I first fell in love with the desert when my grandmother took me to New Mexico in 8th grade. I packed my bags for this trip not really knowing what to expect, since it was like any other vacation I'd taken thus far in my life. All I knew was that I'd always admired DeeDee's aesthetic and aura, so I was excited to visit somewhere she drew inspiration from. My mom had a penchant for the more feminine things – a little bow here, some pink over there, polka dots and flowers. But DeeDee's style – turquoise gemstones, handmade ceramics, big Georgia O'Keefe prints and midcentury modern furniture – spoke to me far more.
My connection to DeeDee was strong while she was still in her earthly body. As the oldest of eight grandchildren, I was blessed to have spent a lot of time with her, learning about art and adopting her taste for it. In addition to giving me many fine arts supplies, she used to give me old ceramic tiles and terra-cotta bowls and encourage me to create with them. I'd sit on the deck of our beach house with a hammer, pounding away with precision to create small pieces that we'd then line otherwise boring, plain picture frames with. Honestly, they weren't very pretty, but they each vignette told a story and as a young girl looking to express my creative nature, writing that story with her was what I needed more than a masterpiece.
Since she passed into the spirit world, I have maintained a strong bond with her both consciously and in my dream state. But the times I've felt most connected with DeeDee have been on trips back to the desert. The moments where I'm back in that dry air and sharp blue sky contrasting red stone. There's something indescribable about the desert atmosphere. Its crude yet unimaginably sculpted formations are the purest expression of Creation. On my latest trip – this time to Zion National Park – it hit me hard. Sun beaming down, casting its light upon shapes that I can't begin to explain the magnitude of their beauty. Layers of rock formed over centuries with life somehow sprouting out of the most forsaken of nooks. Source energy was palpable. It weighed on me heavily and brought with it DeeDee's presence. Maybe because the environment is so real, so raw, that it forces me to deepen my connection to my own self, which is intrinsically a piece of her, biologically speaking. It reminded me of an excerpt from a favorite book of mine by Terry Tempest Williams:
“It’s strange how deserts turn us into believers. I believe in walking in a landscape of mirages, because you learn humility. I believe in living in a land of little water because life is drawn together. And I believe in the gathering of bones as a testament to spirits that have moved on. If the desert is holy, it is because it is a forgotten place that allows us to remember the sacred. Perhaps that is why every pilgrimage to the desert is a pilgrimage to the self.”
When we left Zion I felt sad because I hate to separate from that aesthetic she and I both adored... upset that my time of deep connection had to come to an end. But I was happy because I knew that I'd replenished it. Walking around barefoot on warm desert rock and tasting desert air on my tongue refueled my creative engine. My aunt had brought along some of DeeDee's ashes and placed her amongst some of the sandstone. We looked at each other and both said the same thing, "she would have loved it here" before allowing ourselves to cry a little.