“Encounters between strangers in the desert, while rare, were occasions of mutual suspicion, and marked by initial preparations on both sides for an incident that might prove either cordial or warlike.”

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.

I giggled a bit when I read this and shared (read “bothered”) it with my sons. Set in the American Southwest 800 years after nuclear disaster, meetups in the desert haven’t changed much.

I exaggerate, of course, but people who voluntarily move out to the desert are generally looking for solitude. These days, because technology has made it more accessible, the desert is becoming more and more populated. To find real solitude, one must move farther out again.

Those who were among the first to set up small communities in the rural deserts are gone. Their succeeding generations that decided to stay and the next wave of peace seekers, are not wary of the newcomers and approach them carefully.

Why are you here? And can I tolerate your presence on the outskirts of my hermitage?

The stress is on the side of the newcomer as well. Will this stranger be one of those anti-social, “get of my property,” shotgun toting weirdos we hear of in old stories? Or will he be a friendly recluse, ready and willing to greet a stranger and talk about the weather for awhile over a cold beer on the porch?