With the wind in my face and the sun still at my back, I have returned from the desert. It was an experience that is not yet over. As a matter of fact, it is still beginning.
I gave myself a wilderness time-out as a celebration of my Personal Effectiveness Seminar graduation five years ago, the beginning of my journey into self-trust, self-awareness, and celebrating life.
This is what it was like for me, a tenderfoot in the wilderness, to go on such an adventure.
Preparations for a wilderness adventure begin with gathering your equipment together. What a trip that was! I borrowed everything from everyone I knew. I took things that belonged to each member of my family so I could feel their presence whenever I wanted to: a sleeping bag from my son Kyle, long underwear from my son Mark, a long-sleeved shirt from my husband, Kyle, a friend’s backpack, and on down the line. When I had it all spread out on the bedroom floor, it looked like it would never fit into the backpack, but it did! Visions of Mount Vesuvius lurked in my mind as I thought about opening it.
Off we go, meeting all the others who had chosen the same adventure, smiling, laughing. Not knowing what to expect, we climbed on board and took flight, descending into balmy Palm Springs several hours later. We were greeted by bougainvillea blossoms, hibiscus, and oleander scenting the evening air and splashing yards with exquisite color. My senses were totally enveloped by the lushness, my mind by curiosity. What are these days with myself all about? How will I be spending my time? Is there something specific I am looking for? What is it? Will I like the me I discover?
The next morning we drove leisurely into Joshua Tree National Monument (later renamed a national park). I emphasize our pace as leisurely because we all had started a process of slowing down, quieting ourselves. There was an unspoken agreement of introspection and wonder at the majesty of the desert unfolding before us. This agreement lasted and deepened during our time with the desert.
I keep asking myself if there are appropriate words to describe my experience. There are, and they will never be able to “fill” you as I was filled by the exhilaration of feeling, doing, touching, hearing, looking, laughing, crying, and being more peaceful than I can remember. Frequently, at home, I have the feeling that my attention is going in seventeen different directions. I gave myself freedom to be alone and to join, and when I did either, I did it completely. The sensation of wholeness in each moment permeated everything.
The desert is a subtle place perfectly balanced with the elements. Everything you see “fits.” Before going to the desert, I knew I could appreciate it, but I never thought I could come to love such a “harsh” place. I was mistaken. When I took my first walk alone, I was stunned by the life and the beauty that surrounded me. In April, the desert blooms. There were flowers everywhere, under my feet, under the rocks, hidden in nooks and crannies, splashes of intense indigo and throbbing red. Cacti so wrapped in spines they looked painful were flirting with everyone who came by, their scented blossoms whispering. Whispering speaks of the subtleties, of the wind and how “harsh” became majestic.
A pair of crows nested high in the rocks above our camp, and their movements taught me a profound lesson. I had never heard the sound of the air moving beneath a bird’s wings before, so many other sounds envelop me at home. In the desert, as I lay watching these blacker than black birds, I could hear the sounds of their wings moving through the air and I wondered, “What are the sounds of my own being that I do not hear?”
As I lay watching and wondering, ants walked by busy as ever, other crows joined my two crows and performed miraculous aerobatics. Moving my hand beneath my head, I realized that tiny yellow and white blossoms were a carpet beneath my head. My world was whispering to me, gently teaching me.
My wilderness experience is not over yet, as a matter of fact, it beckons me to remember “now.”
1. What are your clearest memories of being nourished by being in nature? Where were you? Who were you with?
2. How often do you give yourself alone time to reflect? If you don’t, what do you do instead?
3. How do you feel when you are alone? Do you like the company you keep?
4. If you could be anywhere in the whole wide natural world right now, where would you be? Why?
I encourage you to share your responses to the reflection questions in the comments section.
With love and gratitude,