Saying Goodbye #1: Trona

As I watch the calendar, I know that if I am not intentional about saying good-bye wisely to the places in California that have mattered to me, the time from now until September will be gone quickly.  So, I grabbed the two days this weekend to go to one and revisit one of my best memories.

Trona and China Lake Naval Air Station have been quite compelling for some time.  China Lake is RG Prophet and in their heyday, they demonstrated some of the finest characteristics of the Prophet gift.

They showed a combination of diagnostic skill + problem solving + collaboration without politics that allowed them to fix some things with a speed that was astounding.

Unfortunately, the base also has demonstrated some of the worst sides of the Prophet gift.

Trona is a whole ‘nother story.  It is Giver.  In their apparent heyday, the dominant company came across as hugely life giving to the whole community in a mothering sort of way, but in reality they had locked down a glass ceiling that allowed them to exploit everyone on a constant, low grade basis, and block anyone from breaking out of survival mode.

When a multitude of forces converged to expose the sham, people began to move away, preferring to commute, in order to have the potential for freedom elsewhere.

That caused the company to abandon the subterfuge, and they began requiring certain groups of employees to live in the town as a condition for employment.

The town spiraled down, and today it is one of the ugliest towns I know of in the US.  The land is broken, the economy is broken, the community is broken and hope is broken.

The company is a shadow of what it once was, but it still makes its corporate owners a lot of money, while enriching the lives of millions of ordinary people across the US with its products.

I have no idea why I am so drawn to that land, but I have often thought about buying a small house there and using it as a get-away-to-study.  The only problem is that it would take four months to fix up one of the dumps, and four hours to get there each time, so I never did.

But I have been back there a number of times because the richness of the deposit in the land just draws me, even though the treasure has killed the land and the town because of the extreme perversion of the gift.

The only motel in Trona is long gone, and I don’t care for the town of Ridgecrest, outside China Lake.  So I opted to drive a bit further to the ultra luxurious Panamint Springs Resort.  This was very important to me.  Once I spent a night there, I could go to my “True and Legitimate Jet Setter’s Manual” and tick that box.

A great achievement.

My Digs For One Night

After a cursory inspection of the Resort, I explored the map and drove to Darwin. I was informed it had a population of 20.  That was sheer slander by some uniformed person.  I found out later, from a resident, that there are actually 37 people living there.

I very much appreciated the postmaster.  He reminds me of Abraham Lincoln’s statement that the best way to deal with a bad law is to enforce it rigorously.  The postmaster clearly has issues with a certain subject, so decided to comply with the law in an over the top way.

You Want Peanuts?

From the end of the asphalt, I took the dirt road to nowhere, until my low down to the ground car refused me further service.  I got out, found a donkey trail across the hills and headed upward.

I was soon reminded of some differences between them and me.  Nonetheless, I persisted and arrived at the top of a cluster of hills across the gulch from where I started.  This picture is looking back at where I came from.

Looking Back.

After following the crest of the hills for about three more hills, I decided to stop and listen.  And to enjoy the beauty of desert plants.

Pink?  Really?

I sat on a rock on the ridge for a while, circling around a problem I have not been able to solve for about a month.  I had a sense a few weeks ago that the answer would become clear here, so I dug it out of the file to gnaw on it.

Suddenly I saw the hidden (false) presupposition I had not known was there.  Once I saw it, I could see the way forward.

It was a sweet moment.

After savoring it for a while, I wandered back along the ridges of the hills until I found an easier way to get to my car, then drove away pondering the power of truth.

God Was There First

At the restaurant that night, my server had an odd accent.  She had immigrated from Siberia.  To Death Valley.  There is a story there.  I didn’t ask.

I enjoyed watching the sunset, highlighting the striations on the mountains.  Then I headed to bed early.  My spirit was bubbling.  My bod . . . not so much.

I awoke with time and space on my mind, and pondered the story of Abram.  I suddenly saw some old familiar data through a new grid so hopped out of bed and wrote blog #13.  There was nothing remotely like an Internet connection in Death Valley, but Word still worked.

This area has something huge about it that awakens my spirit in an interesting way.

At breakfast, the gentleman at the next table turned out to be a 30-year commercial salmon fisherman from Alaska.  I asked him what he was doing here, since there were no boats, no waves and no salmon.  This is not a suburb of Alaska.  He gave me a weird look and walked away.

I packed up and drove to Trona.  The town is tragic.  And compelling.

Part Of The Factory

I sat at the picnic table, by the “rest area” lamentably downwind from the latrine.  Off to the east, I could hear the artillery from China Lake bombarding some hill with regularity.

There was a sense of destiny in the air.  No opposition.  Just that there was treasure there, if I would reach far enough into the unknown to find it.

An unexpected problem came into focus – a Rubik’s Cube I have been baffled by for at least 12 years.  Slowly, piece by piece, it came into alignment.  New revelation from God and old knowledge of principles converged.

This has to do with why some people who run hard after God are never able to connect with Him.

I decided to test the new model in real life with one of my most desperate Noble Subjects.  I was able to connect with her immediately and went to war with the new tool.  The response was dramatic and bodes well for the future.  We shall wait and see if we get measurable, verifiable, sustained change!

I shall try this on a couple of other people this week, and if the results are consistent, will share it in Seattle on the 3rd.

By the time I pulled out and headed for home, the hill in China Lake should have been quite dead, based on the number of rounds of artillery that were discharged.  Hopefully the gunner passed his certification.

On the way, I stopped briefly at Red Rock Canyon State Park to give it a hug.  It has been on my bucket list to camp there for a few days and see what the Lord would reveal in that context, but it never came about.

Compelling Beauty

As I drove home, I pondered the surprising approach God took.  I started my good-byes with one of the places I have the most wonderful memories of, in California.

I went with joy and anticipation, expecting to savor the past and find some kind of closure in speaking to the land.

Instead, God surprised me with wisdom and revelation on an immense level.  As I look back on that land in the future, the last visit will eclipse all previous visits.  Rather than any sense of sadness at leaving, there is a blanket of immense awe wrapped around the topic of China Lake and Trona.

Who knew God would do that?

Before leaving Trona, I asked God to send more people who could love the land, not exploit it.

Copyright January 2018 by Arthur Burk









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14 Responses to Saying Goodbye #1: Trona

  1. Ruth Thompson says:

    A lyrical read. I love the 395, the Eastern Sierra. However, I didn’t even know Trona was there, or Darwin, for that matter. But some of my favorite pictures have been taken near Olanda and Lone PIne, and I guess, near Red Rock.

    • Elouise van der Merwe says:

      ‘A lyrical read’ that’s a beautiful sentence! And perfect description, Ruth

  2. Maggie says:

    Most of Australia is dry, seemingly desolate desert land like this. I had a desire to spend thousands of money on a train trip from south to north through the centre …someone got the idea to do a movie of the 2 day journey and it was shown on our special broadcast station SBS for a whole day. That in itself was amazing because I no longer have the desire to spend all that money looking out a train window at the same unending flat desolation ….yet reading this I feel so connected with California now….I am so much more aware of what our ingenious indigenous people endured in both countries…..such beauty in desolation simply because the land was and is so loved by so many. This too is something I don’t fully understand because I long for the natural wet and wild and luscious ’emerald isle’ and ‘green and pleasant land’ of my forebears, but God is stretching me to see more in these desert landscapes ….parts of Israel even come to mind.

  3. Cynthia Harris says:

    Great photos. Thanks so much for sharing the journey with us. We rejoice with you!
    My husband’s mother was from Ryder, North Dakota- population now is 85; in 1930, was more like 45. When they moved to Fargo during the Depression, the whole town chipped in to get them a go away present. ❤️

  4. Janis Leal says:

    I love this.

    Wish I knew more, without knowing why I wish that.

    Beautiful. Thanks.

  5. Jenny Lynn says:

    I loved this post so much! How cool that you did this trip intentionally and thank you for sharing this journey and the photos with us.

    That last line made me start crying, and I have seen it in action when people who love the land take care of it! For example, the tiny rural town where my grandparents lived (less than 100 people in South Dakota) and in which I have so many fond memories, survived multiple tornadoes and other economic disruptions and was on the verge of near death. Until 2 sisters who fell in love with the town and it’s history moved in and started a business and a flea market that has brought amazing new life back to the town and put it on the map again! I’ve gone back several times to support it and celebrate the new life of God in the town because of 2 ladies who saw it’s potential. It can happen! And may it happen in Trona.

    • SLG says:

      Jenny, I have some history and investment in small towns in South Dakota. Want to tell me where?

    • Elouise says:

      Wow!! That is so cool! Thank you for sharing, Your words bring JOY and HOPE, thank you, Jenny Lynn

  6. Brant says:

    Thank you, this was an enjoyable read!

  7. Valynda Henington says:

    I really liked this blog. Can’t say exactly what it was about it, but I know it spoke to me. Maybe I identified with the desert, the cactus, the National Park and the mountains since I live in the same type of environment…..Anyway, something resonated. Will just have to keep pondering on it.

    Enjoy your goodbyes, Arthur. May the rest of them bring as much fruit as this one did!

  8. Christine says:

    Oh, Arthur, I could so FEEL this journey with you. Thank you for sharing the intimacy of your trip backwards and forwards in time.

  9. Elouise says:

    And I find it most endearing that you love an ugly place. I very stupidly thought that you only loved beautiful places. Indeed that was very wrong. You look at an ‘ugly ‘ place with Isaiah 11 in mind, with wisdom and discernment, off-course you do, Mr Burk! I’m now no longer ashamed of loving the ugly town I call home.

  10. Thank you for taking the time to share these special spaces with us. I feel refreshed! Loved the pictures too. I believe I am understanding why I have returned to special places in my life for one last look around… I really enjoyed this blog!

  11. Elouise says:

    I love reading this and loved the last line, Amen to that.

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