Where the Veil is Thin
The Oasis was held in the palm of the desert, oval-shaped, with the town springing up around it like a half moon and the banks of dunes just behind—life surrounded by seeming barrenness. Once over the bank, there was nothing. Just the winds that moved the sands patiently from one hill to the next over the centuries, reshaping the landscape with unwavering patience and purpose.
We flew across the dunes at breakneck speeds, spinning out on the smooth slopes, and skidding over ridges packed so hard that my teeth hurt. I rode in the doorless buggy with one arm gripping my seat belt and the other arm thrown out the side, palm open to the wind, feeling the tiny speckles of sand in the air like the first stinging drops of rain.
We rose and fell over the waves of hills, at the mercy of our driver, never knowing how steep the drop-off would be, or what lay on the other side of the crest—I’m not convinced he knew either. On and on we went, leveling out onto tremendous vistas, or plunging into sand bowls like skate parks to be whipped around the sides by centrifuge until our stomachs dropped and the driver relented.
The earth was moving and alive, endlessly receding into the horizon, traced with blue shadows that bowed before her peaks. The desert was feminine and ancient, with sinuous curves like a woman curled on her side in the earth, breathing lightly under golden sheets. Wind brushed the sides of her hip and shoulder, sending glittering mist into the sky in swirling tendrils, like loose curls of golden hair caught in the breeze. I could see the rise and fall of her breathing until it felt that at any moment she might shift in her sleep, turn towards us, and smile, and I would see the face that gave me life.
The buggy flew and skidded farther into the desert, and the mountains of the Highlands came in to view, with heavy, slate clouds behind carrying rain and life with the season. Banks of pale sand rose against the darkening sky in stark contrast, all the more striking as the sun broke through and made the sands glow.
When we reached the middle of nowhere, the buggy stopped. I jumped out and kicked off my shoes. The ground was softer than anything I’d ever walked on—fine as powder, and unspoiled in every direction, like a blanket of fresh snow. My footprints trailed behind as I climbed, as if to attest to what my ego desperately wanted—to prove I was here, that I left a mark, and that my efforts would be remembered. The prints were satisfyingly deep, but they refilled, and were swept away—so I made more. Those too disappeared.
When we returned to the oasis, we were left at the foot of a mountain and told to climb to the top to see the sun set over the dunes. For next hour, the people of the town joined us, emptying out to the upper plains to gather and sit single-file on the ridge of this mountain and those that rippled around us. It was a rhythm of the oasis—a communal observance of the beauty in the day's end.
Sound was muffled at the top of the ridge, as in the redwoods, and even my nearest neighbor’s conversation behind was indiscernible. ‘The veil was thin here,’ as the Shakers say, and something transcendent and spiritual was whispering to my soul…beautiful things without words.
I sat at the front of the ridge for an hour as the sun lowered, bare feet burrowing deep, with nothing between myself and the vastness of the plains as I listened and watched the wind brushing the sharp crests clean. My back and shoulders molded more deeply into the ground as the shadows lengthened towards me and our bright star grew larger and dipped.
It disappeared; no one spoke.
Twilight emerged, blue and purple across the sky. I looked behind me. The ridge had emptied, and my fellow travelers were traversing slowly back down the mountain in a single-file line.
The sky deepened; I could still feel the whisper. I could have stayed there all night alone, yet surrounded, without danger or fear in my bed of sand below the stars, letting the whisper fill my being until I stopped believing in death—until I stopped believing in anything, save this heartbeat of love in my ears that found me and drew me to itself.
Perhaps someday another girl would sit here, on this very ridge, and unknowingly contemplate the dust I will become, as she wonders about the mystery of this landscape and its utter surrender to the shaping breath of the Universe.
Perhaps she will find me, and herself, in these hills. Perhaps she too will hear the whisper.
There is no death, only love.
Only life, and then life
after life, where we are
ever becoming, and unconditionally
folded into the heart
of the Universe—