There is something in the air around here. In the desert. In the place we gather to string together our dislocated lives into some kind of community. I notice it softly at first. The rumblings. The stirring. A sense of providence or simply substance. It is the deeper stuff. And how it calls to each of us with its coaxing. I listen. To the sound of 100 people excitedly talking. The beginning of a week, but I know it is the beginning of much more for many of them. It is one of those moments.
The Joshua Trees reach out like dislocated bodies wanting to shake your hand. The desert sand is dirty. The wind picks up. The sky begins to grumble. A lightning flash. We are standing in the middle of the National Park and the clouds are gathering around us like they are deciding what to do, how ferocious to become. Their rumblings turn louder and we walk a little faster as the rain falls a little harder. A friend is slightly panicked. Another is in glee. And me, I am feeling it again, the rumbling outside, the coaxing, the stirring, it is a noise that I hear inside. Flashes of lightning and the desert is getting darker and the rain begins to fall in torrent. There is still too far to go on our walk and the night is soon to come and so we decide to turn back. I turn around and then around again and I turn my face up to the rain and I am turning in a circle and the Joshua Tree’s are all reaching higher and this is one of those moments.
She holds my hand as she tells me of her mother and another wipes away a tear as she tells me of the years of a broken back and chronic pain. He stands up in front of us all and says that he would have jumped if a picture that Brooke created hadn’t come to his mind. Brooke holds him as he finishes. Brooke holds so many. She has really large hands. I know they feel tired sometimes. The day before this one and one man told me of his loneliness. Another of his choice to believe in himself. She screamed out that she should be adored. He yelled of his courage. She called to the sky that she was worthwhile. And in all the stories that crept from once closed mouths I realised, this was one of those moments.
We came running. She called us. The night sky was alive she said. And we doubted. But only for a moment. We walked out into the open and above us the world was exploding into colour. A rainbow in the dead of night. A rocket soaring through the sky. I stood with tears in my eye. Of all the things I never expected this. Childhood dreams exploding supernova in the sky. It was one of those moments.
He placed fingers to keys and began to play. I didn’t notice at first. In conversation about nothing in particular until his voice called out sweet over all the other sounds and it held within it a passion and a pain and a man who wished he could be more than all he felt he was. And it was there again. The stirring. And I wasn’t the only one to feel it. Within moments there was the planning of a filming and a group of people stood behind him as he sang his song the next morning, the camera capturing this song that was more than a song. It just so happened to be, one of those moments.
An early morning rise before the sun had even begun its revolution and I was walking through the desert to a camera that was waiting to shoot me 360 degree. The camera was a friend and we both stood side by side to watch the rise. And I spoke the words of my poem and the camera caught them well and it is new technology and virtual reality and I am pleading to the camera and to the world that beneath the darkness their lies beauty and I rise to the peak of the poem and the desert carries the sound all the way to the sun and I come to the end of the poem just as the sun dances over the horizon and it is all the glory of the new day and I tell the people to remain, to slow down, to the see the beauty. It was a moment.
I give so many awkward activities to my students and now I am the one walking in circles amidst a thrall of bodies doing the same. Brooke tells us to stop and stand beside someone and there is a woman in front of me who turns and Brooke tells us to look the other in the eye and to be seen and to try and see and she is looking at me, seeing me, straight through me, into me and I know she feels the same. Tears are brimming for both of us. A circle wraps around us. We are but two amidst the 100 and I wonder at the amount of circles falling over these couples tonight. One of those moments.
He put his hand upon my shoulder and it was one simple gesture but it was enough. A moment.
She danced in the dusty twilight. A moment.
He wondered what the point of it all was, if it wasn’t changing the world. A moment.
She gave me a note, in a book, it made me cry. A moment.
He rose so high and graceful, his hand in just the right position for this photo. A moment.
She looked at me. It was all she needed to do. A moment.
The stars. A moment. The light on the floor. A moment. The monkeys in my brain. A moment. A poem. A moment. One more moment. Another…
Piece by piece and and story by story and person by person the community that was to last only three short days came together and stitched thread around one another. And now I have left and it is back to a plane ride and tomorrow a whole new group of friends to be made and students to teach and I am exhausted already, but I know something that, at least for this moment, blows away the exhaustion. It is the realising that I get to do this. That we get to do this. That this is life. It is one connection and another and a moment and another and a coaxing and a stirring and a dreaming and a believing and a fighting for the truth that we each are worth all this beauty and all this substance. And whether this feeling and this community and this beauty lasts a moment or a lifetime, it was something that I can open my mouth and say, ‘I was there for that. I held those moments. Or in actuality. They held me. Each of us. Held.
There is something in the air around here. In the desert. In the place we gather to string together our dislocated lives into some kind of community…
Thankyou to my incredible friend Brooke Shaden and all the outstanding ones who worked their butts off to put this on. Thankyou to all the new people who I got to meet for trusting me with your stories. Thankyou to all the old friends for holding me. Thankyou to the cherished ones who spoke into my life this weekend in so many important ways.
Thankyou Joshua Tree.