Letter From The Desert: l'inutilité des mots

It has been a few weeks since I’ve sent one of these. I have felt some reluctance to write. I have lately been considering the possibility that we need not more words but fewer. Words to distract, words to condescend, words to wound. We have more than enough of such words.

The slightest tremor of a yellowing cottonwood leaf.

Words to persuade, words to cajole, words to shame. And yet who is capable of being persuaded these days?

A great rattling of dead leaves above the dog: something large has fled from the branches of a Joshua tree. It flies silently east.

I spent time some weeks ago being provoked to blind and seething outrage by the two-word phrase “witch hunt,” and after that subsided then came along the phrase “bone saw” to transmute that outrage to a deathly stillness. It was, all over again, the false-dead eyes of corporate execs eyeing me from across a hearing room. “Shame about your Jeep. Totally wrecked, you say?”

I have no delusions regarding my importance in the scheme of such things. But: A trickle of water from a canyon wall; palm seedlings four inches high fringe it. Grotesque venality grows when those corporate deadeyes are allowed to prosper. More or less true words are measured against easily demonstrable lies, and granting each equal weight is considered not sophistry but sophistication.

Coyote sprints toward the corner streetlight, turns left, and vanishes into dark.

Fewer truisms, more altruisms. (Too glib.) “You are of course aware Chris that you are using words to make this very bla bla bla.” (Yes, but I said “fewer truisms.”)

The best and hardest truths I know are wordless. Upended layers of varnished rock in the Santa Rosas. Jackrabbit silhouetted against cholla. I step out my door into warm, blue-skied morning, and yet: the thick smell of wet creosote.


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