The past few days there has been much conversation about the bombing at the Boston Marathon. These talks brought depression, anger, and sadness. People in my groups talked about our anger and how to get through the darkness into the light again. To me these thoughts instantly carry me into a parched and barren desert where there is no water for revival… bleak and dead.
But then I remembered an incident from many years ago. I had traveled to Colorado Springs, Colorado to visit my brother, Jim, as he was teaching at a school for blind and deaf students there. While he was at work I went exploring the area. I was in a deep, dark funk as my marriage was not going well.
My brother had suggested I go explore a place called The Garden of the Gods on the outskirts of town to give me a new perspective of life. To me, this garden became a classic example of dark and light. The area leading to the garden was bleak, dreary, and dusty, with sagebrush and cactus surrounding it for as far as the eye could see. Yet, the outcrop of rock in the midst of this waste-land was stunning. I found variegated shades of rusty red and orange rock in all shades that had been shaped into an amphitheater in its midst. It was the “light” in the midst of the surrounding “dark.” As I wandered around in awe of the Garden of the Gods, I wondered what it would be like to be stranded in the wilderness, as there was little to no vegetation and no source of water that I could see.
Then as I was despairing of the wretched area, I met another woman who was looking for “paint brushes” for her art. As we began to chat she awakened me to the creativity, life, and beauty of what I originally saw as the depressing desert. I no longer saw death and darkness, but new life. She introduced me to the Aloe plant… her paint brush. She plucked the long leaf, tied off the broad end of the leaf and shredded it. Instantly it was transformed into a paint brush. One could adjust the bristles to any size, shape, or length. Also, the Aloe plant is said to fix burns, dry skin, cosmetics, sun blocks, cold sores and psoriasis. Or if you drink the Aloe juice it can fix tummy problems too.
Next we happened upon a Century cactus (Agape Americana – a distant relative of the Aloe plant) which looked like a giant, spikey crown with sharp needles at the end of each long sword-shaped leaf. The woman beside me grabbed the needle at the end of a leaf, ripping it down the length of the stalk leaving only threads from the plant. I was informed that the Native Americans used the needle from this plant to sew up their clothes. Then as we wandered around the various plants, rocks, etc. The woman pointed out a white mossy substance. She indicated that one scrapes the moss off the rock, washes it with the juice from the center of a cactus and lets it dry to become powdery. Finally, as a floury substance, one mixes it with more liquid from the cactus to make a form of bread from it. Lighting a fire, one can cook this substance on a flat rock to create a papery-thin tortilla type pancake. Where it sounds awful to me, my new found friend said eating it would be better than starving. Now, she did have a point there.
As we wandered through the cactus she showed me how to take the heart out of the Century plant to find water. She also indicated that if we found a rattlesnake that we could de-head it first, skin it, and cook it on a stick over an open fire. She assured me that it tastes like roasted chicken. I think I’ll take her word for it!
Here I thought I was in barren, god-forbidding land and this intelligent and creative woman was showing me the blessings the land offered should I ever be in need of them. She had moved me from the “dark” to the “light.”
Enjoying the Garden of the Gods, I envisioned sitting in the open, colorful amphitheater visualizing listening to music soothe my soul as the setting red sun cast its’ warm glow on my vivid surroundings. I could feel the peacefulness of the desert area settle into my heart.
Where I had come to this area expecting sadness and depression, I learned what gifts nature bestows on us. It only took another’s perspective to help me see the light.
“Patterns and structure. Everywhere we look we see them. What appears random and chaotic also has order. And on Earth much of the order is linked to interrelationships that drive constant change. Cycles and rhythms. Pulses and flows. Changes in magnetic fields. Continental plates moving. Water cycles. Seasons changing. Life and death. Process and connection. Nature flows through webs of structure and shifting time: from ocean to cloud to rain to river to ocean. Natural rhythms.” Payson R. Stevens