Paradise Lost~

Bombay City on The Salton Sea,

a graveyard for ships that will not sail,

and houses with no one home.

People live here and create art out of trash,

“Scrap was here!” (Click to enlarge and see.)

And this artist thinks we should, “Take the Day Off.” (I agree with him/her.)

This artist made a tree out of trash,

while boats still point, “Straight on til’ morning!”

Hopefully if the sea can be repaired,

Bombay City can be too.

Hope & Cheers to the people in Bombay City who make art and order out of chaos~

Note: I was surprised to see an in-depth story on the history and crisis in The Salton Sea, in ‘The Daily Mail’ a few days ago. Check it out if your are interested in this sad story, which is, of course, all of our stories:

210 thoughts on “Paradise Lost~

    1. I wonder the same thing. At least they can restore the wetlands for the birds and control the chemical dust for the people. They need to flood it as the saline levels are rising, and I have no idea where they will get the water, in a state beset by drought. I will watch what $610 million dollars will do….This is the amount allotted to ameliorate this human made disaster, by various measures. Hopefully the people given the money won’t just go to meetings to discuss the problems, which is what “problem solvers,” so often do with government money.

      1. Thank you for link, I’ve just finished reading the article and viewing the video, and now I know what it’s about and the huge problems that need to fixed.

    1. Yes. It has been like this post apocalyptic wasteland for the decades I have visited it. And yet, exotic birds by the million shelter here, and remarkable people live here. It has always fascinated me. It is the place no one goes to, so of course, I have always gone. Even in mid-summer. I am interested in everything people pretend is not happening. And this bit of denial is gob-smacking.

  1. Grossartige Bilder und Kunstwerke aus diesem verlorenen Paradies in Bombay. Es ist erstaunlich, wie viel Kraft und Lebensmut diese armen, ausgestossenen Bewohner dieses Ortes aufbringen, um zu überleben.
    Sie haben nichts und geben dir noch ihren letzten Bissen oder ihr letztes Hemd! Ich weiss, wovon ich spreche, war ich doch 1965 in Indien und Nepal unterwegs.

    Vielen Dank Cindy fürs zeigen. Toll! Ernst

    1. Ich weiß, dass du weißt. Das ist es, was ich an dir so sehr bewundere. Und es ist so sehr oft wahr, dass mehr Ausgestoßene, desto armseliger eine Person ist, desto freundlicher und großzügiger sind sie. Ich habe das in dreißig Jahren immer wieder als klinischer Sozialarbeiter gesehen. Ich bin an einem wohlhabenden Ort aufgewachsen, und diese Menschen würden niemals so freundlich sein. Hier ist eine ernsthafte Lektion zu lernen, die viele Menschen erst lernen werden, wenn es zu spät ist. Danke für das Wissen und für die Pflege meines Freundes. Und bitte vergib mir mein schreckliches Deutsch.

  2. How did your throat feel as you were walking around? The article makes it sound like a dangerous place to visit with all that toxic dust, yet your photos have a tranquil beauty to them. Feel sad for the birds and fish that live there.

    1. I come and spend a few days here several times a year, and have done so since I was young. It has always been a bleak and beautiful place. It has taken a long time for me to articulate what draws me here, the birds of course, by the millions in winter, but the people too draw me in. I always feel like these outcasts from mainstream society are smarter than I, in some important and fundamental way. I admire their courage, their artistry, their iconoclasm. But the poverty, the effect on the children, and the neglect of society towards all of this, contains within it everything I feel is wrong with human beings and our behavior towards each other, the planet, and all living creatures. I visit a couple days a year. The children live and grow here.

  3. Amazing and fascinating – thanks so much for showcasing this unusual and thought-provoking art space. “You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche

  4. An interesting story Cindy and a microcosm of the toxic mess created by farmers’ use of pesticides. It looks a very unhealthy environment to visit, let alone live. These people need clean air to breathe, free from toxic dust 💜

    1. I like the world “natural” in quotes. This whole terrible scenario is what humans do, when we don’t take responsibility for our actions. It just continues on and on, like ever falling dominoes.

    1. I am, and always will be, a clinical social worker at my core. Now my daughter is one too. It is hard to articulate this experience in a blog, but photos often do this for me. Love to you and Jack <3

        1. Yes. I have been home since the end of April. I went looking for your second blog yesterday since I haven’t seen any posts from you. I find your original blog, but not your new one, even though I follow it. It never appears in my reader and I can’t remember it’s name!

    1. Yes absolutely, as Emily said, “hope floats.” Human imagination, creativity and artistry, have the ability to help us transcend whatever bad situation we are in, and to communicate this hopeful transcendance to others. It is beauty we create for ourselves and others.

  5. this is truly terrible. It is so sad to read the article, just unbelievable what was a thriving area,is now so abandoned, toxic and terrible. Truly hope that they can do something about it. Also hope they learn from it and be more careful with what they are doing and where. ( Same really with the oceans and the waste) We only learn too late. :-(…It should have never come to that!

    1. “We only learn too late,” and “It should have never come to that.”
      You are so right on both points, and so many of us have still not learned, and unfortunately many of these unlearned folks are sitting in the positions of power.

  6. Pictures tell the sad story and you have done an excellent job portraying them. Yes we need to be positive that this will change for the better! 🙁

    1. Yes it is depressing. To me it seems like the proverbial canary in the cave, showing us in images, what is to come on this planet, if we don’t heed the warnings.

  7. Thank you so much for sharing this, Cindy. It’s so important to talk about the places of struggle in the world. I don’t know what we can necessarily do about it but the art work is also a reminder that people can find joy and happiness in very adverse and difficult conditions. Your photography as always was stunning and I particularly love the one where the wooden ribs of the dead ship are decaying into the sand.It is so poignant!
    xx Rowena

    1. You have a sensitive and caring eye Rowena. Thank you for caring. And yes, people’s ability and desire to create artistic expression, regardless of circumstance, is one of the most impressive aspects of our species.

  8. Hey Cindy, Namaste 🙂

    How grand the sand when artfully adorned,
    How pleasing to the unsuspecting eye,
    For who would know from Salton’s shadow,
    Such impressive structures were formed.
    This scape, this space, this wilderness place,
    Once hustled and bustled with life: but yet,
    Now strives to stay alive, to breathe beneath the sun:
    Dry-eyed is this gallery mourning what is gone.
    Azure blue of deepest hue abundant in the sky,
    Reflects upon a land laying stagnant, bone-dry.
    She sighs remembering lush fertile plains,
    Finds hope she’ll see them once again.
    In her sight the bright plight of painted boats:
    Timber ghosts left haunting deserted shores,
    Unsure of what do: no longer used,
    They wither: waste away together.
    For this derelict wilderness in Bombay City:
    Tumbled and crumbled yet once so pretty,
    I find pity in my heart, pleasure in the Art, but,
    Sadness in the sacrifice of paradise.

    Thank you for posting, for emphasising the plight of the Salton Sea. I will read the article you linked, thank you.

    Hoping all is well with one and all in the Holler 🙂

    Take care, have a great week. Namaste 🙂


    1. Your writing, and hence your thinking, gives me goosebumps Dewin. Bombay City is a living human created ghost town, with people living there, who express their anomie in art. I wish I could share your poem with them. They would appreciate your empathy and sensitivity, as do I.

      1. Thank you Cindy, Namaste 🙂

        It is a most curious place to read about and consider about but I imagine similar locations are not uncommon along the coastal route where communities lie broken and fractured and subsistence living is the regrettable norm. What is endearing, encouraging, inspiring, is their desire to express, to reflect, prettify and enhance, and is so doing perhaps also maintain connection with the past whilst regarding the future with trepidation. I admire their resilience, their ability to resist persist, and exist in a world given over to greed. It is as though they leave a legacy in their slow demise. I find it haunting.

        Thank you for posting.

        Namaste 🙂


        1. “I admire their resilience, their ability to resist persist, and exist in a world given over to greed.”
          This is IT exactly. This is why I know they are smarter than I am, and have things to teach me. I have long been aware that people who have the very least, have strength, courage and survival skills that I am lacking. If I was put in their place, I would founder, and they would continue making art, and probably help me too. There is is such beauty in them.

          1. Despite their tragedy and neglect, ‘there is such beauty in them’ – I couldn’t agree more, wonderful sentiments 🙂

            Nature’s instinct is to survive and flourish and the motivation for self-preservation is essential to that process. Those who have very little often live closer to death and perhaps as a result are more determined to stay alive by remaining strong and resilient in the face of adversity: by being courageous, resourceful, practical, focussed, fundamentally grounded, but yet, certainly never deflated in indomitable spirit.

            During time spent with the homeless here in the UK, I came to realise very quickly how deep-seated the fear of death, of violence, of ceasing to be actually is, and how these ever-present dangers motivate, influence, and effect a person trying to stay alive on the ragged edge of the ragged edge. Time in their company was at once humbling and inspiring: as despairing as it was enlightening. People shared their lives openly to the extent that I learnt of the desperate state they persist in, but more than that I came to understand something of the shameful world I existed in as well.

            Human beings can be amazing.

            Namaste 🙂


            1. Why are there homeless people in rich countries like the US and the UK? There is something fundamentally wrong with our societies to allow people to be outcast and unloved like this.

              1. Sadly, I think ours is a world turned on an axis of fools gold by those who see arbitrary value in everything but the actual worth of nothing at all. It is their selfish, money-driven mentality that dominates society, which ultimately reduces humanity to nothing more than subservience: submission to a man-made monetary system that seeks to define us, diminish us, and stratify society ever further. Realistically those that have power appear to make little provision for anyone else other than themselves and do so only if there is financial reward. Profit before people is one mantra for our current age, but yet, human-kind considers itself both civilised and progressive. I don’t think it ever will be, or can be, not whilst power and wealth remain unequally distributed under the control of the few.

                It’s distressing to know homelessness is a global issue: that millions world-wide live without homes whilst larger numbers than that live daily without certainty of food and water. There appears to be no global agenda to resolve homelessness nor to ensure adequate provision for all the world’s people. I find that immeasurably short-sighted, incredibly cold-hearted, and distinctly inhumane: symptomatic of a world out of balance with itself. It is very sad indeed.

                The world waits for a leader with true vision. When then perhaps human-kind will progress, evolve, transform, become.

                Namaste 🙂


                1. P.S: Something else I learnt from the homeless: that when one has nothing, grace love and beauty are readily found in all things and true happiness joyfully appreciated in the smallest of small gestures 🙂

    1. Yes, plus this has the added factor of people continuing to live here. These towns on the sea are still occupied, even though at least half of them are derelict.

  9. Thanks for the amazing photos, Cindy. As I have been in Bombay Beach back in 2015 this village still has a deep impact on me. It is an example of how easy things can go downhill, if you recall that lots of proms performed back in the 50s and 60s at the Salton Sea. My son told me this town is part of PlayStation’s GTA game and it’s called “Sandy Shores”. Thanks again for reminding me of great moments with my family in Bombay Beach. Cheers, Uwe

    1. These towns that dot the sea have the same impact on me that you describe. I need to go photograph the laid out grids for suburban developments, with street names and curbs, driveways and lots, and signs advertising, “Build Your Home in Paradise!” I didn’t know about play station’s “Sandy Shores,” and will ask my son about it. Thank you for remembering, and even more for caring.

  10. That’s just crazy making! It’s hard to believe America has been so hard on nature. Also, that people in certain businesses don’t care to spend, unless there is profit to be made from the expenditure. I do know some people (Canadians) who believe we are polluting without impunity and creating climate change. They actually don’t care. They say, it’s here, use it up, that the sun will burn out one day, anyway. Earth is doomed, and it’s now that counts.
    Interesting and sad article, Cindy! Great pics, of a different sort!

    1. I guess this is the core narcissistic belief, I only really care about me, my life, and what happens to me, so what if I destroy parts of the planet, as long as I enjoy myself while I am here. They forget the place they, and so many others like them pollute, is also the planet they live on. They have to breathe the air, drink the water, eat the food, even in Trump tower.

          1. Yes, although the Spanish Inquisition would have been stranger! Earth must be an experiment. Why else would all of this “man’s inhumanity to man” exist?

            1. Yes, I have often thought this. Put these odd creatures on this planet and leave them there, and watch them and see what they do. I think we are failing the experiment.

  11. The enduring spirit of humanity is remarkable. What’s sad is that we could allow nature to take its course if it weren’t for the pesticides. I hope the money allotted by the bond measure can restore the health and beauty of this once-gorgeous landmark. Striking photos, Cindy ❤️

    1. There are restaurants and stores in nearby communities. There are different cities like Bombay City around The Salton Sea, including a place called The Slabs. Since the sea is so large, people living at different geographical parts of the sea will access different communities. They need access to a vehicle to do this.

  12. This makes me feel …so sad. Those artists are at least trying to make something out of the disaster, but much work has to be done to secure the animals and the people living in the areas there. Thank you for posting, Cindy. It is unbelievable how much we destroy – but I know much is possible to restore. The worst enemy is hopelessness.

  13. I am sorry that we didn’t visit Salton Sea when we were in CA this winter. It would be wonderful to see the place regenerate. I’m so glad that the bill passed and there’s hope!

    1. Yes! Thank you so much Patti. <3
      I share your hope, and agree it lives here, in Bombay City, and other derelict towns around The Salton Sea.
      The bill passage may also spur other state-wide efforts to save this portion of the world, where people, and critters live.
      I don't know if any of this will work, but I am hopeful.
      I do worry that other areas like this with people, and wild creatures, may be similarly overlooked, before it is too late.

    1. I was very moved by it too. It continued inside. There was a depiction of the signs that are all over SoCal freeways of an immigrant mother, father and infant, running across the freeway, away from Border Patrol. These signs are to urge drivers to slow down and not hit them. I wonder if T will remove these warning signs.

    1. It proves we are creative, and will create art in every circumstance, and is ultimately an expression of individuality and humanity. As such it conveys hope, and elicits admiration in people who view it, like you and me! <3

  14. Wow! That is really crazy. I linked to the Daily Mail article and read most of it. How utterly horrendous for wildlife and secondly, anyone that invested big and lost. People though can always recover, nature isn’t so lucky. I really can’t see how this ‘accidental’ lake can see recovery. Seems like mother nature is taking back the desert in a big way. With temps increasing all over the planet, receding lakes are only be the tip of the iceberg. I read a while back about a major urban city in Africa running out of water soon. People have to go to water stations and fill jugs. We’re really screwing things up but good, even given all the warning signs. Good luck to all those making an effort towards positive change. The strangest thing to me is, many of the biggest nay-sayers on the climate-change issue, have kids and/or grand kids. What kind of future are they planning to leave them? I’m going to my happy place now, LOL xK

    1. The city with the soon to run out water was Cape Town. It would be an unparalleled disaster. It is such a big city, and has huge poverty stricken areas. It is a city we are due to visit soon. Some narcissists don’t really care about future generations, even of their own family. One currently prominent one comes to my mind. They are so wrapped up in themselves and what they are doing, they have very little concern for anyone else. At most they would care about one narcissistic extension, a daughter, son, or someone they mentor who they view as a narcissistic extension of themself. This is as far as concern for others goes with them, and it is a self reflected concern at best.

  15. Your series on the Salton Sea is quite good, Cindy. Until 1995, I managed the plant operations for the geothermal plants out there. Became very familiar with the area and wildlife. Well done.

    1. I know there a quite of few of them 10 or 11, and Warren Buffet was going to build a big one, but the word is, he no longer will. I know some of them are excellent birding sites. I would be fascinated to learn more about your experiences out there and your leads on the best birding sites at the plants!

      1. Winter is interesting because the Canada snow geese migrate to the area, mostly around the plants. Thousands of them. At dusk they return from feeding to bed down in the fields, wave after wave. Pretty impressive. Plenty of owls, coyotes. You always to to watch for rattlesnakes and scorpions.

        The big plant you’re referring to was actually in planning before Buffet bought us out with his MidAmerican group. There were a lot of cost prohibitive issues with that size of a project. A year after the buyout, I decided to form my own consulting business and went international. The people MidAmerican brought in didn’t really get it.

        There used to be a Salton Sea wildlife visitor center at the south side of the Sea, not too far from the geothermal plants. If it’s still maintained they’ll have some good information…..maybe on Gentry Road, in Calipatria.

        1. Yes, there are two Sonny Bono wildlife centers to the south, which are excellent birding sites in winter and I have seen the snow geese as you describe, and large flocks of cranes, along with many other fascinating birds. I would love to see more burrowing owls and harriers but have only seen each, once. Coyotes, rattlesnakes, scorpions and black widows are ever present at The Holler too, and I am super aware of avoiding them. There are also pumas at the sea, but I have only seen the tracks. What sorts of owls have you seen and where/when? Did you take photos when you worked there?

          1. Best way to see burrow owls is to drive along the dirt access roads that follow the irrigation canals, which are plentiful around all the farm fields. The owls dig holes between the dirt and the cement walls of the canals.

  16. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    Last time I shared some of the wildfowl, struggling to exist in their traditional home of The Salton Sea in California. This week Cindy shares the sad sight of the beach resort of Bombay City where the residents are creating artwork from the chaos. There is also a link to an article about the crisis. As always Cindy’s photographs tell the story very eloquently.

  17. Making art from trash–Very hopeful ! The Daily Mail link is also encouraging. Great photographs, especially the boat. That’s quite a statement. I do appreciate yourcontinuing to document this stiry.

    1. Well, it is a stirring story. Also, theboat I mentioned is the one that looks like a walking fish, symbolic perhaps of a certain devolution thats going on today.

  18. Beautiful in a sad & haunting sort of way. It reminds me of some of the abandoned, broken down buildings, equipment, and artwork we saw along historic Route 66.

  19. Cindy, I loaded this page and read if offline, but the images didn’t load.. next time at the cyber I reloaded, and read at home – wow… that is a unique place, and I wondered if you could sense any negative energy from it being basically abandoned/desolate.. after the earthquake hit jama, every time I returned, I felt a really heavy energy, and every day there I felt it physically… it’s as if that moment of horror, of death, of destruction is trapped there – as if it needs a cleansing… when i looked at the images here, i loved what i saw, yet i sensed that same feeling of sadness…. hope this makes sense.

    your posts are always a joy to admire!

    1. I feel a complex set of emotions every time I visit The Salton Sea.These towns are not abandoned. I feel sadness for the harshness of people’s lives here and this deep abiding respect for their perseverance. I feel anger that people are outcast like this and ignored, and worry about the physical and psychological effects of this place on children. I feel distress for the environmental degradation, and amazed at the beauty and endurance of the birds.
      The Salton Sea is a microcosm for me of civilization, and it all it’s attendant discontents.
      Thank you for your sensitivity and for asking how I feel. It felt good to express it.

    1. “Art can be found in the saddest of places – it just has to be looked for!” I so agree with you, and feel exactly the same about beauty. You don’t have to travel to find beauty. It is there with you, even in the most desolate of places <3

  20. I always love the stories in your photos, Cindy. Here, heartbreaking despite artistic resilience, such a cautionary tale of our environmental messes and missteps, sometimes with good intentions but . . . often lacking proper care and followthrough. When will we properly respect our earth’s sensitivity? Thanks ever so much for the article link, as well. Be well, continue to walk in beauty. WE often see through your eyes. Thank you.

    1. Ahhh, such a heartwarming, thoughtful, and insightful comment. I am touched by you. Thank you.
      I was reading a book by a paleontologist recently who wrote about earth’s five great extinctions and how the sixth may well be anthropocene, created by us. He explained that if the history of the earth were collapsed into a 24 hour clock, humans have been here for barely over a minute. Our species packs a lot bang for our buck, planetary and time wise.
      When I go to The Salton Sea, this is what I see and feel. I feel extinction encroaching, and people avoiding.

      1. It is scary to contemplate, isn’t it? I sometimes think that maybe because we live at a time when we have so many things and so much that is considered disposable, we Still (despite our knowledge) take for granted this earth and as well as resources such as clean water, air, and soil and consider them ever-replenishing. I fear for a future when it may be too late to be more careful.

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