'Springtime in the Wilderness'
Before moving out to the desert I would often drive on the Interstate Highway winding my way though this desert valley, often thinking to myself that this was probably one of the driest and most abandoned places I had ever before seen. As I drove along the highway all I could see were miles of sandy wilderness - rocks and sagebrush all surrounded by towering mountains of hard cold stone. I often wondered why on earth anyone wold ever even think about living out here in this "god-forsaken" place?
The names of the little desert cities out here also seemed very odd to me. As I drove my car on the highway, I would have expected that the towns along the way might be called "Dry Gulch" or maybe "Death Valley," but instead they sported names like "Desert Hot Springs," "White Water Canyon," and of course, "Palm Springs." Now that I live out here, I know exactly why these little "cities" have those fresh "spring" names.
What appears to be one of the driest places on earth is perhaps one of the most fertile places on earth. An enormous aquifer runs just beneath the surface of this wilderness territory- streams of living water inches below the dry desert terrain. Although the daytime temperatures can easily reach up onto the triple digits, fresh vegetables and fruit grow abundantly and palm trees are to be found everywhere. The gardens at my home are filled with freshly growing plants and flowering bushes, lemon and lime trees, pomegranate, fig and olive.
Living out here I am regularly reminded of some beautiful poetry in the Hebrew Scripture:
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
and streams in the desert
The burning sand will become a pool,
the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
Today is the first day of spring, and to me there is probably no more beautiful place on earth than springtime in the wilderness. One day I can be walking along a desert trail all barren, stark and dry and the next day spring has sprung - golden yellow blossoms on the bushes and the trees, pink and purple wildflowers on the desert floor, exotic blooms springing up out of the prickly cacti, "every common bush" bursting with new life.
Each year when spring comes to the wilderness, I am again taught an important life-lesson. People often say that springtime is a season when nature wakes up. Actually I think spring is a season when nature teaches all of "us" to wake up.
Everything that once appeared so dry and lifeless, so dead and cold, comes alive in springtime; but nature reminds us that it has been alive all along. Life has always been flowing underneath the surface appearances of it all. It's just that most of us have been asleep and unaware so we haven't recognized it.
Spring is not a time for the earth to wake up - it is a season for our awakening.
I came across this beautiful springtime prayer the other day. It is the kind of prayer that can be recited by believers and non-believers alike, a prayer to the living God, to an abiding Holy Presence, a prayer to the Universe in which we all live and move and have our being:
O you in whom we live and move and have our being,
we have been asleep too long!
Lead us to our awakening places.
Awaken us to the new light.
Awaken us to hope.
Awaken us to joy.
Awaken us to love.
Happy First Day of Spring!
Listen to my podcast: "Desert Wisdom"