Peace Camp near Mercury, NevadaMarch 26, 1988
NEVADA: Nye County
Peace Camp on Bureau of Land Management Land along US 95 four miles south of Mercury, just north of the Atomic Energy Testing Site

At dawn the desert is cold and the sun-lighted tops of distant mountains are pink. Standing at the entrance to the road to Mercury, my placard is the one saying WAR IS NOT HEALTHY FOR CHILDREN AND OTHER LIVING THINGS, picked because the rose painted on it is red and cheerful. Employees driving in for work, used to this by now, mostly nod to us or wave. Standing next to the cattle-guard, beyond which any trespasser automatically is arrested, Toby from Kansas tells about last weekend's ceremony conducted just before several hundred church people went across the cattle-guard to be read their rights and arrested.

"We had a big bowl full of water and crystals," he says. "We all prayed for peace and then everyone went around and picked out a crystal to take home with them. The crystal will always remind us of what we've seen here, and felt."

"Crystals are wonderful," someone says. "Crystals are pure. Their geometrical form actually reflects the configuration of the molecules of which they are composed. Looking at a perfect crystal is one of the most beautiful experiences in the whole world."

Two ravens flying over the desert seem to be dancing. But who knows what's on their minds, or of what kinds of thoughts, feelings or spirituality those birds are capable?

"In a way, people are like crystals," someone says, and maybe the same thought has been dawning in each of us. "If you think of the DNA sequence in mankind's genes as being analogous to a crystal's basic molecular structure, then a human's inherited looks and predispositions... they're like the crystal's configuration. Yeah, we are all crystals... "

Average people are saying wondrous things and the pink mountains look like huge piles of sherbet.

"Radiation from those bombs, what does it do when it meets life?" someone rhetorically asks. "It disrupts the DNA sequence. It might kick the cell into replicating itself wildly, making cancer, or if the radiation attacks a sex germ about to form new life, it may cause mutations."

The wind begins to stir, causing us to pull our collars around our necks.

"Radiation meeting life is like a hammer shattering a crystal," someone says.

The workers keep arriving and we keep standing there, and the pink mountains grow noble in their grayness.

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