In 1952, A few friends and I, all Chinese graduate students at the University of California—Berkeley and all novices at camping, arrived at the Death Valley National Monument at about three in the morning, exhausted by the long drive, and exhausted by an unsuccessful attempt to set up tent in the dark, buffeted by strong wind. In the end, we slept out in the open in our sleeping bags. When I woke up, the sun had risen high enough to throw its rays on the range of mountains across the valley and presented me with a scene, totally alien to my experience up to that time, of such unearthly beauty that I felt transported to the supernatural realm and yet, paradoxically, also at home, as though I had returned after a long absence.
The desert, including the barren parts (and I would even say) especially those, appeals to me. I see in it purity, timelessness, and a generosity of mind and spirit. The bleached skull in the desert, far from evoking the odor of death, suggests something clean and noble that may crumble into dust but is exempt from the humiliation of decay.