After changing a flat tire in Mexico and waiting for a while to cross the border to the United States again, we set our way towards Salvation Mountain, a huge folk art site in Imperial County, California. I’ve always felt a certain allure for this kind of constructions, and always wondered why would somebody dedicate so much time and effort constructing with their own hands such eccentric places. I guess that’s what makes them so mystical and I always feel a swirl of bewilderment as I get closer.
This construction is the second one created by Leonard Knight, who, in the last half of the 60’s, experienced a spiritual awakening that led him to worship and dedicate himself to God and Jesus up until his death (in 2014). He made his way from Vermont to California in the next two decades, doing this and that, and having in mind the creation of the biggest hot air balloon in the world which would have written the words “GOD IS LOVE”. After many attempts the balloon did not thrive and so he decided to make one last effort to spread his faith.
For four years Knight started creating a mountain made out of sand, cement and junk he found in the dump. He then painted his artwork with his beloved sayings and prayers. This first mountain collapsed, creating a huge cloud of dust, due to the overloading of sand and its heaviness.
Having interpreted this setback as a positive message from God, he started reconstructing his mountain with proper and much lighter materials such as adobe clay and straw. This new construction started in 1989 and has evolved ever since. It is possible to walk under it, and there are some ‘museum’ rooms and nooks, which are all huge altars that praise God with messages of redemption.
Although I don’t identify with any kind of religion, I can say I’ve felt really peaceful and happy and loved with all this naive beauty and all the blissful, endless desert that surrounds it. I guess Leonard Knight wanted to spread love, as he said ‘love is the strongest force on earth and can combat the hate that is so prevalent in today’s world’ – and I couldn’t agree more.
As the sun set, we left and drove lazily in the direction of Palm Springs. We couldn’t help stopping the car next to the road to watch the beautiful lake reflecting the sky and the mountains with the thinest moon crowning that eternal sky.