Petrified Wood and Sage Wisdom

As the sun angles steepen in late fall, colors of nature seems more vibrant. Junipers exhibit bark that appears redder than usual, a stark contrast to the gray-green field of rabbit brush and sage. Rock hunting becomes a bit easier as the varied colors of jasper and agate really ‘pop’. On this trip, however, the earth wants to reveal subtle shades of petrified wood—little splinters and planks of brown, ocher, russet, and beige. 

This part of Dry River hosts an incredible diversity of wood turned to stone. The rocks settle in nooks and tephra-filled crannies between small basalt boulders lining the old river bed. Some specimens have bands of agate, others display evidence of ancient trees partially submerged in water—wiggling water lines now preserved for posterity. I wonder what species of tree lived here when Lake Millican covered what is now a sagebrush steppe.

These moments in the desert inspire me more than all the spiritual teachings I have received and/or realized. This is the place of real sage wisdom (pun intended). It is a harsh environment revealing a stark beauty unrecognized by most people. The rocks I find are barely visible to the untrained eye but appear in abundance to the initiated desert rat. I think this is a wonderful side affect of reducing the noise in my mind—I see what is otherwise hidden.

Meditation practice is specifically designed to surface what is hidden to us. All our habit patterns and afflictive emotions arise like smoke screens obscuring life’s subtle beauty. When the mind settles and the smoke clears we see what we do not see and feel what we do not feel. This kind of vision and sensation is unlimited and pure, unfiltered by any other experience. As I sojourn in the desert, I understand why all the ancient and modern sages seek solace here.

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