I recently returned from the first part of my artist residency at the Mojave National Preserve in southern California. The desert environment there is rich, multi-faceted, and full of life that is as diverse as the landscapes I encountered. There are forests of joshua trees, beds of ancient lavas, ephemeral streams that feed cottonwoods, vast playas of evaporite minerals, and huge sand dunes that I can only imagine will become taller as they age. If you know me at all, you know I am fascinated with rocks, and all of these forces are the ways in which the earth creates or destroys the current minerals that it has on hand into new constituent parts. I get now why my geology professor is attuned to this place and loves working here, but I think what I see is a kind of laboratory. There are all sorts of moving parts to this place that can be easily seen (trees, buildings, cars, asphalts, etc don't get in the way of observing here), and if you want to follow a wash for 500 yards, you can. Just watch out for snakes.
This is a short glimpse of my travels along the historic Mojave Road, a dirt road that exists because it was a trail used by regional Native Americans for years as a path between watering holes and as a trade route. The only way missionaries, settlers, or early pioneers entered this desert landscape was because of this well established route. I've stopped to ponder the age and length of this trail, and inspect the "young" lava flow that reaches from the nearby Cinder Cones area and toward the road. It's amazing to think about human and earth's time scales here on the Mojave Road.
Here is where two time periods meet. The time of humans and the time of earth. If these young lavas were flowing anywhere from 8-10,000 years ago, early humans in North America were surely a witness to them. I find it remarkable to think of these events, moved by seeing the site of the basalt still sitting there today, right next to the trail I now walk on, believing somewhere in the myth-enduring part of my brain that this strange tongue of lava has reached its way from the mouth of the earth to lick at the humans walking by.