Rocky Patch

Each April, Tarn and I make a pilgrimage to the Painted Hills to witness something of a miracle on top of Carol Rim, a promontory jutting up from the ‘painted’ floor of the national monument. The wind howls over the top of the rim and through rock formations creating wind-eroded outcrops; ‘waves’ carved into stone—like the arc made by hand and fingers reaching for a glass of water. Farther up the slope is an area of native grasses and wildflowers gracing the northwest exposure.

In contrast, on the southeast side of the rim, thousands of shards of rhyolite are strewn about like broken pottery. Each shard hosts red Liesegang lines created by iron molecules adhering to each other through a process of solubility and precipitation—big words for the fact iron loves to connect with iron. Many hikers only see a big pile of rocks unsuitable for growing green things. They pass by without noticing the red lines and other vibrant forms of life. But nature has her own urgings and not much patience with human assumptions and blindness.

Despite the seemingly inhospitable conditions, one flower thrives on the rocks and blooms in profusion. Deep purple Larkspur flowers (Delphinium bicolor) dot the cracked hardscape in surprising contradiction. It seems this plant prefers the dry hot hard environment over adjacent thick turf of grassland and other wildflowers. I do not know the science of why, but I do marvel at the miracle.

Some years this miraculous display becomes active with pollinators like sphinx moths. Often called hummingbird moths due to their ability to hover, they dart about and levitate above the blossoms using their long proboscis to probe for nectar. The proboscis rolls and unrolls like and old-fashioned party whistle—another strange and wondrous natural adaptation. If only humans could be so adaptable.

Adaptability is the one thing needed to negotiate the twists and turns of impermanence. Humans have this capability but it has been lost somewhere along the road to civilization. Maybe this is why Buddha, in his awakening, saw the necessity to teach about impermanence as the foundation of all spiritual development. My teachers said a sign that we are experiencing the fruit of our meditation practice is in the way we gracefully deal with change. It is important to know, when we are experiencing change or a ‘rocky’ patch in life, it is possible to grow a miracle.

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