It shines on the horizon, a shimmer of something that seems glorious, something to be followed with wide eyes and avid heart. It is an illusion. It will trap you in its simple beauty and lead you far and away beyond the ken of life.
The desert does that. It spells the wanderer into thinking it has life, but just carry on, go a bit further, over that next ridge, and all will be revealed. It won’t. There will be another and another and another. On and on and on.
In the desert, to move is to die. To stay still, to wait, is the only option. Once the wanderer leaves the trail, or the vehicle, it may as well be all over.
Out here, out there, nothing will find the body but ants and sand. Years may pass before the bones rise again to the surface, brown and white and cleaned of flesh. It is the way of things.
The glowing message on the horizon? The trap for the unwary? It gives hope, and hope – out here – is not something to chase, but something to give.
Hope will come when the next vehicle along the tracks sees the broken down fellow traveler. Hope will be lost when it’s found to be abandoned. No one will go beyond the border of the track, not without air support, ground support, water trucks, radio support. Out here, out there, there is no hope, no chance, and that mirage is the only thing of substance.
A short one today, but that’s how it goes sometimes. And yes, I do miss the desert; the smell as the sun rises, the sounds that show just how much life is there if you know where to look, the washes of colour and movement that don’t seem quite real. The big, big open spaces where I can stand on one hummock and sense the rest of the world, where I can see the ‘roos digging in for the day, where the rocks glow with the heat or crackle with the change in humidity – night to day. I miss it, and even when I lived in it, drove through it every day, worked on it, and loved it, there was always the fear, because out here, out there, you are the only person who can offer hope to yourself. And that may be the biggest lesson of all.