It’s not the worst of pandemic privations, but I am suffering Great Basin withdrawal. Sticking close to home, I really miss visiting those beloved open spaces.
No whiffs of sage and juniper after an evanescent rain. No hyperventilated vistas across rabbitbrush flats toward distant shimmering buttes. No mesmerizing contemplation of the patchwork of cracks in the baked-hard clay of a dried up lake. No tracking the beguiling butterfly-flight of the northern harrier as it wafts over the wetland pastures hunting for snakes or mice.
But fortunately, while I hunger to be out in the high desert I can turn for nourishment to the pages of the recently published PLAYA Anthology. This gorgeous, full-color book offers a sampling of poems, prose, and images of artworks by 2019’s PLAYA Residents.
The crazed pattern of cracks in the dry playa inspire several mesmerizing works, including a beautiful sumi ink drawing by Satoko Motoujia, and a horizon-bending photo by Peter de Lory. Gail Foster’s painting of a dust funnel whirling upward into cloud-splashed sky stirs and lifts my spirits. The ghostly coyote in a painting by Bethany Rowland makes me want to tap into some inner trickster energy and make art myself.
The range of the writings included here is breath-taking, too. There are poems that evoke the high desert’s spaciousness, profound silence, and palpable sense of deep time, contrasted with two prose pieces that profile Lefty, PLAYA’s semi-resident, semi-domestic cat.
PLAYA is a place that never fails to inspire visiting writers, artists and scientists. And experiencing the writings and visual arts they’ve created triggers my own urge to make art. As Liz Ahl says in her poem, “A Sharp Pencil,” art fuels the spark of signification—that sublime pleasure.
The PLAYA Anthology is a sublime pleasure, a font of light and wonder. It will keep your high desert appetite keenly alive until you can once again travel safely into the Great Basin.