Now I remember. This was the destination I was so anxious to get to. I am once again viewing life as a child. Joy is felt, not just held intellectually, but felt, in every cell of my being. Happiness moves in an instant, from the smile on my face down to my toes, like an electrical current. Beauty is experienced so deeply that it brings tears to my eyes.
For two days, I sit by the stream. I watch ants and quail. On the third night after finding the sheep, I pack. I don’t recall deciding on a destination. I let my gut direct me. As I drive farther north, I feel a warmth at the sight of Butterfield Ranch. There are Christmas lights and weathered stagecoaches. Where holiday decorations had stirred stress and long to-do lists in the city, I now see only beauty. I pull in, pitch a tent, and drop some money into the honor-system box.
The next morning, I am awakened by the familiar coo of quail, a wild turkey, and a roadrunner from under the trees. My heart is still aglow, and I am still at peace. As a bonus, I have a renewed appreciation for the hot water that flows out of the tap. I wash the dust from my body in my first real shower in over a week. I have lost count of the days. This is a good sign. At first I think I am alone here, as no one joins me in the hot tub. I restock my supplies at the small store, and for four days enjoy the perks of semi-civilization, virtually without company. But like the creatures of the desert, the humans that dwell here have a similar way about them. While swinging on the swings and lost in the clouds, I am joined one day by Will, a musician here on retreat. Few words are exchanged, but an exchange of smiles says more anyway. Our comfort in the stillness says we are from the same clan of humans. Then, while seeking the quail in the predawn hours, I come across Ksenia, an Russian artist doing yoga. I quietly join in, and again, we exchange few words. These people who winter in the desert, before the masses come in spring, are not unlike Anza-Borrego sheep. They are an eclectic group who appear and speak only when stirred from within to do so. If you are at peace, you may run into them, or they may be as elusive as the desert fauna. I am grateful to be around my own kind. This is the spirit of the holidays, the solace I seek. I walk the desert, barefoot and ever present, setting out in a new direction each day. Each evening, I soak up the pleasure of water. When my voice comes back, my desire to speak, perhaps I will share my experience with the bighorn sheep. But for now, I am content among these nomads, who, like me, come here to escape the city and its chaos, to simply be, and to find their place among the subtle colors and life of the desert.
— Valerie Sherrill