Not DesertedAugust 19, 2006
The word “desert” comes from the same idea as “deserted”: That is, lonely, desolate and without substantial form. In that sense, we often scorn the desert areas of our world because they seem to be without life and therefore, by implication, without deep meaning.
As I drove across this country and passed through a wide variation of terrain, I realized again that the desert regions are teeming with life. Above is one of the pictures we took while going along Highway 93 in Arizona, just west of Sedona: This parking lot picture features both a saguaro cactus and a Joshua tree (this was taken just north of the Joshua Tree National Forest). During the many hours we drove through desert areas of Western Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California, we were blown away by the teeming of life in these “deserted” areas.
Contrast this with some other scenes we witnessed. Going through Tennessee and North Carolina, we were inundated by tree-filled avenues of Interstate, with rarely a break to see anything. And all of the trees, fecund as they were, had smothering coats of Kudzu hanging from every limb, like a beekeeper covered in bees.
Why do I point this out? Because the desert life seems to live in a symbiosis and a beauty that, though sparse of foliage, seems to make up for it by being at peace. The thick jungles of trees back east seem to be in perpetual competition, totally surrounded by the matting of Kudzu which threatens to destroy the whole ecosystem in just a few decades.
We should take a lesson from this. There is a beauty to not cluttering up our lives with more things and more agenda items for each day. The peace of the desert is a peace of “spreading things out”, of not having to fill every space with something. This is why the songwriter says “In the desert, you can remember your name, for there ain’t no one to give you no pain.”
Some people are going through lonely times, deserted times, failure times, fruitless times. All of this seems like the desert. But it is in the desert that the beauty of life can be examined. I saw every plant, every tree, every stream, every nuance of the desert. I saw the left-hand picture, a thrilling part of the Grand Canyon, miles away but still visible; in the Blueridge Mountains, I couldn’t see any streams even when we were going over them, for the trees had covered every sight line.
Ask yourself this: Are you filling your life so full you can’t see the beauty any more?