Words and photos by Janelle Pietrzak
This essay originally ran in LCT Newsletter Vol 2. Published May 2018
“Desert Time” was a concept I heard often before finally moving to the desert. I understand it means things just take longer here. The plants and trees grow slower. People’s lives move slower. I heard it is hard to get things happening here because…well, “desert time”. I thought, well, I have been living in cities and working in fast paced industries for fifteen years. I am going to keep my usual pace.
Living in the high desert for just shy one year now, I have lived through all the seasons, the weather changes, the wildlife cycles. I have observed the subtleties of each season, the cycles of the sun, and how the light changes throughout the year. I have been shocked at how the position of the sun varies so much from winter versus summer. In the winter, the light shines well into my living room on the south side of the house. Now heading into summer, the sun is so far north that it is on the other side of the house and doesn’t shine into the living room at all. I know where the sun sets in the winter, and now it sets miles and miles away to the north for the summer.
Time is funny here.
In the summer, it is easy to wake up with the sunrise. Get up and cram in as much as you can before the midday sun chases you indoors. The animals are out to make the most of the morning as well.
Roadrunners and Gamble quails scurry around for snacks. Ground squirrels scramble between bushes to avoid becoming one. A nap in the air conditioning is the best way to avoid the afternoon heat. The sun is relentless and I am convinced it will never drop below the mountains to the west. Those four hours last seemingly forever. Once the sun is about to dip and light in the sky fades - turning on the stove to cook dinner doesn’t seem so insane anymore. Cook dinner and get some chores done before daylight is gone.
Eat dinner al fresco. Take a walk around the neighborhood. The light on the plants is magical. Saturated colors make everything look so rich. The bunnies come out to hop around and eat.
In the winter, days look beautiful from inside the house. The sun is shining, but finally not oppressive. Skies are clear and blue. But the winds outside are maddening and can last days, weeks. It is impossible to get much done outside if the winds are going. Everything blows away unless it is heavy or bolted down. Our old aluminum windows rattle all night. You hope you don’t wake up in the middle of the night during the winds, because if you do you may be awake for hours with sleepy anxiety about the winds. Will that Joshua Tree finally uproot and fall over? Will the windows break and blow in? We pick up roof shingles around the yard after the big winds. Nature is slowly taking our house apart. The view is beautiful, but the opportunity to work outside is slim. You race against daylight because once the sun sets at 4:30 it is time to be inside. Eat dinner and head to bed. Desert midnight is around 8-9pm.
We all know the desert is a place of extremes. Hot and cold. Dry weather and flash floods. Time is also an extreme here. Days fly by when the sun time is short and you never get enough done. Then there are summer months that seem to never end and cabin fever has you wondering why the hell you moved to such an unsustainable environment. My favorite days are the ones where I need to get to the studio and work, but am so in awe of the beautiful landscape that instead I wander around the land, checking on new blooms and plants. I know I need to hurry back to work, but my new instinct is to slow down and enjoy the scenery…because, well desert time.
Janelle lives a colorful life in the mojave desert & weaves custom textiles for interiors. In 2012, All Roads Studio was founded with partner Robert. Together, they combine wood, metal and fiber to create objects, fine art, site specific installations and custom furniture.
You can follow more of their work online
If you find yourself in the high desert, All Roads now has a brick & mortar store in the high desert town of Yucca Valley, the neighboring town to Joshua Tree in California. 7319 Acoma Trail Yucca Valley, CA 92284