You shall never see elsewhere...

I'm reading The California Deserts: An Ecological Rediscovery by Bruce Pavlik.  There is a chapter on the history of human interaction with California's deserts, and Mr. Pavlik has an excerpt from the writings of John Van Dyke, a professor who visited the California deserts and in 1902 wrote:

The desert has gone a-begging for a word of praise these many years.  It never had a sacred poet; it has in me only a lover.

Is then this great expanse of sand and rock the beginning of the end?  Is that the way our globe shall perish? Who can say? Nature plans the life, she plans the death; it must be that she plans aright.  For death may be the culmination of all character; and life but the process of development.  If so, then not in vain these wastes of sand.  The harsh destiny, the life-long struggle which they have imposed upon all the plants and birds, and animals have been but as the stepping-stones of character...

Not in vain these wastes of sand.  And this time not because they develop character in desert life, but simply because they are beautiful in themselves and good to look upon whether they be life or death.  In sublimity--the superlative degree of beauty--what land can equal the desert with its wide plains, its grim mountains, and its expanding canapoy of sky! You shall never see elsewhere as here the dome, the pinnacle, the minaret fretted with golden fire at sunrise and sunset; you shall never see elsewhere as here the sunset valleys swimming in pink and lilac haze, the great mesas and plateaus fading into blue distance, the gorges and canyons blanked full of purple shadow.  Never again shall you see such light and air and color; never such opaline mirage, such rosy dawn, such fiery twilight.  And wherever you go, by land or by sea, you shall not forget which you saw not but rather felt -- the desolation and the silence in the desert....

The deserts are not worthless wastes...The deserts should never be reclaimed.  They are breathing-spaces of the west and should be preserved forever.


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