By cockroaches I mean trilobites. You cannot tell me it didn’t cross your mind. As usual there was an easy blacktop way to get to this place, Mojave Trails National Monument Marble Mountains Fossil Bed, and there was the way Kurt brought us.
First off we drove away from Joshua Tree National Park by highway, then corner-less desert road, valley lined with pink-purple mountains and creosote bushes. Then drove down a washboard dirt road running along a train track line. There was a crushed car with bullet holes abandoned. An isolated salt mine operation. A defunct mine operation, the derelict buildings graffitied and a foundation suspiciously fixed up with a tin roof. One-hundred percent sure someone is squatting there.
Social Distancing at its best, we had the site to ourselves. Trilobites were not laying around ready to be plucked off the ground like daisies. Fantasy popped. We climbed around near cliff edge. (Yes, this is/was/always a bad idea for me. I can’t trust my own feet to stay under me on flat ground). One question led to another idea, which guided our feet up higher on the site of rocks and shale piled up by decades of diggers. (Belly flips, higher, don’t look down).
As the sun lowered we found a spot that produced. We sat in shards of desaturated grey-green shale and picked out pieces from the mountain side and opened the layers of shale like oysters, looking for our strange pearls. The color of the shale reminded me of the clay sludge I escaped from at Bombay Beach on the Salton Sea.
I felt the light change in an instant. The Mountains glowed softly pink. I looked up to a sky illuminated in pinks and reds. Kurt and I climbed down and as we left the sky deepened to an implausibly redder shade, the kind that cameras can never capture.