The desert compels me, and I can’t really say why.
I grew up in lushly forested rolling mountains. Piles of snow in the winter, thunderstorms in the summer, trees everywhere, and brambles and brush so thick between them that straying off the beaten path simply wasn’t plausible. The soil was rich and dark, the plants abundant, and wildlife common and healthy.
When I was a teenager, exploring the new world wide web, I started a message-board role-playing game set on a desert world called Terole. At one point, it had over 500 characters playing around in the tiny strip of habitable land on that planet, with dozens of species and cultures – all user-created. Terole was a harsh, dry, dusty, hot environment. It was nothing like the home I loved.
A few years ago, I fell in love with another desert planet – Ryarna. A far cry from sci-fi Terole, Ryarna featured technomagic, a singular native alien race, and bestial machines powered by animal souls from across the universe. It was, again, dry and dusty and hot, and the metal beasts had replaced much of the native “fleshie” life, eroding the ecosystems even more. I’ve written several short stories and three novels in that setting. It captivates me.
Shortly after that, I moved to Nevada, a high-altitude desert. Despite not planning to stay for very long, I wound up being there for almost two years. I bonded with the land in unexpected, unplanned ways. It’s a far cry from my ideal environment in which to live, but I do miss it. There is an emptiness to the air and a texture to the land that is unmistakable.
Last year, I wanted to retell the myths of the Destruction of Mankin and the Distant Goddess in fictional form, so I created a parallel to ancient Egypt, populated by animal-people tribes instead of humans for my novella. Despite the richness of the Nile-equivalent area in the setting, the entire story takes place in the red-sanded desert outside the river valley.
And of course, there’s my study of Egypt itself and my love of its gods and Their theophanies (animal symbols), like the deathstalker scorpion, which has invaded my dreams half a dozen times. I have gone into the desert in the day and in the night, both physically and spiritually. It is the stark opposite of my home environment, my favorite environment, but there is, nonetheless, something inexorably compelling about the desert that holds my fascination through fiction and myth.
Perhaps it’s the same complementary attraction that draws the Water-child to the flame, but this Appalachian native can’t seem to stop staring, transfixed, towards the empty dunes and burning winds.
This post brought to you as part of the Pagan Blog Project.