I’ve long considered Leonard Knight’s Salvation Mountain to be a place I would one day visit and yesterday, in the burning sun having driven for hours across the desert, we made it. Leonard died not long ago and this place is his legacy. I don’t know what it is about Salvation Mountain that has always appealed to me. I don’t consider myself religious but a hopeful agnostic, spiritual in a private way. The two messages painted most frequently across the huge, handmade mountain are “God is love” and “God loves you.” I guess if I had to describe the kind of spiritual belief I follow, if any, this would be it. Iris Dement’s ‘Let the Mystery Be’ has resonance with me, in which she sings “I believe in love and live my life accordingly. But I choose to let the mystery be”.
The mountain is a beautiful place of colour and love. We talked to a man called Frank (lowermost photo), and his dog Sassy (who was born on the mountain). Frank was close to Leonard and helped him build the mountain, he described himself to us as a ‘snowbird’ who travels south for the winter, soon to leave Niland for the north, “but the mountain is always here, it’ll always be here.” This contrasted with another, rather pessimistic, friend of Leonard’s who told us he was sure the mountain was going to collapse “in the next heavy rainfall.” Frank told us he still misses Leonard, and misses how Slab City used to be, “back when everyone used to dance” and how Leonard practically “made friends with the whole county.” This conversation was the perfect end to our visit. We said goodbye to Frank and Sassy, he shook our hands and told us to please remember to wear our seatbelts on the journey home, before yelling ‘Peace out’ and wandering home along the dusty track.
(Photo of Frank credit to my brother Matt - matthewbenington.com)