What a Long, Sick Hitch it’s Been

With a panoramic view of break before our eyes we fluttered our feathers and flocked from our humble Ridgecrest abode-that, infrequently inhabited, still fails to feel like home. Without wings we took flight in cars along California highways and in planes pushing eastward. The holiday break overwhelmed our senses. With sounds of San Francisco, brackish sea breezes, flashing faces of families and friends, we hustled and bustled. We were fueled by caffeine. We relished in the chance to push the snooze-once, twice, wait…for what reason did we even set these ticking, tiresome alarms? We found ourselves surrounded again by the electronic buzz and abundant amenities that demarcate the differences in our desert and domicile lives. And before we had the chance to consider what really constitutes a period of revitalizing rest, we found ourselves bouncing along the barren roads that would bring us back to our quiet camp nestled at the base of Fremont Peak. If given the choice, perhaps we would have preferred to stay where comfort is constructed and the familiar has a human face or at least lies at our feet. Maybe we would have waved a wayward farewell to the dust clouds and creosote stands. Perhaps we would have considered spending the year of the snake in a place where the slithering creatures reside in tanks. Given no other option, and committed to at least another twelve days, however, we did the only thing we could: we dutifully returned to the desert. Hitch five consisted of our longest stretch of uninterrupted restoration work. Compounded by the fact that on any given day at least one of our crew members was struck down by the flu, the risk was run that exhaustion, stress, relative monotony, and the coldest nights encountered thus far, would erode our community carefully constructed on communication and cheer. When met with such adversity, however, we vivaciously responded with a collective spirit that could not be corroded. Whether taking on extra chores, combating encroaching negativity with a joke, or checking in with those under the weather a sense of solidarity and pro-sociality could be felt over the frigid nights in the field and fevered chills in town. While the pace of our restoration efforts was slowed, our commitment to creating a presence of conservation was still physically manifested. Watching the sun set, I watched the shadows of creosote bushes and a distant Joshua tree fall. For a moment, I felt at odds with an environment where only the hardiest and best-adapted survive. Despite our inability to absorb the few centimeters of rain that fall on this cracked earth, however, I considered that perhaps we have begun to strike a balance in this harsh ecosystem. Chilled and almost completely enveloped in the subtle, natural movements we humans identify as silence, I was pulled back into the glowing white wall by the soft rise of laughter and the promise of artificial warmth. Until next time, -The Rands Crew By: Bridget Tevnan