How is it that the search to overcome our alienation from ourselves can also open up the possibility of deeper, richer relationships with all living beings, with all of nature? The hope with contemplative practice is that any healing that takes place within us can in turn contribute to a larger healing. –Douglas Christie, “The Desert Within”, from The Sun Magazine, January 2022 edition
During the first winter of the pandemic, my wife and I started visiting the wildlife refuges to the south of us regularly to rediscover a sense of wholeness and peace. Although we have been making such trips since we moved here seven years ago, I think we fell in love again. Even though the human world seems a mess sometimes, the power of nature can remind us we are living in beauty. Just pay attention to it!
We drive our car down there, but it is only one leg of the journey. The real adventure begins when we step out into the bliss that is this landscape all around us. We climb out of the car and stand on our legs again. You feel the breeze on your skin. Even a cold winter’s day the sun is like an eye in the sky, shining its warming light everywhere on the earth. You hear the cranes calling. Our senses expand outward into those vast spaces listening to all that is around us. We are filled up with nature again. A subtle symphony of sound, but also with clear distinct voices. We’ve escaped from distractions.
Even though our worlds are so different, it really is all connected. The water at the refuges is part of the same system of water that runs through our city. That we drink from our faucets. That we sip now as we wait quietly for sunset sipping our hot tea.
It’s that same sky that is above Albuquerque, though the ambiance is a little different in each particular place, at different elevations, with local rivers, mesas, and mountains. At some of the refuges I can even see the same mountains we see from Albuquerque, the Manzanos and the Sandias, though they are between 20 and 60 miles away. We see the same sunset. There is a symmetry there between worlds.
On one visit we arrived a day after winter storms blew through. The crystalline sky still had moisture in it, made visible by the clouds, and the air was so clear with all the particulate matter having been ‘rained’ out. You could feel the connection with that storm even though it was a day later. Just like the drying sunflower bulbs echo the summer season that blossomed, and will bloom yet again.
Standing there observing nature, we are learning to be still. Our awareness is trained by the action happening around us. And moving through us. A sense of love bubbles up. I think these trips to where nature abounds is restorative. Of course we all deserve to have this right at home too. To build our world in a way that places us in the beauty and recognizes that we need it like we need love, rest and recovery.