Solitude and creativity
“One hundred twelve degrees under the merciless sun. The air seems to burn with invisible fire. Scrawny scrub and cacti defy the baking earth. Cicadas sing their shrill lamentations. A moth meanders by and a snake slips under a rock…”
A snake? Yikes! I should have looked up snakes before I left. A person could die out here! The Sonoran Desert at the height of summer should be stifling and menacing, but dammit, it’s beautiful and it makes me want to write. This has been one of my most productive weeks ever. What is it about desolation and isolation that bring out the creative urges?
The American Romantic poet James Russell Lowell said that “solitude is as needful to the imagination as society is wholesome for the character.” After last week’s beautiful connectedness with a society of LGBT writers at the Lambda Literary writers’ retreat, a highly productive week of contemplation and planning and writing has been an unanticipated boon.
One hundred four degrees in the dark and Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs is full of life. People are venturing out of their air-conditioned lairs like nocturnal mammals, big-eyed, bushy-tailed and ready to meet the world. This is one of the most inclusive events I’ve seen in a long while. The happy crowd milling about wouldn’t be more diverse if it were handpicked for a movie shoot: all ages, genders, ethnicities, classes, and orientations mingle quite happily.
The vendors are as diverse as their customers. One booth is fully stocked with campy gowns and boas, presumably for gentlemen, while a bit further south the police are selling fundraising t-shirts and a bit further north a large man is stirring an aromatic batch of kettle corn in a massive pot over an open fire that lights up the street.
The food on offer ranges from the standard bratwurst on a bun to Mexican tacos and enchiladas to pungent Spanish paella rich with saffron, shrimp, and mussels. There is lots of music, as well. An orchestra encamped at a main intersection belts out big band numbers while farther along a lone guitarist plays a haunting electric solo and farther still a big bear of a man in a leather kilt plays the cello.