February 15, 2011

Dead Wood, Cactus, and Scrub

The Desert Has Many Teachings

In the desert,
Turn toward emptiness,
Fleeing the self.

Stand alone,
Ask no one’s help,
And your being will quiet,
Free from the bondage of things.

Those who cling to the world,
Endeavor to free them;
Those who are free, praise.

Care for the sick,
But live alone,
Happy to drink from the waters of sorrow,
To kindle Love’s fire
With the twigs of a simple life.

Thus you will live in the desert.

Translated by Jane Hirshfield


  1. I'm not a desert person but I never stop admiring your beautiful shots...
    I'd be afraid of snakes, scorpions... :)

  2. Gorgeous shots. The light is fantastic. Delicious textures. Inspirational. Thank you

  3. Amazing that the writing is from so long ago. I for one appreciate the words today as I have let go of so much of my worldly possessions and live such a simple life that brings freedom and joy. You capture the perfect images to go with the words. You are a true artist.

  4. Devastatingly beautiful, both poetry and photos... I can see the desert is getting into your soul. It has a way of doing that...

  5. Fabulous texture and movement, stripped to the bone like desert life.

    wv: disert
    A short talk about living in the desert.

  6. I was fascinated by a plant in the desert called the Devil's Claw. It is such a perfect picture of adaptation to its environment. It has a hard elongated seed pod, one end of which, has two long curving prongs, or horns. I have picked up these and dropped them to the ground over and over, and they invariably land, prongs up. They are a kind of hitchhiker. Any horse, mule, coyote, gopher, winds up with a devil's claw clinging to their fur. Later it is dislodged in a new location, thus spreading the propagation of the plant across the desert. The plant is frequently found along arroyos or rivers such as the Rio. There they wait for a flood water which they absorb, causing the pods to burst and spill its seeds onto a wet ground. Amazing. Like you say, the desert can give you a lot to think about. I love the photos!

  7. These are the textures and colors of my life. The composition of these photos as always is exceptional. Live simply so others may simply live.

  8. Powerful work. Some of your best — again.

  9. You are doing a wonderful job of expressing yourself through your art. This post is awesome!
    I wish I knew how to make my pictures look as cool as these.

  10. Oh I ADORE the pix of the cactus! Am a great fan of them in their natural surroundings (not that fussed of them in pots etc), captured beautifully!

  11. Fabulous as always, love the drama of the first shot.

  12. Hello Stickup
    We can imagine the space. We can imagine its vastness. We can imagine its emptiness ..
    wonderful solitude,wonderful images...and a perfect text...really a magic place..a magic moment..:o)
    see you soon..:o)

  13. It took me so long looking at the fantastic top composition that I almost forgot to scroll down. What amazing textures! And, of course, I love the cactus pic too.

  14. Wow! the Mojave Desert! I was thinking around Santa Barbara... These photos are amazing and paired with the poetry bring so many images to mind: sometimes alone and desperate, sometimes purpose and want. I love the cacti paired with water...

  15. Would it be amiss to say that this piece about the desert is simply dessert ? Like a great cheesecake after a fine meal...

  16. Great Site. Thanks! Heres a true story of mine in return.


    There was a time when I felt like (my) death was close to me. I ignored the eery feelings for awhile, chocking them up to pessimism, but eventually I faced the strengthening force, first by admitting to my self that it existed. Left Eye got this far, but recognizing spirits isn't rocket science for god's sake. You have to fight shit like this, not freeze like a deer caught in the headlights!


    It was 1986 and I was in Davenport, Iowa, when I finally decided to face the Reaper before he faced me. Since the Reaper has no face, I'm speaking figuratively.

    I was sitting on a bar stool when a fellow came in asking if anyone wanted to get a tattoo. We chatted, and before too long I was the customer that he was looking for. We left the bar and went to a little garage space that he tattooed out of. The scene was totally unprofessional, as far as tattoo shops go, but since I was a carny (carnival guy) it wasn't anything new to me. I stopped the artist from apologizing for the place and we got down to the business of picking something out to tattoo on me.

    There wasn't a lot to choose from, no walls of colorful flash or volumes of designs just a single, thinly filled, loose leaf binder. Having never wanted a skull tattoo, I surprised myself by selecting one with a black rose between it's teeth. "That's the Black Rose Of Death tattoo," the needler told me. "Perfect," I proclaimed! "It's just what I need to fight the reaper. Put it on my left arm where I can keep my eye on him.¨

    I believe that the left represents the spiritual side and the right represents the physical side, so my tattoos are placed accordingly. One month later, in Chicago, I was stabbed (in the heart and stomach) to death. The doctor that saved me, said that I have a new birthday and... I still have that tattoo, too.

  17. this is so wonderful and pure - i am speechless

    what a beautiful soul you have...

  18. These great shapes, with amazing texture. I liked the editing. The light and color as is always the strong point. A hug.

  19. this heart felt poem goes so well with these beautiful photographs. a joy to see this early morning.


  20. I so love this post, each and every image (especially the one of the cactus) and the poem (was unfamiliar with it and the poet).

    Am offering the link to a post I did about the Alvord Desert and Steens Mountain in Oregon (my photos are not the quality of yours in any way) with excerpts from CES Wood's epic poem, here.

  21. (This is a copy of my reply to you at my blog so you won't have to go back there!)...
    Oh, that is great that you will have a copy of the book to take to the Mojave with you! I had a bookseller search for an original printing of A Poet in the Desert (decades ago, before the internet) and she found one. I took that little treasure to Steens and the Alvord with me on five different trips (it is there with me in the photo in my blog header). Later, my husband bought me the book titled Wood Works-The Life and Writings of Charles Erskine Scott Wood, and it containsA Poet in the Desert. As my original was so expensive I would take the newer edition to the desert next time I am lucky enough to go. CES Wood is one of my (few) heroes.

  22. Beautiful photos!
    I am a desert person and these are amazing!!!

  23. Thanks for the link back. The dead wood reminds me of Bristle cone pine. I recall you saying you wanted to explore that area (I 395). I like how you combine text and image, so much so, that I want to throw you bones of beauty.

    The desert - "Stand alone, Ask no one’s help, And your being will quiet, Free from the bondage of things."

    it's the secret attraction of the mystics

    btw: the twisted juniper reminds me of an Antelope Valley housing tract on the other side of Pear Blossom highway. It's where the areospace engineers built there homes.