I’m not sure I ever would have ended up living in the desert if it weren’t for marrying my high school sweetheart, my husband. I didn’t lay awake at night while I was in college in South Carolina, dreaming of someday escaping to desert life.
My then-fiance became an officer in the Navy, and we packed up everything we owned into a tiny U-haul, and the adventure began.
And it took us, eventually, to the Mojave desert in California.
This military life…
Sometimes I worry about my kids, since we move so often. I wonder where they will feel most at home in life. I want to protect their hearts from the heartbreak of leaving friends behind, and the sadness of being left behind.
At the same time, I am so thankful for the experiences it’s given our family.
My children are 6, 4, and 1, and the big kids have lived in 2 different areas of California and one place in Maryland, have traveled across the country twice (stopping to visit landmarks, museums, and other attractions along the way). They’ve spent a month in Texas and another month in Florida on the beach. And of course, they’ve visited family in South Carolina and Pennsylvania.
Henry has mostly just seen the desert (and a bit of the California beach) so far, but he’ll build up a bunch of experiences by the time he’s in first grade, too.
We took these photos several months ago and as I looked at them again, it struck me how lucky we are to be living in the desert right now.
(Henry and I both look SO different now! I’ve lost weight and cut my hair into a pixie cut, and Henry is bigger and more kid-like instead of baby-like. Wow! It happened so quickly.)
7 Benefits of Living in the Desert:
1. There are no mosquitoes in the desert.
While I may not have laid awake at night as a teenager, wishing for desert life, I most certainly wished the mosquitoes would disappear. I’m one of those people that mosquitoes flock to. When we lived in Maryland, if I stepped out onto our front porch for 4 minutes in the evening, I would come back inside with 23 mosquito bites all over my arms, legs, and neck. It’s pretty horrid.
And yes, I’ve tried your essential oils. They just love me no matter what.
If we move back to the east coast, I’m getting bat houses. I’ve heard bats can eat around 1,000 bugs every night. Each. And a bat house can support around 20 bats. So if I get like 10 bat houses, I should be good, right?
But until then, desert life has me LOVING my mosquito-free existence. Every now and then, a mosquito will pop up after a bit of rain. And, true to form, it finds me. If a mosquito is within 10 miles, it’ll find me. But I make quick work of smashing it, and then it’s gone. Yay!
2. Desert life is sunny.
I can make almost any plans with the kids and my husband, most of the year, without being rained out. We can go on impromptu picnics after school, or drive to see a landmark nearby on the weekend. We can spend our evening in the back yard while the kids splash in the kiddy pool happily.
With no need for galoshes, rain jackets, umbrellas, or running from the car into a building to avoid getting soaked.
And on a selfish level, I love that I almost never have to load three children into the van, get them into their car seats, and make sure they’re buckled in securely while I get soaked.
And none of us have SAD or seasonal affective disorder. We’re not vitamin D deficient. It’s not really a thing here.
3. The desert is pretty.
Sometimes when I’m driving to my kids’ schools to pick them up, I just stare in awe at the mountains around us. On a clear day, they look almost like they’ve been painted there. Beautiful and sharp, snow on the peaks in winter, sometimes blue or purple or grey or brown, but always beautiful.
Other times, after a bit of rain, the plants will all perk up and become green, and the desert looks like it’s just come to life, all over.
The flat bits are intriguing to me, since I grew up where tall oak trees and pines reached to the sky all around me. I didn’t see much of the horizon unless I went to the beach. Here, I can see so far where it’s flat.
In some places, salt oozes from the earth. It looks like frost. But it’s salt (I tasted it to be sure). White, fluffy, natural salt.
In other places, the earth juts up unexpectedly into pinnacles, or dives into canyons. Mountains rise up, and stripes of sedimentary rock slide over each other, dipping in and out of the earth, like a history book knocked on its side.
Maybe it’s not what you’d immediately imagine when you hear the phrase “beautiful landscape.” But it definitely qualifies.
4. Living in the desert is slow.
Nothing feels rushed here. Here in the desert, I take the kids to and from school, drop by the library some days, stop at parks other days.
Where we live, traffic isn’t bad. There’s almost never a traffic jam or pile-up. And everything we really need is within about a 15 minute drive. Yet somehow, even though it’s all so close, it feels spread out. So the 15-minute-away grocery store is the “Far Away” one.
There’s not a lot to do here, in the way of malls or museums or anything like that, but it just makes the little things that much more special.
5. Living in the Desert is close.
What I mean by that is that because there’s so little to do, and because things are so slow, it’s easy to run into people we love and simple and easy to spend time together. I doubt this would happen as much in a big city.
But if there’s a special event at our tiny library, we might run into three other families we’re friends with when we go. Or if we stop by a park, the kids will see several of their school friends playing, and run to join them. Impromptu coffee togehter, play dates, lunches… in the middle of our so-much-to-do lives, we manage to slow down and connect.
6. There’s no snow in the desert!
Okay, this one might just be me… but this is a huge perk, to me. Even though my family loves it, I’m not wild about snow.
It’s cold and wet and you have to wear waterproof stuff to “enjoy” it, and I just don’t want anything to do with it. Other than looking at it out of a window while I’m huddled inside in front of a fire and/or drinking something warm.
Also, I have a weird thumb that has reynaud’s and I get nerve pain in that thumb and all down my hand/wrist when it’s too cold.
But gloriously, there’s no snow in the desert. At least in our part of it.
7. The wildlife in the desert is awesome.
I still haven’t come across a rattlesnake, thankfully, and that makes me happy.
But I’ve seen tons of coyotes, road runners, these cute little quails (there was a whole family of them growing up together in our neighborhood!), crazy-looking lizards, and tons and tons of jack rabbits and cotton-tailed rabbits. (“My little bunny pets!” as my four year old happily exclaims.)
We haven’t seen them actually in the wild yet (but I know others who have), but we visited a sanctuary for wild horses and burros. Such beautiful animals!
So I’m glad my family, and my children, get to experience the benefits of living in the desert. Even though I’m pretty sure we aren’t going to be here forever… the military will move us on to another place, and another. And we’re going to enjoy the heck out of those places too.
Because that’s what “Joyful Abode” means… blooming where you’re planted. Finding the wonderful things about wherever you are, whatever your house is like, whatever city or state or country you’re in, and loving it. Choosing to recognize the beauty.
And for now, for us, that’s living in the desert. And we love it.