Out of the Desert

“Do not turn away, through cowardice, from despair.  Go through it.                                    … Pass beyond.  On the other side of the tunnel you will find light again.”  Andre’ Gide

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

                                     

 

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About Gwynn Rogers

After 20 years of sales and marketing experience in the fields of real estate, high tech, and corporate travel, Gwynn has moved on to the career of “Grandma.” When not teaching her granddaughters an extensive vocabulary of “alley-oop-boop, ups-a-daisy, cowabunga or bummer”, Gwynn can be found hunting for mentors for the Kitsap Youth Mentoring Consortium, or chasing her fantasies on her treadmill. Gwynn currently freelances for magazines.
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17 Responses to Out of the Desert

  1. Val Rainey says:

    It truly is amazing what we find around us when we are taught how to look with new eyes, a fresh mind and a willing heart.
    Thanks for teaching!

  2. Gwynn Rogers says:

    Thanks Val! Just when things look bleak, if you open your eyes, you find beauty and light!

  3. Susan says:

    This is so lovely Gwynn, reminds me of something. Yesterday pm I met a girlfriend in the middle of a marital crisis. We walked with her dog around the park, it was freezing cold, bleak. The sun peeked out momentarily and the autumn colour s of the trees came alive. ‘Melissa’ noticed this when I pointed it out..and saw the metaphor for her life. Bleak, but light every now and then …

    • Gwynn Rogers says:

      Yes Susan. When you wrote about finding yourself in the desert, this is what I was remembering. Your friend is very lucky to have you to help point out the beauty in the world. We all need a friend like you when life piles in on top of us. Sometimes it is difficult to look for the good and beauty when all we think we see is black. Thank you too for your kind words. I do so appreciate your comments.

  4. T. J. Banks says:

    Incredible writing, Gwynn — and proof positive that magic will find us, no matter how bleak our interior landscape seems to be. It might be everyday wash-and-wear magic, but it’s still magic, and it gets us through the hard in-between places.

    • Gwynn Rogers says:

      Thanks T.J. for your kind words. To me, it is so interesting that we can find ourselves supposedly out in the midst of such a barren, dry desert. But there are lifesaving features if we only look around, and inside of us. You are correct. How can one define any form of magic other than what it is… magic.

      Sometimes I fall into some pretty black holes, but the truth is I only have to remember to pick myself up, as remember… I’m tall . All I have to do is to remember that I can peer over the edge of that hole to find the beauty in the world.

  5. Wow, Gwynn, you’ve met your own Don Juan Matus, your personal advisor, who was there all the time, just over your shoulder. The alchemy was just right. Very special, indeed. Pretty soon you’ll be high stepping and seeing the Blue Deer.

    • Gwynn Rogers says:

      Dear Samantha, you are so funny… and thank you for your kind compliment. I have a ways to go to catch up with you, Moriarty, and your herd of Blue Deer! But I did find the synchronism of our posts as interesting. Evidently, the Boston bombings was deeply etched into our minds. Thanks for stopping by!

      • Actually, Gwynn, this was not meant at all to be funny. What you saw on the desert was of real significance, and you would not have seen it had you not been prepared, aware, and met it halfway. Carlos Castaneda was a Peruvian who became an American citizen. His Don Juan teachings are based on the Toltec beliefs and teachings. The Blue Deer is also of Toltec belief, representing peace and awareness and care of our environment. You met your Personal Advisor, who is always just over your shoulder. Pay attention.

        Your alchemy was just right. The Alchemist is the Magician on the tarot deck, or “teleplates,” as some call the cards, representing our feelings — teleplates, like photographic slides; this is the number 5, creativity.

        • Gwynn Rogers says:

          Actually, what is “funny” in a sad way is that I have Don Miguel Ruiz’s book THE FOUR AGREEMENTS sitting on my shelf beside me and I TOTALLY forgot about it.

          I have just researched the Toltec beliefs and realized that where I work hard at being authentic… where I fall down is believing in MY capabilities… that others ALWAYS know better.

          Maybe this has awakened me to have more faith in myself. Thank you!!

  6. patgarcia says:

    Hi,

    To realize that growth takes place through change is one of the most daring steps for any individual. To face that mountain that problem that darkness that seems to surround you is the first step to healing, because you are beginning to take responsibility as you confront yourself.

    Opening yourself up to the woman in the garden was the first step of many steps to your own healing and I am glad you took the step or steps needed to do that.

    I experienced pure joy reading your article.

    Ciao,
    Patricia

    • Gwynn Rogers says:

      Oh dear Pat, you have a knack of hitting the nail on the head and touching my heart. Thank you for your support and friendship. I still have a lot of growing to do… but the only way to stride across the desert is to take one step at a time.

      I am learning so much from all of you wonderful women in my group. Change is critical to my well-being and growth. But… is “late” better than “never?”

      Thanks OODLES!!

  7. Patty says:

    Love your well written stories Gwynn. It’s so amazing to me how the early Native Americans were able to ‘live off of the land’ literally; to discover so many uses for things most of us would write off as useless! We’ve come such a long way…….or have we?

    • Gwynn Rogers says:

      Actually, I think we have done an excellent job of destroying the environment. We are killing off all of the wildlife too. I don’t know that we are treating the land better than the Native Americans. Thanks for responding, Patty!

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