Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Reading | At Home In Joshua Tree and Abandoned Detroit

At Home in Joshua Tree | Sara And Rich Combs

Meet Sara and Rich, a pair of plucky Millennials whose tech jobs in San Francisco were running them entirely ragged. So they broke free from their corporate shackles, moved to the Mojave Desert, and built up a nifty brand around their new self-actualized lifestyle. Which, you know, is great. This book full of beautiful photos is a testament to their centered and balanced daily rhythms, highlighting their commitment to watching the sun rise, savoring their morning joe, bouldering around Joshua Tree National Park or alternatively, lying back in the hammock to watch the wildlife strut by while pondering their considerable Zen, and entertaining their dear friends with picnics laid out on handwoven textiles and pricey throw pillows on the dusty desert floor of their back yard. Mojave-inspired recipes and DIYs abound, as well as sources galore so that you too can build an entirely privileged life in the desert.

Abandoned Detroit | Kyle Brooky

Don't know if you've gotten the memo on this one, but Detroit, Michigan has gone through some rough times. The glory days of Motown and the Big Three automakers peaked in the mid-1960s, and shortly thereafter, for several devastating reasons, the city promptly crumbled. Now photographers like Mr. Brooky explore the ruins of the inner city, still faintly echoing with sounds of life from decades gone by, and package this magnificent desolation in books such as this one. To be sure, the images are haunting - trees taking root in abandoned auto assembly plants, dust-covered bibles deserted in broken down churches, an empty and forgotten zoo - though the text reads as a series of matter-of-fact photo captions and does little to synthesize or explain the magnitude of this tragedy. Which leaves you, dear reader,to grapple with these scenes from a quiet Armageddon all on your own.

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When I talk about home, I don't mean a particular climate or a specific address or an architectural style. Home is - simply and profoundly - the place where I feel safe, where I let down my guard, where I keep my most beloved things, where I share life with my people. 

And while I am lucky enough to have a home that sits in a part of the world that I love - the wet and wild Pacific Northwest - I also know that if life demanded, I could build a home in other parts of the world, and be just as content. 

My joy in life comes from who I am, not where I live. 

And so the Joshua Tree book rankles me, suggesting as it does on page after page after page, that desert dwellers are ever so much closer to nature and grounded in wellness and focused on community and possessing of so many other noble and desirable traits than the rest of us because, well, the desert is such an entirely special place to call home. 

No, it's not.

The desert is one wonderful place in a world full of wonderful places to live, and you can see a sunset, plant a pretty garden, or find fun places to explore in every single one of them. All it takes is an open mind. 

It also takes an open mind to imagine that among the ashes of present-day Detroit twinkle the brilliant sparks of new life. She will not lie dormant forever, this city of ups and downs, this place where my ancestors built brave new lives and learned how to thrive. Already a new generation of my family is moving into Detroit, settling down, and making new homes there, and I wish that Mr. Brooky had added to his sad story an epilogue of hope. 

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