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  • Writer's pictureScott Downing

A March Through the Desert

Though it would never be as profound as 40 days of insight, solitude, and self-awareness, I seized the opportunity to journey to the Desert last week in my own version of Lenten observance and quest for a “reality check”. Admittedly, it was more of an escape from the cacophony of “fake news”, fake truths, hypocrisy, and the divisiveness of politics, mainstream, and social media. This year has facilitated more chaos and disturbing realizations within our fickle society and humanity through the ebbing cycle of creation and destruction and prevailing disdain. Whether someone is conservative or liberal, “foreign” or “domestic”, rich or poor, brown, black, red, white, or pink, religious or agnostic, I believe there is always a sense of magic, peace, freedom, and the opportunity for renewal held in the desert. This year it seemed to call to me much more.

After hearing of the “superbloom” unveiling in Anza Borrego, I was excited to see what wonder this season held in the rains that had blessed the desert floor and to witness this arid landscape carpeted in wildflowers like we haven’t seen in years. As many of us observe the practices of fasting and penitence in this season of Lent, I feel there is an inherent strength and sacramental value for ALL people to make time for reflection and putting things back in balance. My eyes and soul were not disappointed as each turn and new mile revealed poignant contrasts of life and death, birth and decay, new and old, nature and man. Often, the places I found most interesting were where these things intersected—where one extreme collided with or embraced the other. Many of these stops simultaneously depicted themes of both pride and humility, verdant grounds and wastelands, organic and artificial, hope and despair and… yes… even good and evil. I discovered places where the beauty was violent in nature and yet others where violence was remarkably beautiful.

In review of the images and experiences I am now able to savor, I reflected on how these collisions of opposites were echoing the strife and challenges we are facing in our own families, friendships, and relationships with one another as well as the promise and hope for compromise and resolution. What began as routine journey spanning hundreds of miles has now consequently become a more meaningful journey of self-discovery and evaluation. In many ways, this small excursion reinforced within me a deeper respect for checks and balances and the enriching qualities gleaned from diversity in thought, beliefs, perspective, life experience and culture. The necessity of adapting to and embracing new ways of thinking, relating, problem solving, and forgiving is not only what we are dependent on but is crucial to our co-existence and our duty to the generations that have persevered and gone before us. I am not naïve enough to believe that our past triumphs nor the actions of our churches, our country, our communities or ourselves might not have adverse affects on others but I WILL always believe that we, as a human collective, can and will truly make the world a better place. While in contrast to the violence of politics, riots, assaults, pollution, exploitation, false pride and gluttony, I will strive for the light and beauty found in the foundations of tolerance, understanding, peace, humility and compassion, yet it is the spiraling absence of which compelled me to explore the desert both miles away and within myself.

For all those so inclined, I highly recommend setting out on your own “March through the Desert”.

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