Driving east on the 29 Palms Highway from Desert Christ Park 1 to the northwest entrance to Joshua Tree National Forest,2 I passed two roadside installations, what I thought were shrines, that I turned around for.
The first was quite elaborate and dedicated, as far as I could tell, simply to Christ and children. There were no names or images, no additional icons. It was quite striking, isolated, well-maintained, unattended. Definitely a shrine.
The second was less explicit in its religiosity. There was a smallish cross wrapped in satin ribbon tacked onto a wreath of undetermined material, but that was the only adornment to be found on this structure. It was, a far as I could tell, not a shrine, but rather a small shelter, about 4 feet high and 8 feet across. No more than 3 feet deep, it could easily have sat two adults, or laid one out for rest, protected from direct rain or wind or sun.
These photographs were taken on a two-day road trip almost exactly four years ago. These photos stand in for memories I can’t otherwise conjure and have, in effect, become what I describe above, a shrine and a shelter. But who knows what their function was? I live in Brooklyn, New York City, where almost nothing like either of these micro-environments is to be seen at all. I wonder now, too, if they’re still there, or how, exactly, given that I didn’t really know where I was, but only where I had just been and where I was going, I could find them again for a second look?
Which question, of course, can’t be answered with certainty. But the photos do their work, and offer some sense of what I saw, what was where I’ve been.