The ascetic tradition, which begins in the desert, seeks an equilibrium which is a perfect balance of absence and presence. This is related to Heidegger’s notion of ‘dwelling poetically’ as a fundamental form of human life which has its origins, for the Western reader at least, in the literature of the Bible. In the desert, like Elijah, we encounter God, felt as a kind of homecoming. The ambivalences of the desert are caught in Jim Crace’s novel Quarantine, a revisiting of Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness. Finally, the desert is the Lord’s lost paradise garden, a place wholly other and yet entirely familiar — like home.