Desert Life

Kathleen Norris writes beautifully about life on the Great Plains in her book, Dakota. I tucked that book in my carry-on bag and brought it with me to the desert. I’m here at Ghost Ranch in northern New Mexico as part of a 13-day pilgrimage to the Desert Southwest.

“Be in the desert, and let the desert bloom.” (pg. 22)

img_3354The landscape here is strikingly different from my lush, green North Carolina home. In this harsh terrain, I’m discovering the wisdom wrapped in Norris’ invitation. It has provided a compass for me; daily inviting me to sink into the rhythm of this place and live fully awake each day. I see the blooming each morning when I look out the large picture window in my bedroom at Casa del Sol. There are specks of green juniper and piñon trees shooting up between cracks in the massive rock cliffs that are appropriately named, Gateway to Heaven. I hear it blooming in the intoxicating silence that fills this 21,00 acre ranch. I feel it in the harshness of the red, orange, grey, purple, brown and charcoal-toned rocks. I smell it in the dust-infused air. I taste it in the meals shared around the table with my fellow pilgrims. What is it about a change of scenery that causes our senses to heighten?

“Be in the desert, and let the desert bloom.”

It’s easy to understand the attraction of the desert mothers and fathers to this geography. It’s easy to capture Georgia O’Keefe’s passionate love for this place. There is a depth and richness to the gifts of creation in a place that has been undisturbed by human hands. The night sky is simply indescribable! Come here and you will sense the largeness of God. Come here and you will learn the largeness of your own soul.

“Be in the desert, and let the desert bloom.”

img_3394 “Fierce landscapes heal as well as mirror the brokenness we find within,” Belden Lane reminds us in The Solace of Fierce Landscapes (pg. 216). The journey inward often unfolds into dry and arid territory. Our desert experiences may be loneliness, grief, woundedness, confusion, emptiness, or any host of other physical or emotional states that leave us feeling like we’re stranded in a fierce landscape. Lane cautions us that the inner journey is the most dangerous pilgrimage of all. And, maybe that’s why so many of us simply choose not to do it. Yet, there is wisdom in learning to be present to these desert places and allowing them the time and space to do their transforming and healing work.

“Be in the desert, and let the desert bloom.”

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The birthing of Inner Ground is one story of desert wilderness and transformation. A journey of letting go and creating space for unexpected new life. It is the story of my own inward journey that has spilled over into an outward journey. It has been a season of listening and waiting. It has been a delightful surprise. On this pilgrimage to the desert, I can see how it all has unfolded and bloomed into something beautiful. And as I prepare to leave, I have an overwhelming sense of the blessing of the Loving One covering me and the sacred work of Inner Ground.

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