Sunday, June 1, 2014

Desert Love

"An Abundant Emptiness"

When we first moved out to the desert, many of our friends asked us why would we ever want to live in such a desolate place. Now, as the daytime temperatures rise up into the triple digits, those same friends ask us, "how can you stand it there in the summer months?" 

Indeed this is a season when all the tourists leave the desert and all the part-time residents "get out of town" and go back to their homes up in the cooler north.  Even some full time residents have gone away, seeking relief from the heat in ocean-front resorts or in green-forest mountain cabins.  

The daytime temperatures will hover around 110 degrees (or more) for the next 4 months or so, making the vast wild emptiness seem even emptier and more stark than ever. So, it's time for a lot of people to "get out of town."  And yet, for many of us year-round "desert dwellers," this is our favorite season. 

I love it here in the desert at this time of year.

The "tourist season" is over, all the many festivals have come to an end, and a renewed sense of stillness has descended on the neighborhood where we live.  Almost no one walks on the wilderness trails; anso many times it's just me and the wilderness - a vast and even fierce emptiness baking in the sun - nothing but silence, profound, deafening silence.  It is the most "spiritual" place I have ever lived.

These summer months in the desert teach me something of what a "desert spirituality" is really all about. Oddly enough, a "desert spirituality" has  often been described as a "wintery spirituality."

The desert reminds people of things they would rather forget, taking them to the edges. The desert has nothing to do with comfort. It is a place of 'wintery spirituality' with its shrill cry of absence, contrasting with a 'summery spirituality' of easy exuberance and glib certainty about the divine presence.

The desert experience is a 'wintery' phenomenon, more given to being emptied than filled. It is harsh and lean in its imagery.

Yet no love is greater than desert love.

In these hot summer months of "wintery spirituality," the desert teaches me that the way to deeper peace and greater enlightenment always follows a path of emptying and emptiness - surrendering my sense of self importance, embracing the truth that "I" belong to that which is greater then "me."

I have spent most of my life living in a "summery spirituality" - lots of answers, an easy exuberance, a glib certainty about the unknowable, unnamable mystery of divine presence.  But this glib certainty has gone away - all my answers have become like dust in the wind. 

As I walk the wilderness way of a "wintery spirituality," I encounter nothing but emptiness and in the midst of all the emptiness, I discover an enduring abundance - a fiercely tender, wild Holy Presence, an Abiding Love that will never let me go.

No love is greater than desert love.

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