Wow. Last weekend my friend Stephanie invited me on a day hike in Joshua Tree National Park. That friday was the nicest day of that week, and it was a beautiful way to enjoy a the harsher beauty of God’s creation. The park brochure describes the Joshua Tree as a tree that looks reminiscent of a Dr. Seuss, a spindly tree that splays branches in any direction. Joshua Tree is in the desert, so there are lots of desert flora, along with some cool looking eroded rocks.We hiked in a dry stream bed for the first 2 miles, then started climbing up some hills and saw old and abandoned prospect sites from gold miners that were from the Gold Rush days. We stopped and looked at what used to be mine shafts/holes. Luckily they were filled with rubble so we didn’t have too big of a temptation to see if we’d have better luck than the miners. After about 3 miles, we got to the top of a hill with a gorgeous view. We saw a couple more Joshua Trees on our way down: They were in bloom!
At church yesterday, instead of a traditional sermon, Pastor Sandie invited Poet Ed Rosenthal to share some spoken word along with some other readings of poets. Ed Rosenthal was lost in Joshua Tree, in the same desert, for 6.5 days. He shared his story to First LA UMC after he was rescued a couple years ago, and is now getting ready to publish his experience in a book of poetry. It’s easy to forget how unforgiving these beautiful vistas are if one is unlucky enough to get caught in them. I’m grateful that Ed was able to be with us, and that he shared that he still is struggling with survivor’s guilt, as he was the only one to be rescued from his party.
What’s a real shame, as a good friend of mine pointed out, is that 20 million people live within 2.5 hours of driving, and the park doesn’t see many first time visitors. But hey, now you know it’s out there. I just want to leave you with a poem that was read on sunday.
by Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to you imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over, announcing your place
in the family of things.