Tales from the Road: Joshua Tree Where Have You Been All My Life?

Joanna Riedl
Mar 31, 2017 · 4 min read

…desperately seeking desert.

What was I thinking getting an Airbnb in the middle of the desert? With anxiety, the unexpected hitchhiker I picked up who was riding shotgun in my mind, really getting in the way of my Zen, I was starting to wish that I had chosen a motel instead of the buzzy Dome in the Desert as my homestead while in Joshua Tree. When I chatted with my mom on the way out of Ojai she told me not to “lose my shit” mentally once I hit the arid, vacant fields of the desert on my journey. “There’s really nothing out there, Jo.” She said. Whatever mom, I’ve been to Palm Springs before.

But as I drove through Ventura (and thought of my dear Rhoda), I started to get taken for a ride by the passenger in my head once again, anticipating the desolation of the desert, when my phone lit up. It was my friend Annie in LA who I would be staying with when I reached the City of Angels on my final leg of the trip. She was confirming our appointment at the Korean Spa next week and did I want a scrub and massage (…is that even a question that ever needs to be asked?) I responded all caps YES as I pulled off to use the bathroom. I let her know I was feeling a teeny bit anxious again and then headed into Chevron to pee. When I came out, I was greeted with an audio message from her reminding me how strong I was and bringing up all the powerful women I had behind me. Urging me to remember that when I was feeling a little uneasy or afraid, I could simply channel their energy. And just like that, the power of almost a hundred bad-ass women I know became the wind in my sails, pushing me forward.

Windows down and music all the way up, three hours later as I descended towards the Yucca Valley, the scene had an opposite effect than the one that was cautioned to me by my mother. I immediately felt grounded and safe. First came the wind turbines, hundreds of them sprawled across the fields. Their magnificent unassuming stature: tall, white, graceful, powerful. Effortlessly churning energy made out of thin air, right from the source. Like myself and the women in my life, they were pushing us all forward. While I was mesmerized by their beauty and power, the rocky, sandy mountains sprung up around me in what felt like a moment, cradling me as I made my way into Joshua Tree. In an instant I knew I was supported and guarded by her. Mother Nature.

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Driving into Joshua Tree I had a certain resolve and excitement that I hadn’t felt yet in the couple of days I’d been on the road. The earth began reflecting back everything that was inside of me and it was (I was) full of magic. It was about four o’clock when I arrived and after quickly dropping my stuff at my Airbnb, I knew I had to get back outside and formally introduce myself to her majesty. Into Joshua Tree State Park I went. I drove up the road in awe, every single tree and rock formation was full of character. The droopy trees were begging to be Instagrammed hashtag mood and the perky beauts looked like they were reaching for the stars. I pulled over as soon as I could and just walked out into the field. There was a magnetic force. It was limitless. The sun was shining on my face and my heart was full. Every deep breath I took felt like the nourishment my soul always wanted but never knew she needed. Of course I had to take pictures. I needed to capture and share this moment but no iPhone camera or piece of metal with a zoom lens could effectively communicate what was happening. With my blonde hair, tan skin and green army jacket, I blended into the landscape. On the inside my warm light and strength shined right through. I was home.

What do you know, this whole time I thought I was passionate about dessert, turns out my God can’t spell for shit.

After the sun set, my unwelcome passenger was nowhere to be found and my eyes were seeing clearly — through my heart and not my head. I grabbed a Subway footlong and some Cool Ranch Doritos (hey, the heart wants what it wants!) and headed back down the dark and deserted dirt road home to the Dome in the Desert. As I pulled up in the pitch black of night, I got out of the car, dragged open the metal gate, drove in, closed the gate, got to the front door and entered the code on the keypad. Once inside I could not figure the lights out for the life of me. Ugh, none of the switches were working. I calmly made my way to the bedroom and turned on the Himalayan Sea Salt lamp on the bedside table. From there I navigated through the dimly lit, small rotunda of a house and found the rest of the lights. I ate my sandwich, put on The Voice and settled in for the night feeling safe, protected and strong.

The next day after morning yoga, meditation and a delicious breakfast at Crossroads Cafe, I couldn’t wait to get back in the park to explore. I was ready to spiritually connect with Mother Nature — and myself.

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