Desert Wisdom

Winter in the desert emphasizes the stark reality of arid climes—no water. Today, the grey/brown tinges of desiccated plant life predominates. Since we are hiking in the Dry River bed east of Bend, there are a few places surface moisture collects during scant precipitation. So the only obvious water is in small pockets etched into the basalt by a long gone ancient river. And this fluid is now solid, frozen by winter’s icy touch.

As the sun arches higher in the sky, the edge of frozen moisture thaws. Here and there, life giving liquid oozes gently to life. We see the dancing white puff on the rump of a mountain cottontail bounding away from one of these places. I assume the creature was quenching its thirst and we surprised him/her. I hope it returns when we pass.

The desolate beauty of this place never ceases to nourish me. The only noticeable sign of human impact is a line of telephone poles—old fashioned wired lines of communication. The wires sing as a breeze sets them into motion. My experience of the desert is accompanied by a subtle deep ooooommmm sound. We are in an arid ashram surrounded by the chants of humanity seeking to communicate something words cannot describe.

But here I am applying words. They flow out of a memory from a day past—syllables echoing an experience of nature’s blessing. Everything else fades. The craziness of humanity, insurrections, pandemics, fears, and hopes for something different, all dissolve into the universal pulse of natural rhythms. Things come and go. Seasons change. Desert wisdom reminds me of cycle upon cycle, a compassionate circle of recurrence and liberation. Our buddha-mind is always awake to this emptiness of created appearances.

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