Friday, October 11, 2013

From My Nature Journal: The Desert and Hope's Intimations

Saguaro NP, Arizona
Sometimes these guys have
persona: Hans or Franz?
The desert. It can be an unforgiving place, with razor-sharp margins to match its cactus’ prolific thorns. Often punishing and inhospitable, it can be an austere, life-sapping environment that can make one feel they are sucking hot air as through a straw, seeming to say, “Go away. Go far away. Get not close to me.” I hike for an hour before I even find a single spot to sit that combines a flat and open, semi-smooth space with a little apologetic shade from an ironwood tree.

Yes, there is a stark and awesome beauty here. But one had better bring along their own margins, their own safety-nets, their own protections – something that covers arms and legs from the unfriendliness of the flora, shades the head and skin from the merciless sun, hydrates the body from the moisture-sucking environment, and prepares one to be responsive to the defenses of the fauna, particularly if one is going to be out here for some time. Scorpions, snakes, lizards and stinging bugs are one’s companions.

And the periodic desert of the soul, how different? Perhaps not much at all. The draining oppression of the enemy can combine with a God Whose refreshing can veil itself so as not to be easily encountered… One must protect one’s self out here as well. Is God there somewhere? It seems He’s left the county, that the territory’s not big enough for the both of us, Pardner…

But there are moments in my wilderness wanderings where there are hints of God’s graces within seemingly unfriendly surroundings. Though there’s rarely a place to sit, let alone sit in the shade, intimations of hope are here if sought after, sometimes surprisingly so. On my third day of hiking I come across a relict sign that points to a spur trail; it simply says “Windmill.” Say what? Here? Someone’s idea of a joke? But just a short distance away, a windmill as relict as the sign looks absolutely out-of-place, still, silent. Yet as I stare, wondering of its history, a small breeze presents itself, the blades catch air, and the turbine slowly begins to turn, squeaking loudly. To my utter astonishment I soon hear a faint splash of water, a small pipe releasing water into a catch basin I had not seen in the underbrush. Upon further investigation I find the basin spilling over into a small rivulet that quickly disappears beneath the sand. But it’s there. Honeybees and small butterflies flit about and attest to it, taking advantage of the contrite oasis.

Sometimes it is only a tiny stream that is necessary to see for one to know that the desert will not stretch on forever. Sometimes a single word from God is all it takes to press on through the drought.

~~RGM, from an earlier journal entry after
hiking Saguaro National Park, Arizona,
adapted for my blog October 8, 2013

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