Desert surprise

When you hear the word “desert”, what image does your mind conjure up?

Is it of endless sand dunes such as those of  Rub’ al Khali (“Empty quarter”) of Saudi Arabia?

Or is if of something a little less desolate?

This week at Carrot Ranch Communications, Charli Mills writes about a desert close to where she is staying in her temporary, though seemingly endless, state of imposed homelessness.

The desert Charli describes, in eastern Washington, is “flat and prickly” with “trees (that) are better described as shrubs and any ground cover growing out of the black sand has thorns.” She describes the “sagebrush with soft leaves of silvery blue and twisting trunks of brittle gray bark.” The images created by these descriptions is vastly different from those of endless sand dunes.

A desert is usually described as an arid area where there is little rainfall and conditions do not favour  plant and animal life. As much as one third of the earth’s land surface is arid or semi-arid. This is also true of mainland Australia with its ten named deserts which mostly lie in the centre.

Last year I was fortunate to visit Uluru and Kata Tjuta which are in semi-arid areas surrounded by desert in Central Australia. I have put together some images of the area to show the variation that occurs in the semi-arid landscape.

Thinking of the word “desert” (noun – arid area) also brings to mind its heteronym “desert” (verb – leave), which has its own homonym meaning deserved e.g.” just deserts” and homophone “dessert”. These words are often confused by both readers and writers with pronunciation and spelling indistinguishable out of context.

I have combined these different meanings to respond to Charli’s flash fiction challenge to in 99 words (no more, no less) write about a surprise from a desert. While not specifically about education, I also acknowledge the power of a teacher’s influence.

Deserts

They reminded her constantly what an inconvenience she was; that she’d never be anything; that she was simply trash like the one who birthed, and dumped her. Somehow she’d never believed them: their truth was not hers. She’d shielded her inner core with a shell over which their words flowed but could not penetrate. Not caring whether they ever knew, she’d prove them wrong. A favourite teacher inspired an interest in food science. As soon as possible she escaped to apprentice with master chef Jules. After years of determination and hard work, she opened her own patisserie “Just Desserts”.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

15 thoughts on “Desert surprise

  1. Bec Colvin

    Hi Nor, I enjoyed your FF – it made me smile! A very clever play on words, as is so often the case with your writing! I also really enjoyed your pics from the centre of Australia. I hope to get out there too sometime before too long.

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  2. Annecdotist

    Enjoyed your slideshow – which reminded me a bit of Madagascar – and your flash: as one who confused desert and dessert long after I should have done, I love that punchline. Nevertheless less risk of muddling with the less refined word “pudding”!

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  3. Pingback: Wandering the Desert « Carrot Ranch Communications

  4. Charli Mills

    A slide show for a slide show — that’s like a dessert exchange, cake for cake! How interesting the similarities, yet striking the differences between our two deserts. In Australia, I can understand how the interior could be arid, but I don’t quite know how the Pacific Ocean can skip this part of Washington state. I read it is because of the height of the Cascades. I marvel at actually seeing huge clouds skirt this area in the sky, scudding off to the northeast. Great flash and I’m glad she got her “just desserts” as she deserved.

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    1. Norah Post author

      I thought the differences and similarities were rather striking too. And I loved your very professional slide show. Do you mind sharing your secret? What program did you use?
      It is strange to think of a desert so close to the ocean. I guess those clouds just don’t want to hang around. Maybe they’re off looking for dessert!
      I’m pleased you enjoyed the flash. Thank you. 🙂

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  5. Hugh's Views and News

    If there’s one thing your post has taught me, Norah, it’s that Alice Springs is not in a desert. I always thought it was, but the map says not. I always imagined Alice Springs to be a desert town/city, rather like Las Vegas. Then again, my only evidence of why that may be is because of my avid viewing of the excellent movie, Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for your comment, Hugh. Actually I thought Alice Springs and Uluru were in a desert too. Seems like they are surrounded by deserts but not in a desert. The terrain attracts “too much rainfall” to be considered desert. This information was new to me also.

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    1. Norah Post author

      You did a great job with yours, Geoff. I had the inspiring teacher, you had the opposite. (Perhaps in reality it was the other way around!) I’m pleased Penny had a good friend to keep her company and to see that she was all right in the world. 🙂

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  6. Steven

    I think in your fiction you are using Her as a metaphor for a desert, indicating that they are quite “useless” and best avoided. You then show that this is incorrect and that they are their own niche ecosystem with a different type of beauty.

    You forgot to include a picture of our ice-cold polar deserts as well. Maybe next time.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for your comment, Stephen. That’s an interesting interpretation of my story. I hadn’t thought of it in that way, so thanks for the surprise. 🙂
      Oh dear, I didn’t include the deserted polar caps. Definitely next time!

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