The sign says "Death Valley"... I'm close. 3 Hours of driving constantly looking at the GPS, and now I'm almost there. This isn't going to be easy, I still need to find a dead tree in the middle of the desert.
I was 14 years old when U2 released "The Joshua Tree". My dad took me to Sam the Record man in downtown Toronto to buy records. It was one thing that we did when I had the chance to visit him. Whenever I would go to Toronto, I would think of the record that I would want to buy when I was with him. It was a silly ritual, but it was something I could count on.
Entering the store that day, I knew that the record that I wanted that weekend was "The Joshua Tree" We bought the 12" vinyl and the cassette, so I could listen to it on the bus ride from Toronto to London. Listening to it for the first time, I was blown away on how this had never sounded like anything I've heard before. It wasn't over produced 80's pop, it was.... different. I would listen to the album over and over again and pick out every nuance of each instrument, every drum hit, the crafted melodies that the Edge would play on guitar against the intense vocals.
With every listen, I felt like I needed to create something that incredible. I decided that I wanted to play guitar. My mother, thought that I was insane I'm sure. I had never expressed interest in music before that.
I was very passionate about music and it consumed my life. I had highs and lows as a musician, I had some incredible experiences playing in my band, as well as our disappointments when the band just fell apart.
I arrive at my destination, get out of the car and look for a downed tree. I have a copy of the Joshua Tree on vinyl with me that I purchased the night before. I'm looking at the album and the mountains down seem right. There is no cell service where I'm standing, so I can't double check the GPS co-ordinates. I walk back to the car to find the GPS co-ordinates again, and I've overshot the tree by 7 miles.
After my daughter was born, my interest in creating music totally dried up. I was a dad, and things were more important than creating music.
While my passion for creating music had run dry, I still felt the need to create. This is where film and photography entered my life at the right time.
I pull over on side of the road, and take a walk towards where I think it is. The hint to the GPS data is "look for the solo tree and the green container" I walked around and saw something in the distance that could be it. As i was walking towards it, tiny lizards were darting in and out of the brush.
I could see the rock formations first as I walked closer to the tree. I was here.
One would never think that sitting at a dead tree in the middle of the desert would have an effect on anybody, but it was outstanding. I was at the spot where I would stare at the pictures of it, knowing that I had to be an artist.
Overwhelming doesn't even begin to describe how it felt. I looked at the tree, and opened the container that held books for people to sign and gifts that people have left behind. I saw a jar of sand from Russia, copies of the Joshua tree from around the world and a stock pile of letters of love to the band.
I sat down to take it all in. This was a dream of mine since I was 14 years old, and now I'm here. Life can be crazy.
I listened to the Joshua Tree in it's entirety while walking around the site. The sun was beating down on me but I didn't care. I would deal with a sunburn. Listening to the album was surreal and inspiring. I'm really gonna savour this. At that moment I so desperately wanted to speak my children, just to hear their voices and tell them I loved them. Sadly, it was afternoon and they were still in school. I looked at their pictures on my phone, missing them to death, I wanted to see their faces.
Being alone in the desert is surreal, it's total isolation. I was here and all of the other noise in the world was turned down.
As each song rolled by, the experience was one of the most incredible of my life. I was in a stasis of amazement, inspired beyond belief.
4 years ago when I first picked up a camera, i would have never thought that I would be as privileged as I have been as of late. Life has been crazy.
I wrote a letter to my children, and placed it under a rock. My emotions poured out onto paper meant for them as they were both all that I could think about. Hopefully one day they will have a chance to read it....
After over an hour under the blazing sun, i packed everything up and said goodbye. I took souvenir for myself, I piece of bark from the tree, a rock from the site and some sand. Whenever i may get discouraged or frustrated by things not going right, I will look at these items and remember how I felt when I was there.
No matter how derailed life can get, it's amazing to know that every once in a while the universe will reward you.