the sand down-canyon towards my pony and Salt Creek. Once, twice, I thought I heard footsteps following me but when I looked back, I saw nothing." (pg 171)

The desert, solitaire.

Quotes from Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire, Ballantine Books, NY, 1968.

14 comments:

altadenahiker said...

thanks to your words and pictures, and albeit against my better judgement as these stories always make me cry, I'll read the book.

Banjo52 said...

Nice passages and nice photos. I really feel the desert here--or convince myself I do. It's hard for me to imagine living in it, even as a human with A/C. But an animal that's really living out there, really in it? -- probably wishing for nothing other, as long as the water holds out? Another world.

The Retired One said...

gorgeous shots...I love seeing them because I have never been to the desert..it is on my bucket list for sure.

Thérèse said...

Images sticking so closely to Edward Abbey's text and explanations...

Brenda's Arizona said...

AH, yes, you will cry. If not for the horse, for the desert.

There is something of beauty about the desert. Not the urban desert, not the cities in a desert, but the desert itself. Retired One, I hope you see the real desert someday and aren't disappointed! I wish Edward Abbey would be your guide!

sealaura said...

Hi there friend!

Love the images of the desert, I have to say I do miss it. B and I loved going to Palm Springs on the weekends and soak it in. Don't get me wring life on the coast is great, but I do miss that heat and imagery. Hope you are enjoying your weekend!

David L Macaulay said...

nice Brena - love the desert light. Oh I finally found your comments on my blog from two months ago. I'd agree Tobago sounds great.

altadenahiker said...

True to my word, the book arrived today. Looking forward to it.

Brenda's Arizona said...

Karin, hope you find the book worthy!

Laura, coast life sounds just lovely as you write about it. Do you miss your inland days? Give the two pups a rub for me!

Michelle said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Pat Tillett said...

Love this post. the photos and words are really good. I'll check out Desert Solitaire for sure!

Pasadena Adjacent said...

I think I've read it (or saw the movie). Are these true wild horses? I think I may have seen some recently near Gallop NM

OceanoAzul.Sonhos said...

the desert are so hard, i enjoyed reading your text. beautiful photos
oa.s

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