another planet, another lap around the sun
May 13, 2017
Today is my birthday. That means a few things. First, it means I’m another year older. Second, it means I get to do whatever I want. And third, it means I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on the past year.
This year, as with every year, I have had the incredible opportunity to continue breathing and walking this earth, for which I am very thankful—but this year I feel more grateful than ever. I started my 31st lap around the sun in Northern California, drove to Chicago via Niagara Falls with my brother, went to several new cities, and had my first photography exhibit—and that was just the first month.
So, where to begin as to why I am so grateful? I’m not really sure—but for my birthday, I like to remember something from my year that made me feel happy and free—and nothing makes me feel quite so free, yet so small—both physically and figuratively—as the desert.
In January, I spent three days in Death Valley—my favorite national park (so far). I’d been there before, but the park is so gigantic you could spend a whole year there and not come close to seeing it all. Aside from being overwhelmingly expansive, it’s like a different planet. From the playa to the sand dunes, it’s really more like several different planets—but either way, it certainly doesn’t feel like Earth.
It’s impossibly beautiful, with sweeping cloudscapes, massive salt pans, vibrantly colored rock formations, and loooong, straight roadway without the slightest suggestion of quantifiable distance. You can camp way up high at 5,000 feet to escape the heat of the desert floor, or drive out to the racetrack playa and try to catch the mysterious sailing rocks in action (but you’ll be waiting a while). You can huff and puff up to the top of the highest sand dune, or you can stand at 200 feet below sea level. Or you can check out Peter Lik’s gallery at Death Valley Junction, glowing under the night sky.
I’ve seen a lot of this country—45 states, 3 cross-country road trips, and an estimated 25,000+ miles of open road. But there’s something about the desert—the eerily barren, unsettlingly unfamiliar, awesome vastness—that somehow makes me feel alone and yet tightly connected with every piece of the Universe all at once. And for that, I am thankful.
To contribute to the National Park Foundation, which works to help keep these parks beautiful for us to enjoy, please visit their website here.