Hi, I’m Sara, and this is Tiny Revolutions, a weekly-ish dispatch of personal writing and links about becoming who you are. Reply anytime, I love to hear from you.
Every once in a while I lose my shit and book a last minute trip to the desert. It’s one of the best things about living in Los Angeles – the proximity to the Mojave and its hundreds of thousands of acres of emptiness.
I feel like if you live in a city, every once in a while you need some emptiness. It was one of the things that drove me nuts about living in New York, and I still get it in L.A., but it just takes a bit longer for the breaking point to occur. I hate feeling so dang crammed in all the time and suspect that I am constitutionally unsuited to it.
I also had recently stumbled across this book, which I loved intensely from the moment I picked it up, and it’s been exerting a pull on me:
Desert Oracle is the project of one Ken Layne, who once ran Wonkette, which was one of the Gawker family of blogs. You can read more about his story here, but here’s the gist: he got tired of chasing clicks and decided to find something else to do with his life. He moved to Joshua Tree and eventually started Desert Oracle, and then just last year he published the book above, which is the first compilation of stories from the magazine. (There is also a podcast, which is extremely weird and excellent.)
Did I already say I love it? I love it. It’s like holding a little bundle of mystery in your hands. You can read about legends like Yucca Man and UFOs, but then you can also read about the very real (and very horrifying) exploits of the Manson Family in Death Valley and Oppenheimer and co. in Los Alamos.
The desert is filled with both knowable and unknowable phenomena, much like our lives in the city. The only difference is that in the city, you don’t notice the space as much.
Here’s Alan Watts from The Book, which I’ve been reading this weekend:
“The general habit of conscious attention is, in various ways, to ignore intervals. Most people think, for example, that space is “just nothing” unless is happens to be filled with air. They are therefore puzzles when artists or architects speak of types and properties of space, and more so when astronomers and physicists speak of curved space, expanding space, finite space, or of the influence of space on light or on stars. Because of this habit of ignoring space-intervals, we do not realize that just a sound is a vibration of sound/silence, the whole universe (that is, existence) is a vibration of solid/space. For solids and spaces go together as inseparably as insides and outsides. Space is the relationship between bodies, and without it there can be neither energy nor motion.”
Touché. I came out here to escape my perception of feeling “cramped,” but what about all the space around me every day that I’ve been ignoring? It’s there. I’m just choosing to focus my attention on other things.
The main impetus for this weekend’s little sojourn was to carve out some SPACE to work on the book I’m writing, which I have really not been working very hard on. I’ve set the intention to finish it this year, but what does that even mean? So far it’s meant a lot of outlining and thinking and journaling. Which is all great, but I’m starting to itch about PROGRESS. I want to make progress. And what that means is if I don’t create some deadlines and structure, I’ll just continue to outline and think and journal.
So here I am, in the desert, using this space to try to find space in my every day life to write this book. Maybe some day I’ll be like Ken Layne and move here once and for all. It is a tempting thought I have entertained many times over the years. However I’m pretty sure if I did I would then just long for the bustle of the city in the way that I now long for the space of the desert. And the cycle would continue but in reverse.
But you, who knows? For now I’m heading back to L.A., where I’ll try to do a better job of noticing and appreciating the space that’s already in my days instead of longing for an escape to somewhere the space is just a little easier to notice. It’s worth a shot, right?
On to some stuff I liked this week…
It might not happen for a long time,
but one day you run your fingers through the
sand again, scoop a fistful out,
and pat it into a new floor. You can believe in
anything, so why not believe
this will last? The seashell rafter like eyes in the
I'm here to tell you the tide will never stop
I'm here to tell you whatever you build will be
ruined, so make it beautiful.
Sounds from space
I’m enjoying Field Recordings, a podcast in which “audio-makers stand silently in fields (or things that could be broadly interpreted as fields).” Here’s one from a completely different desert: the foothills of Mount Gareja, on the border of Georgia and Azerbaijan.
“listen to the community of madness that you are. You are such an
interesting conversation. You belong here.”
(From a beautiful series of animated poems on the On Being Project’s YouTube channel.)
Advice meant for writers that is actually for anyone:
"Develop yourself until 'strategy' is just not that important. Develop your visible authority and audience on your subject. Develop the kind of invisible authority that comes with emotional health, acceptance, and self-esteem. Develop the kind of authority that comes drop by drop through the awful grace of God, in therapy and recovery meetings and a general giving up on trying to glad-hand your way out of pain. Lean into the pain and the failure instead and let it open and strengthen and deepen and expand you. Fill yourself to the brim with purpose and experience. Fill with something to say. And then watch in wonder as it comes spilling out of you, cool and refreshing and life-altering for parched readers struggling with the same pain you once were."
– Anna Sproul-Latimer, from her newsletter, How to Glow in the Dark
RIP Lawrence Ferlinghetti. (102!!)
Tuesday Night Non-Party
Once it’s possible again, I have high hopes of having in-person get togethers for Tiny Revolutions readers. In L.A., in the desert, on the moon, whatever. In the meantime, we’re meeting on Zoom on Tuesday nights at 7:00 pm PT to be alone together and work on something we’ve been meaning to work on. Come join us.
A Tiny Assignment
What are you longing for? Look around. Is it hidden in plain sight?
Last week I asked you for some input on what to write about. Thank you for your answers! Working on it.
Great post. I grew up in LA, have lived in the Mojave Desert two different times in two different sections, and now live in the Sonoran Desert. In between my desert dwellings I tried to go back to living in LA, which I consider home. I missed the space of the desert, and the air, and the ability to track minute changes in plants, observing the frequency of lizard sightings...there was just too much I missed and now I'm very happily dedicated to being a desert dweller.
Also, I just this past week started working with the space between thoughts and how to notice them. So yes, this is a great post for where I am right now.
That sound you hear, is the sound of the hammer, hitting the nail on the head.