Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Kip's High Desert Book Club

We bought our house in Wonder Valley last August, at the worst possible time – during the height of monsoon season. It was 120 degrees the day we came to inspect the well. I almost fainted in the beating sun walking from the house to the garage. There was no air conditioning on at the time and the refrigerator was unplugged, so there was no way to cool down. Still, I could see the charm of the house and we moved heaven and earth to buy it.

Today, nine months later, I’m sitting in my airy bedroom with the windows thrown open. A cool desert breeze traces over my arms. The air is clean and fresh. A rooster crows dreamily a respectable distance away. American gold finches and tanagers play in the trees. I cannot believe my good fortune to live Wonder Valley.

Last night we hosted Kip’s Hi-Desert Book Club. Though Kip lives in Joshua Tree he sometimes works at the Palms and is no stranger to these parts. Two dozen people showed up to discuss Point Last Seen, written by Hannah Nyala, a former tracker in Joshua Tree National Park. The book is two stories interleaved: one, a story of desert tracking that spans two continents; two, a story of the domestic abuse endured and escaped by the author and her children.

We moved everyone out to the patio and discussed the book as the sun set and the moon rose. Heat lightning flashed over the Cockscombs and a warm breeze brought a promise of rain that never materialized. Jupiter and Venus winked at us over the eaves of the house.

There were quite a few people from Wonder Valley present: Mary and Laura Sibley, Bob Tellefson (the most interesting man in Wonder Valley), and the artist Jill Reinig, among others. People drove out from as far as Joshua Tree and Yucca Valley and no one got lost (as far as we know). They were all impressed by the quiet and the sweeping vistas and mused about looking for property out here.

When I get up before dawn each morning, I walk down my drive way and there’s one point where I can see no lights, just the dark mass that is the Pinto Mountains and it seems I am lost in time. It could be 1680, 1780, 1880, or today. Wonder Valley is a place where time holds a weak grasp and people are able to be, to a greater extent perhaps that other places, whoever they want to be.