Ruin and Sunshine

The Mojave is just minutes from the developed borders of Lancaster,California. It infiltrates the city too. You can almost skip across town from desert space to desert space, Joshua Trees providing some semblance of shade as you go…but to the north and west of town things open up.

The desert takes over.

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Out at 185th Street, a decrepit windmill tries to spin and turn with the wind.

It’s 105 degrees today. The sky is a perfectly clean burn.

Two twins grab my attention. Twin, small grain silos.

We’ve come out to get some photos of an abandoned house for a film project, so the two houses on the property should get most of my attention but they don’t. Something about the roundness of the silos gets me instead. Maybe it’s the shape, like Monet’s haystacks. Maybe it’s the strangely demur aspect of these, sister and brother spirits, standing together though they offer each other no shelter, only companionship.

Inside, they’re empty.


The property was once a ranch, a “working farm”. Now the ceilings of the chicken houses have fallen in. The roofs of the horse stables have collapsed. Wild grass, dead and burnished to gold stands up inside. Out here, I wish I was a  photographer because the place is beautiful in a ruined, poetic way. Time is evident here. Powerful.


This is the quiet place where your feet crunch on dry weeds and you pick your footsteps well, careful not to step on the broken glass of the trespassers who have come before you, the shotgun shells of people looking for a safe place to be wild, to destroy with bullets, bottles, and spray-paint what is already fully bent on a path to an arid decay.

You look down at your feet, glad you decided to wear shoes instead of sandles, watching for snakes even though the sun is bright, because this place is wild, without guns or shouting. It’s wild on its own.

And this comes to you clearly as the windmill occasionally makes its metallic groan – this is a place that doesn’t need you. It is complete. It is finished. You walk around it, like we did, taking in the hot air, the bated breath of one listening hard, full of the sense that this is a scene now, a setting, a place where once things happened but where they won’t happen anymore.

Though time is present in the fallen beams you feel like you’ve stepped out of time into a static place, like you’re walking around a photograph.


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