Healing In The Desert 7/11/2012
I had left an outlying suburb of Los Angeles in midwinter. Brokenhearted, broken in mind and spirit, loveless, jobless, homeless; I had no idea where I was going or what I was doing. I just wanted to escape the hell I was in. I packed up some clothes, the dogs and what little money I had, and hit the road. Driving aimlessly for the next two days, I slept in truck stops, but managed to feed and walk the dogs at regular intervals. I had to pick a direction and quit driving in circles. To the west were the crowded cities, suburbs, and beaches. Something in me was telling me to go east to the desert.
I wanted to see the sun, feel the wind, be in the quiet so I could begin to hear the still small voice in me.
As the cities got smaller and further apart, I began to be more attentive to my surroundings. I saw small gatherings of homes. I saw dinosaurs! I saw white windmills turning where I had once seen falcons soaring. I saw a green and lively city seeming to jump up out of the middle of sand, then give way again to the open space.
As I drove, it seemed the further I could see, the easier it became to think, to feel; to feel the tension leave my body, to think of possibilities, dreams long forgotten. To see other ways of being. To see hope when I thought none had existed.
When I saw the sea in the middle of the desert, I wanted to stand on the shore. I stopped to rest and watch the birds; and watch the dogs watch the birds. Just walking and exploring the shoreline without expectation. This was something I had not allowed myself for many years; I had been, instead, smothered in the ‘have-to’s of others demands and expectations and forsaken the freedom that I actually did own, while arguing for some mythical illusion of freedom.
I wandered along the shore of the desert sea for another two days, stopping where and when I wanted. Ate when I felt hunger. Slept when I felt tired. Stopped to look at anything and everything that looked interesting. Abandoned buildings and tiny towns. Campgrounds and boat launches. Submerged telephone poles and docks far from water.
When I finally arrived at the slabs, it was full dark. I had just been thinking to park the night and wander on the next day. As I pulled into a church parking lot, I was surprised to see people around, as it was a weekday night. I asked a couple who were there if anyone would mind my parking there for the night.
They told me they would show me to a nice quiet spot near them, if I would just wait a bit. A van pulled in a couple minutes later to deliver medication to them, then we were off down a well worn road. I could see by moonlight RVs and trailers scattered around everywhere. After a couple of minutes cruising slowly down this road, they turned left at an intersection, and waved for me to pull alongside another RV that they said was their home. They introduced themselves, and bade me goodnight.
When I woke in the morning, I saw an amazing little town with no houses! People were walking, with and without dogs. I could smell coffee and good smells cooking, and heard people talking with their neighbors. As I walked out, I could see water tanks with artwork painted on the sides. I saw metal sculptures. I found a stage with signs proclaiming “Music here tonight”. I found a bulletin board with community events posted, and a kiosk with announcements and advertisements. I found an unattended library, take what you want, leave what you have. There was business being conducted, and people just socializing, or reading in the shade. There were social clubs where you could meet up with others to play cards, dominoes, or share a communal meal. People were young, old, middle-aged, couples, singles, with an occasional family here and there.
Everyone seemed friendly and happy. Nobody much cared what you did as long as you bothered nobody else. People were willing to give information and help out, and that made me more willing to help out also. Such little things, yet they helped me to change from feeling invisible, to feeling like a human.
This place of no expectations and multiple possibilities also gave me time to consider. And plan. And to begin healing.
Sitting in a folding chair watching the sunset paint fantastic colors on the sky that are reflected back by a salty sea, or submerging in a warm spring, floating in the effervescence, hearing the water rush in while considering the dizzying array of stars overhead on a moonless night; they are priceless luxuries that don’t cost a cent.
And the best therapy I’ve ever had.