Oregon’s southeastern quarter is far removed from the populated and forested west side of the State. There are no cities remotely comparable to Eugene or Salem in population. It is a vast, open land of grass, sage, basalt rims and dry lakes. The climate is semi-arid and parts of it are high, cold deserts. To the person driving through it can seem to be uninteresting and barren with only a few ranches and towns along the way. But for those who take the time to look, it is a topography of wonder.
The Oregon desert is anchored in extremes: either too much water or not enough, nighttime freezes and daytime heat. The desert colors are flat at midday but explode to vivid reds, purples and orange at sunrise and sunset. The rim rocks glow as if ignited by neon gas in the hard rock pores.
The skeleton of time is revealed in the desert. The Pleistocene is stripped bare for the eye to see all the way to the beginning of human habitation.
All is revealed here given enough time. History yields cow or sheep skeletons here, a fading wagon wheel and corral there. There is nothing to absorb or moderate the forces that polish, grind and tear at the earth’s skin and our own mental certainty.
There is no barrier or filter between the earth and sky in the high desert. The constellations are more populated with stars, and their light is undiluted.
In the desert there is a symbiosis of the animate and the inanimate. Everything is entangled in a communion of elements forged in the same stars, wrapped in the same gravity. This is a territory before man where there is not a name on every dry lake or trail and sometimes there is no map at all.
The desert cannot be survived without preparation. It is honest in its intention. There is no false sense of security as one might find in other climates. People either love it or hate it. I love it.