I Ran Naked Through the Desert Today

Because I could.

Here on BLM land you can get lost. We’re close enough to civilization that we won’t – the Cibola National Wildlife Refuge is a mile west – but eastward, toward the Palo Verde range, there are miles and miles of desert hills and burro trails and scrub plants and cacti and not much else.

Except, this morning, a lone jogger, clad only in running shoes, sprinting then walking then standing on fields of volcanic rock and sand, defying convention under the November sun.

Boondocking in this sort of wildnerness is jarring, to ones raised by community and socialized in crowds and to some degree finding our identity through the reflections of others.

Which is to say, all of us.

What Rachel and I have in this southern Arizona desert is silence and solitude. The silence breaks when coyotes chain together their group howl, becoming braver in packs, or when flights of Canada geese or sandhill cranes flap aloft in fluttering, ululating fireworks – sudden white crowds exploding into a squawking sky.

Geese need crowds. People don’t.

Wild burros also break the silence, trundling and braying over the next hill, and grackles and starlings shoulder each other to be the most boisterous, to stand out from the crowd for recognition and status.

Only by cacophony do they find identity. Only by rupturing the silence.

The silence breaks out here in the bleak wasteland, but the solitude does not.

And in the unbroken solitude you can act opposite of what’s available in crowds. You can strip off the conventions and socialization and the validation that comes only from others’ approval.

You can stop needing to be so loud.

You can choose on whim and for no reason at all to do something you’ve never done and run naked under the Arizona sky.


  1. sitting on a rock high above the desert floor… quiet except for the wind,
    nothing man made as far as you can make out to the horizon,
    nothing moving, that’s not blown by the wind

    time passes, but doesn’t

    silently and unmoving a very large and very black bird floats slowly up
    to my eye level, no more

    the day is so bright, and the bird so black that he is not there at all,
    he is a hole in the bright blue of the sky,
    his only movement is a slight steadying in the wind

    the moment lasts several lifetimes or only seconds, or did it happen at all
    and then the black bird shaped hole in the universe turns
    and wings away,
    i watch, not really there

    i watch as he gets smaller and smaller,
    and am there to observe the instant …
    he simply disappears

    the desert is sometime the quiet place of gods and the intersection of worlds

    i love it


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