The word oasis conjures visions of palm trees; pure, refreshing springs; olives and dates; the heady fragrance of citrus and jasmine - scent memories of beautiful times and places; camels; and the colorful tents of nomadic tribes. Perhaps this list is based on romantic notions of distant topoi, such as the Silk Road, imagined by this Northern-dweller. Your list of associations will be different than mine, I am sure.
Oasis evokes a peripheral lexicon of words that shelter one from difficult circumstances, if only as metaphor, such as island, sanctuary, paradise, refugia, and utopia. Mirage, a related term, is not necessarily an hallucination (as the optical effects are real), but is no more useful than a dream or a vision, without the tangible benefits of an oasis.
Technically, oasis is defined as a fertile spot in an otherwise barren region. The isolated area of vegetation is fostered by the presence of a natural occurrence of water in an arid zone, either from a rare surfacing of a subterranean water source or from a geology that has the ability to retain moisture, unlike the surrounding sands.
An oasis can be real or illusory, a place that provides all that is fundamental for survival, nourishing both the physical and the spiritual. The mere utterance of the word sounds like a sigh of relief or ecstasy—OASIS—coupling an exclamation (O) with an exhalation (ahs).
Nancy Seaton, Miranda Pierce, Clare Al-Witri, Khyati Saraf, Anne Eastman, Amanda Friedman, Marie Warsh, KB Jones, Eri Yamagata, Meghan T. Ray, Melissa Gorman, Sophia Warsh, Ana Coccioletti, Lisa DuRussel, Diana Gruberg, Laura Harmon, Wayne Morris, Matilde Nardelli & Bernadette Mayer