The restless sea, the towering mountains, the silent desert—what do they have in common? and what are the essential differences? Grandeur, color, spaciousness, the power of the ancient and elemental, that which lies beyond the power of man to wholly grasp or utilize, these qualities all three share. In each there is a sense of something ultimate, with mountains exemplifying the brute force of natural processes, the sea concealing the richness, complexity, and fecundity of life beneath a surface of huge monotony, and the desert—what does the desert say?

The desert says nothing. Completely passive, acted upon but never acting, the desert lies there like the bare skeleton of Being, spare, sparse, austere, utterly worthless, inviting not love but contemplation. In its simplicity and order it suggests the classical, except that the desert is a realm beyond the human, and in the classicist view only the human is regarded as significant or even recognized as real.

Edward Abbey, “Episodes and Visions”, in Desert Solitaire