The Desert Fathers
With or without a bindle of crystal meth, they made their anchorage in Egypt’s Wadi El Natrun, or the dismantled Marine Corps training base of Slab City,
California, wagering long-term skills against purchases — in transition, taking losses — and burning, if not with a sensible fire, in the pride of specialized knowledge.
Snakeman relocates the red diamond rattlesnake and northern Mojave rattlesnake from residents’ trailers to his own to live alongside him with the scorpions and guard dogs, it’s tough to have riches and not love them.
St. Anthony sold his land, gave the money to the poor, yet in his Outer Mountain sanctuary cried I desire peace, but these bad thoughts will not leave me. All burned in body, in contemplation, as the lonely burn, a musical state. The brethren assemble for a meal, or, from the last free place in America, watch the Navy at war games bombing the Chocolate Mountains, but Snakeman prefers to exercise his hobbies — salvaging unexploded shells, pointing guns at people, antagonizing snowbirds and short-term RVers communally parked by the East Jesus
Sculpture Garden and preaching virtues of solitude.
As into vocation past and future disappear into the impersonal desert. Tourists and documentarians of atmosphere from villages along the Nile, or funneled through the derelict town of Niland, seek insight but wish someone would do something about the trash.
Leonard Knight’s Salvation Mountain beckons in three-storey robes of multicoloured latex.
He arrived with a half-bag of cement and some paint and kept at it for 26 years. But just as Anthony decamped to his Inner Mountain did Leonard to the Eldorado Care Home, and even the tattooed hermit of the Isle of Skye took up a flat in Broadford. A cell will teach you everything. All it asks is you give it your mind. Snakeman wars against the body that would destroy his spirit.
Someday, he says, I will be all flame.