It has been a month since I have arrived in the desert. It is a strange purgatory out here, where time doesnt fit into my normal conception of it. When it is not windy, the silence is chilling. No sound. No distraction. My mind starts to melt over the landscape, traveling to long ago memories or future aspirations.
In many ways this is like being on the bike trip. Long days of physical work where you end up being mostly in your own thoughts. Then nights and breaks of non stop human interaction. The work mostly involves digging holes to put dead plants in them to make them look like they are alive. This is so someone passing on an ATV doesn’t know that there used to be an illegal road there. The desert has a way of hiding the abundance of life that it has and we are trying to make the deserts look alive where it is really dead.
I have free room and free board. I eat well and have money left over to do whatever the hell I want. I am also with 24 other people my age (I have 5 other people in my crew. there are 4 crews total and we all hang out on break.) Everyone has read or is reading Desert Solitaire or Monkey Wrench Gang.
I don’t think most people would say this but the writing on the wall is that people want this job for a good time in a good place with no worries. This internship puts school, job, life on hold and allows for a space to float along. While there is a current of youthful energy that wants to change a dying word, its not flowing through what we do. That has to do with the complexity of what it is that we actually are doing.
We work for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). It is a federally run program that is exclusively a west coast phenomenon. Public land out east is run by state forests, national forests and the like. The BLM’s job is to make the federal land usable for whatever the fuck reason the public wants. There is a cluster of reasons that collide into a messy santorum of issues. People want conservation, wind farms, cattle grazing, off road vehicle usage, camping and mining. The strangest thing about where I work is that there are heards of cows roaming the desert. It is an obscenity even though their effects on the ecology of the land is unknown to me.
Our job of making places off limits to ATVs is actually in their best interest. If the BLM didn’t erase these illegal trails then environmental groups would sue the BLM and off road vehicles would not be allowed on BLM land.
The desert told me that I did not need my recorder to remember my dreams by devouring it with sand.