Friday, July 1, 2011

Give us this day our daily breadth.

The kids and I are home now, after yesterday's all-day drive from Barstow, in the Mojave Desert.  We spent a final night in a shiny new Holiday Inn next to the Outlet Mall in Barstow, played a little in the pool, did a little shopping, and then hit the road by noon, arriving home, via the farm country of Brentwood, CA last night around 7:30 p.m.  We were met at the door by a frantically-excited dog, and a smiling Andre: the "pack" was reunited at last.

There's still laundry to do, emails, mail, bills, and phone calls to catch up on, LOTS of things to clean-up, and all the usual business of settling back into our routines after a month away.

But I'm reflecting on something that surprised me about this month-long, more than 8,000-mile adventure:  I LOVED the driving on this trip.  Well, I loved most of the driving, particularly through those places that I'd been warned were "flat and boring":  Wyoming, South Dakota, Southern Minnesota,Oklahoma, North Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California's Mojave Desert.  Apologies to my East-Coast friends, but you can have Pennsylvania, New Jersey, large parts of New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.  Maybe those places just felt too familiar to me, or maybe I was just too focused on getting through those areas, to catch up with all the terrific people that I wanted to visit there.

But, I LOVED all those supposedly "empty, desolate" places, particularly the deserts and prairies.  I loved being able to watch sunset's colors change and move from horizon to horizon to horizon. I loved the dry heat.  The high desert has its cool evenings and mornings, and the smell of pinon, smoke, and some kind of sweet grass.   I loved being able to look out across the pastel stripes of Painted Desert and see mountain peaks 120 miles away.  And when we drove (well, almost flew, on those flat, straight, empty desert freeways)  through the lower desert stretches of sagebrush, cactus and Joshua Trees near Needles, CA, at 7:30 at night, with the thermometer reading 111 fahrenheit, I actually insisted that we shut off the AC and open the windows for a few minutes to experience the air that felt exactly like what comes out of a hand-dryer.

In all our wide-open desert and prairie spaces, I experienced something similar to the feeling I get on my morning hikes at home:  breadth.  That sense of being wide, wide open to possibility, wide open to the wind of the Spirit, at home in my own body, and completely free of the press of others' agendas. I tried, a couple of times, to capture in a photograph, that sense of limitless space, but with no success.  What I got was a shot of a minivan in a rest area in a "flat, empty" place in North Texas.  There's no fragrance of sagebrush, no toasty, enveloping wind, no sense of majesty, just a pale sky and a large, beige nothing.

Perhaps that why we think of the deserts as empty and flat.  Photos and film just can't capture that sense of possibility.  But that breadth, that depth, that height of sky is the reason I could be a desert hermit in an alternate existence, as long as my hermitage included an internet connection, so I could write about the silly thoughts that occurred to me, and hear from fellow hermits in other climates from time to time.  I mean, what good is writing and thinking, with no one to share it?

Ok, so I'm not really cut out to be a hermit.  But I could use a good serving of daily breadth, daily.  Care to join me?

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