In the summer of 1988, I left the familiar confines of my youth, following an unclear path to adulthood. New England was all that I had known. The stone walls, the hardwood forests, and the lobster traps stacked haphazardly on a sun bleached dock were the landmarks of my young existence. My decision to head to the desert southwest at the age of 18 was influenced by many things: a determination to figure out who I was, an escape from family and friends, and the release of a musical album.
Thirty years ago, U2's The Joshua Tree was released. It was a sonic and visual haj that led me to the deserts of Arizona. The black and white cover art encapsulating the dry and barren landscape that awaited me. It was a harshness that mirrored the nation and my outlook on life at that time. It was also a pivotal moment in my existence. My senses came alive with the smells of creosote advancing ahead of the summer monsoon. My eyes burned as I gazed upon the dried and jagged arroyos scarring the red earth and I wondered under sunsets that made me believe in a higher power. It was my Eden. Six years later, I left thinking I would never return. I figured out who I was and had grown to appreciate and identify with being a New Englander. I had wandered the desert long enough.
Last summer, I finally returned with my own family to the desert after a self imposed absence. Much had changed, but much was still the same. The July heat remained stifling, but the landscape continued to speak to me. It was an unexpected homecoming that I had needed. The smell of the desert is unlike anything I have encountered. The memories returned to me, harbingers of my future. Life is cyclical, but it continues to surprise.
'Desert sky...Dream beneath a desert sky...The rivers run but soon run dry...We need new dreams tonight.'