Desert of the mind

Kelly was telling me last night about an article she read about Umberto Eco, in which he spends ages and ages world-building for his novel. ‘And I thought of you,’ she said dryly. Umberto Eco meticulously plans out details and even visits the places he is going to write about.

‘But I need to go to Mars!’ I exclaimed. I have reached a point in my short story where my characters are no longer breathing the future air of places I already know in England and Scotland, but breathing the thin, alien air of far-future Mars. Last night, with the wind howling outside and rain lashing against my windows, and this morning as pale, grey light filters through the rain-spattered windows, I am not exactly in the right place for surroundings to inspire a foreign land.

I wish I could put on my hiking shoes and go wander in the foothills of the Sandia mountains. This is the right time of year for it, for the deserts in my mind are both dry and cold. I find myself reading The Dispossessed for fourth? fifth? time, for if I cannot walk in New Mexico, I can walk on the moon Anarres.

Sometimes I wonder if I would be more suited to live in a desert than in a place where so much rain and green are in abundance. Sometimes it is too much. Sometimes I need the dry and the brown, the limited supplies of water, the gnarled trees and cacti that stubbornly live on despite too little water and too much heat.

…and the water valve did not cut off when you released the faucet but kept pouring out until shut off—a sign, Shevek thought, either of great faith in human nature, or of great quantities of hot water.

The Dispossessed, Ursula K. Le Guin

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