Having seen an image of the installation on the front of an art book cover, I researched where it is and how to see it and it led to an amazing adventure!
You can't just locate it and drive up to it in the desert, you have to book on-line and a maximum of 6 people can view it at any one time. You have to meet up at an agreed time and day at an unmarked building in a very small one-street town. Then you leave your vehicle and are taken to the installation where you stay overnight. There are rows and rows of steel poles in the desert and they have been located in a place that has frequent lightning storms.
Here is what I wrote and the etching that I created from a sketch I made at the time.
We arrive at breakneck speed in a very large vehicle – us two and 3 strangers – on a road at first and then a maze of dirt tracks. As we pass a small mailbox by a ranch gate we see a streak of lightning zigzag down into the dry, bare earth. It has begun.
Eventually we arrive at the isolated log cabin. We stand on the veranda and look around across a vast plain surrounded by mountains. When the vehicle has left there is silence. We stare at the emergency phone which must only be used if rattlesnakes come into the house. If they sunbathe on the veranda it’s not, apparently, an emergency. We have noted the metal lined, rat-proof cupboard for food and the lack of curtains at the windows. We are on our own until 11a.m. tomorrow.
The ground is dry and cracked and studded with sage and rabbit brush. Tufts of fine grass also grow in small circles. It’s hot, and huge inky clouds are forming in the sky. We take wooden chairs outside and sit looking at the 400 steel poles stretching a mile left and right in front of us - and wait.
As it grows dark, streaks of lightning fall over distant mountains and the poles fade away. Bright flashes of pink energy burst into the sky from the left. None hit the poles. Humming birds dart up close, presenting long beaks to us.
I walk out across the field, examining the patches of burnt earth, following a line of poles almost to the end. I look back at the cabin and see a streak of lightning hit the ground just behind it. I decide to retreat, re-tracing my steps away from the metal rows.
I sit and wait in silence. All the streaks of colour in the sky have evened out and it’s very dark. A coyote calls across the plain and another answers. Then a few stars shine and a small, circular patch of light struggles to break through a cloud. It finally reveals itself as a pale, crescent moon – too weak to illuminate the poles. Constellations of stars pierce the sky and show the way to another universe. It’s time to sleep.
I awake at 5.40am. A pale light is beginning to illuminate the silence and three of the poles from the left. The pink sun slowly appears above the mountains a hundred miles away and more and more of the poles gleam silver then golden. Long, precise rows appear for the first time and stretch across the desert scrub into the distance. Rabbits chase each other, birds are fluttering, a horny toad and a black beetle follow secret tracks.
Without pre-arrangement we all whisper to each other, realizing that this is the time. We separate and observe, draw and write trying to capture the moment.
When we come together again we try to define our experience. There was no spectacular lightning show involving the poles but we had made time to observe the light, the soil, the vast sky, animals and birds which we seldom have time for in the course of our normal lives. It had been a spiritual experience for some, a re-connection with nature for others. An aesthetic experience, a calming experience – but definitely an experience.