Frowning in the Desert

Standing atop a dune, he truly comprehended the connection between sand and glass. Tumbling, slipping and sliding his way up the miniature hill, he’d cut his shins and forearms on the stinging sand. His hands were scraped raw. There were tiny grains of sand – grains of glass? – inside every fold of his body, cutting and scraping away uncomfortably. It was incredible to him that such small flecks of matter could sting so much.

The desert was not his home. He never intended to make it one. In fact, he hoped that he would, very soon, be miles away from the place. The broken-down plane that lay some yards away seemed to mock him, telling him he would never find his home again. He’d tinker with the engine tomorrow; today, tonight, he couldn’t stand the thought of being defeated by a machine he’d mastered through long years of study. And to think that he could have been a painter!

The desert around him was too vast to contemplate. He knew he would go mad if he tried very hard. So he decided to accept it in chunks; that night, all he needed to accept was the discomfort of the sand in his body. Thirst, hunger, loneliness and despair – these he’d leave for the following days.

Sliding down the dune, he returned to the shadow of his plane. He didn’t notice the beauty in the fact that there was a shadow at nighttime, nor did he notice the stars that lit up the sky like the brightest Christmas trees back home. He didn’t think, yet, of the secrets that the desert might hold or the treasure implied in those secrets.

He also didn’t think of the boy who would wake him up when dawn came; he didn’t know anything about him yet. Although he hated grown-ups and refused to admit he was one, he never thought that night of the sheep he’d be drawing in the morning or of the rose he’d be introduced to. So much was in store for him as he lay down to sleep, rather hopelessly trying to brush sand off his hands, but at that moment he could only frown and begin to weep.

Seeing The Milky Way

I was ten when my family and I took a trip to the Sinai Desert in Egypt. We drove down all night long and arrived in the morning. We hadn’t booked a hotel, since we weren’t planning on sleeping in a big resort on the beaches of the Red Sea. No, we preferred to find one of the small groups of huts to rent out – “chushot” as they’re called – and rent ourselves a couple of huts for the week we were planning on staying.

We found the most perfect spot. A man who had just started up his hut rental spot was glad to welcome us as his first customers. He was a chef and had studied in France and so despite our protests he cooked a couple of serious meals while we were there. The huts were rudimentary, but then that’s what we’d wanted – there were a couple of sandy mattresses and thin blankets in each hut, and the windows were just shutters which we threw wide open during the night, trying to will a breeze to enter the stifling rooms. The only time we ever spent in those huts was at night, to sleep. During the rest of our days and evenings, we enjoyed our secluded and empty beach – no one in sight except for us and the manager’s friends who visited him from Nueba, the nearest city. We snorkeled, saw exotic fish and beautiful coral reefs. We lay in the sun, we played backgammon, we walked around the markets of Nueba – it was the most restful and idle vacation I’d ever been on, and I haven’t been on a similar one since.

The trip is a blur to me, the memories all fading into each other and forming a short montage of what we’d done during that week. However, one night stands out crystal clear in my memory.

The moon rises not from the sea, but from the mountains in Sinai, and so it seems to rise very late because it takes it so long to rise above the mountains and be visible. One night, the full moon, it rose very late. Until it rose, the sky was this vast and endless velvet blanket above us, sprinkled with a million stars, all twinkling brightly. We were so far away from the big hotels and from the city that when we extinguished the lamps we had, we could see the stars perfectly. We could have counted them one by one if we’d wishes. I felt so small, so insignificant that night, because I saw The Milky Way – that ribbon of stars that is the basis of our galaxy’s name. It was so plain and easy to see – right there, above me, a river of stars so dense they seemed like a long white cloth spread across the heavens. I’d never felt or seen the full scope of the sky like that before.

It was, to say the least, overwhelming. But there is something wonderful in looking up and seeing how big the world really is and how small and insignificant your life is. There’s a sort of relief to it.

Surreal

My mind is blank.

My mind is blank.

My mind is blank.

But out of the darkness, or perhaps the blinding whiteness, that is the blankness of my mind, I settle on an odd image – it is the image of a desert. Endless dunes of sand, a warm night breeze ruffling the sands around my ankles – but the sky, the sky is what my blank mind focuses on. The sky which is full of a myriad stars, thousands upon thousands of them twinkling in every direction which my eyes can focus on. The stars are spread out every which way, the thick band of the milky way shining brightly through the middle, and the moon’s brightness taking away a patch of stars as it outshines them. So many of those stars don’t exist anymore.

I feel like I should want to be the Little Prince, fallen out of the sky and managing not to worry about my fate. I wish I could worry only about wanting a sheep and a glass cover for my rose, and a snake to bite me and take me back home. I feel like there would be something peaceful about saving someone and bringing him to a well and then leaving him forever, with only the memory of laughter to make the stars bright to him.

My mind is blank.

My mind is blank.

My mind is blank.