The Essence of Desert

Yucca in Bloom

Yucca in Bloom ©2013 Bo Mackison

“I seek out places where it can happen more readily, such as deserts or mountains or solitary areas, or by myself with a seashell, and while I’m there get into states of mind where I’m more open than usual. I’m waiting, I’m listening. I go to those places and get myself ready through meditation. Through being quiet and willing to wait, I can begin to see the inner man and the essence of the subject in front of me… Watching the way the current moves a blade of grass – sometimes I’ve seen that happen and it has just turned me inside out.”
~ Minor White

There is a transformation that takes place when I sit in a place of solitude and wait.

In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps did construction projects in the Sonoran Desert. They built several picnic areas in the Tucson Mountains, tables of concrete and stone, each in a private space, each table protected from the heat of mid-day sun by an overhead ramada. One of these picnic sites, tucked far from the road, has become my perfect office space. I gather the requisites necessary for spending a day writing and taking photographs in the desert – camera, a few reference books, my old notebooks, but also water, protein snacks, a wide-brimmed hat, sunscreen, my hiking stick.

I bring my writing office to the desert. I choose not to bring my computer or other devices that might tempt me with an immediate, continuous connection to the rest of the world. I choose  solitude instead. I write by hand, pen to paper, scribbling, crossing out, adding words, sensing the connection between brain and hand. I compile notes from a dozen notebooks, unravel bits of my life from words written during the past decade. I pull inspiration from these worn pages and curate them into the skeletal beginnings of my Desert Wisdom Cards.

I take frequent breaks to hike – a favorite trail begins fifty paces from my table and winds through saguaro-studded desert, in and out of several washes, then half-way up the side of Brown Mountain. There I stop and memorize the desert scene, burn its landscape into my mind – again. In a few weeks I will be in a far away state, and my heart will linger here in this lush desert stretching beyond the beyond.

Minor White’s quote struck a deep chord in me. I do connect with the world beyond my sight, I feel the essence of place seep into my cells. Sometimes I feel as if this sacred desert space turns me inside out, and exposes my innermost being to the desert in exchange for bits of desert wisdom.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC.  She is beginning a time of transition, and finding strength and inspiration in the desert. Her office, at least for a few more weeks, is in the Sonoran Desert.

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. Isn’t it wonderful to see the essence of the desert!

    • Bo Mackison says:

      It’s also important to hold onto that essence, for times when the desert is only a faraway memory…

  2. I dream of the desert sometimes, only having been there once in my life. but it left it’s mark on my soul. thank you for sharing this goodness.

  3. Magic unfolding here – thru your eyes – in the desert. Love that you take your writing with you. Beautiful!

  4. Bo, I feel your happiness through your words when you are spending time in the desert and your office, complete with pen and paper, is perfect for you at this time. I feel so happy for you.

  5. Sweet location for an office. 🙂

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