For 2 or 3 years in my early 20s, beginning after my closest friend and running buddy got married and moved to Delaware, I frequently drove alone in the countryside outside Lincoln, Nebraska. I experienced months-long episodes of bipolar depression between ages 19-27. The driving was self-medication because the farther I drove from evidence of humans other than road signs, the calmer I felt inside.
The farther I drove along the rolling country roads (that’s right, it’s not flat like tourists say it is), the less extraneous I felt, the more I felt like I belonged in the world like everybody else. After a few years of these periodic wanderings, the countryside was part of my own inner landscape, a place that I could go for peace without going anywhere.
Flash forward to the 1990s when my in-laws bought a summer house in Cold Creek, Nevada north of Las Vegas. By the 2000s, my husband and went to Nevada every summer. And after I bought my first video cameras, I was out every morning before dawn waiting with my camera for the elk to come back from the creek to return up the mountain for the day. It was a long wait – about 4 years – before I finally saw elk in the morning.
In the meantime, I explored the desert, following ground-dwelling birds, rabbits, lizards. I was on foot, not able to go miles away from the village like I could have done in my old Rambler. But in those days, I didn’t have to go very far to lose sight of the village and humans. I wish I could remember the first time I had the sudden awareness of being surrounded by the very loud sound of the desert, loud because of so many very busy living things. Loud because I am the only human in sight and the desert doesn’t care. Despite my camera, I am not a tourist anymore. I am part of the landscape. Birds ignore me, but a few rabbits and elk stop what they are doing to make eye contact.
My sojourns into the endless Nebraska landscape and my hikes in the desert, which made me part of itself, are the inspiration for the Labyrinth, a pure, perfect environment that is nevertheless filled with invisible obstacles and threats, as well as supernatural creatures.