Now, a farewell, an always beginning

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I sit here now in a coffee shop, in a city, in a space that is old brick with new scones inside, along a light rail, and people are clumped close. I left the desert in the beginning of this year, to return to a city that is changing so quickly. I left the desert because I thought I was missing something, that everything was too hard. I left the desert because I really felt like I might be going crazy, that I had lost sight of a certain part of myself and my relationship to the world. I was struggling to figure out a space for myself, feeling the unraveling of one of the reasons I was out here- to move into a house that my partner was building in the boulders. The circumstances for being here had changed- we were working under the assumption of a linear goal, and it became more and more apparent that a project is a story too, and in language we can make anything true, and bounded, and monumental, and full of power. But like our histories, like any place, the shared subjective reality is much more complex. So I had to step away, to return, though a return to anything is not actually possible.

This question: Do we come to the desert, to any Wilderness, Thoreau to his Walden, as a rejection of an urban condition? To create an experience based on what it is not? Are we antagonistic, sometimes even violent in our rejection of other ways of living?  I hear people say “F*ck the city, I don’t need those people” in the desert sometimes, as they become intrigued by idea of a simple life for ones-self.

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I think about this all the time in my practice as an artist, and place-maker- how to create an inclusive space that shifts and is not rigid, that is both responsive to and inclusive of the grander social organism that we are all in the process of constantly creating. A space that can hold the I and the We simultaneously.

The desert exists in a mythical space to people in the city, perhaps fits into a box, and allows for a release. Life became complicated in the fall for me, with habitation and patterns of life, as the idea of the desert, and the reality of the desert began to rub up against each other more and more. I believe that my life became hard as the space of the desert was out of my control, as I moved away from my initial, new-feeling time here, when reality was full of possibilities.  The platform of being a Scout, and curating certain experiences in relation to myself, allowed me to retain a simultaneous subjective and objective experience of this expanding place, which was safe.

We tell stories that go on and on, there is a spontaneity to human interaction, a willing ness to let go because of the sheer vastness of the landscape. To let stories inter-weave, and let go of certain conceptions of what a friendship is supposed to look like, what we are supposed to do together, what we should be talking about. The infrastructure of the city and technology limits bodies and minds to certain topics and patterns of movement. I feel like my actual experiences are extensions of email conversations.

People let go in the desert, are open, even come out planning to have expansive experiences.

 believe in the desert, and the roughness and truth it allows for, the trust in a togetherness of all who choose to reside by these boulders and dry washes, the leap into a self exposed, defining its own rhythms and paths, in every moment. I met people and they left in their vans, and left on foot, and others who moved into another mode of reality that I was not as kindred with- there is an allowance of ebbs, friendships are not monuments, failure is a part of how time happens in the conflation of the dreamed reality and the lived reality. J-topia, 2-mile-topia (Two utopian projects that were being discussed early in my time in the desert) even transition town, and my friend Stephanie Smith’s plan for a one square mile sustainable village space in North Joshua Tree: how we want to live, how we want to live better. The situation that encompasses the question changes, but there is always a striving for the horizon, a desire to keep building towards something better, even if we do not know what it is yet.

My next adventure takes me to Baltimore, to work with the Baltimore Museum of Art to create a space of comfort in the institution, and help to figure out ways for the museum to expand its energies into the public sphere. We will be working on creating a sense of home in the museum, exploring ideas of movement, place, memory, why things matter, and the power of together! I am from the east, and looking forward to a return to the deciduous, to a sense of history embedded in the landscape, to my family, to bricks and snowstorms, and again, a sense of the unknown.

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Here there are sunsets too, in LA, the horizon is blocked by roads and bridges and artificial light, but when I look at the sky, I still feel everything.

Please keep in touch with me, I am katiebachler@gmail.com! Stay tuned for a map of this time in the desert!

-Katie