- Outside the Desert Retreat House -
Now that it’s Mid-May, lots of people are getting ready for the upcoming summer vacation season. Resorts are gearing up, beaches and parks and sprucing up, and people are firing up their grills and putting out their backyard furniture. But out here in the desert where we live, our tourist and vacation season is now over as the afternoon temperatures soar into the the triple digits for the next four months - you can get a really good deal on a hotel because no one wants to be in the desert at this time of year.
Many desert dwellers only live here part-time and get out town when Mid-May comes around; however, just as many year-long residents choose to remain here to enjoy the stillness and the silence that settles in when all the tourists go away and the “snowbirds” return to their permanent residences in cooler climates. Oddly enough, many people, like me, think that this may be the very best time of the year for living in the desert.
It’s true that there are no soothing beaches for lounging in the sun or green forests with lush meadows for afternoon hikes. In fact, out here, when the daytime temperatures hit the triple digits it becomes virtually impossible to even go outside during the afternoon hours and the stark desert terrain is even drier than ever.
But as I think about it, this silent emptiness and utter starkness is precisely why the desert is such a powerful place to live. It is such an abundant source of spiritual vitality.
When you are able to endure the challenges of living in a desert at this time of year -the harsh baking sun and the stark emptiness, you learn to develop a sense of “resilience.” Living here I have learned an important life-lesson about my spiritual journey: you can survive whatever comes along and, in fact, you can thrive even in the driest and seemingly most abandoned places of life.
As I think about it, “resilience” is perhaps the great spiritual gift the desert has to offer. In the midst of the emptiness I have learned to discover abundance.
One of my desert spirituality books suggests that a desert is a place for developing a “wintery spirituality.” Paradoxically, when the summertime temperatures soar, a “wintery spirituality” really sets in.
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 of the divine presence.
The desert experience is a ‘wintery phenomenon’
more given to being emptied than filled – harsh and lean in its imagery.
Yet, no love is greater than desert love.
The more I think about it, living in a desert especially in the hottest and driest time of year may in fact be quite iconic of the everyday life we all live - perhaps far more iconic than living on a beautiful beach or walking in a lush, green mountain forest. For the most part life is a wilderness, life is difficult, life is a place where there aren’t a lot of glib easy answers, much of the time we all may feel more empty than full, and many times “God” seems distant and we are filled with more doubt than certainty.
Regardless of where we may live, life is a beautiful struggle for each of us as we all do our best to travel though the wilderness of living every day; and yet if we are resilient enough, the lesson we can learn from our struggles is that we are not alone in it all. We always have one another, and a Holy Presence of Love abides even in the driest of times.
Someone once said;
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
The more I think about it, maybe this is the primary lesson I learn as I develop my sense of resiliency in these hot dry desert months. Everyone I meet is fighting a hard battle, so I’ll try to be kind.