"Springs in the Desert"
While the majority of the Unites States is suffering from the effects of snow, ice and extremely hazardous winter weather, California is experiencing a drought- a severe drought.
The rainfall levels throughout the state have been far below normal for years now, and this year has been the worst ever. In the northern part of the state (the part that is primarily agricultural), farmers are unable to grow their crops. The drought has been so severe that diary farmers are beginning to sell off their herds to out-of-state farmers. I read yesterday that it would have to rain every day from now until May for the water levels to be restored to normal, but it never rains all that much in California - hard times ahead.
I have been receiving some email from a friend back east asking how we are faring out here in the desert. After all, if the whole State of California is suffering from such a severe drought, it must be excruciatingly dry, "bone-dry" in the desert.
But interestingly enough the desert is doing pretty well. In fact the desert is virtually unaffected by the drought.
Local farmers have planted an abundantly growing new spring crop, the wildflowers are about to bloom on the desert floor, the shrubs and trees are turning green - just about to blossom along with the cacti. Just near my house, an oasis of palm trees grows abundantly in the middle of the wilderness. And everywhere I look there are springs of flowing water, fountains and even rivers flowing through it all- some man-made, others naturally occurring, all of it springing up out of the dry desert terrain.
When I first moved out here, it all seemed so incongruous to see all that life springing up from all those rocks and bone dry sand. It seems even more incongruous to see all this when the rest of this state is experiencing a severe drought.
But then again, I live in a desert dotted by towns and villages with names like "Palm Springs," or "Desert Hot Springs," or "Whitewater Canyon." The apparently bone-dry desert is actually one of the most fertile places on the planet because throughout the valley there runs a deep spring of underground water- an aquifer.
In fact, the native peoples first migrated here (far before the White settlers arrived) because of the aquifer that supplies this desert with a constant flow of abundant water in which to grow crops and keep animals and sustain life.
This morning I have been reflecting on the lesson I am learning by living in such a bone-dry place that so abundantly blossoms into life - you don't have to live in a desert to feel like your life is a desert.
At one time or another, all of us have been in these bone-dry places in life (many are here right now). Some have lost jobs or suffer from ruptured relationships. Some feel like they have come to a dead-end, their hopes and dreams have been dashed. Others suffer from disabling physical ailments, terminal diseases, cruel addictions.
In my experience, it is in these bone-dry places that I have often found the deepest healing and richest refreshment in life.
When we find ourselves in those desert places, we have some choices to make. We can withdraw deeper into ourselves, ashamed of our failures or weaknesses, angry at others or at God for the plight which life has afflicted upon us - or we can embrace the dry places, reach out and become connected.
Those bone dry experiences in life are opportunities for each of us to break down our egoic sense of independence and self-reliance and turn to others for help. In those bone-dry places in life (or as the 12- step programs say, "when we hit rock-bottom"), we have an opportunity to "surrender to a Higher Power" - to intentionally connect to that ever-abiding Holy Presence who never lets us go.
I sit out in my garden this morning and bathe myself in the sights, the sounds, the smells- the lush foliage, the flowering bushes, my olive tree, the fig and citrus trees in the back yard. The fountain is gurgling with sounds of new life. All of it springing up and out of such a bone-dry place on this earth.
I close my eyes and call to mind one of my favorite passages in the Hebrew Scriptures. It is a song of hope sung by the prophet Isaiah to people living in exile, in a bone-dry desert:
Springs of water will burst out in the wilderness,
streams will flow in the desert.
Hot sands will become a cool oasis,
thirsty ground a splashing fountain