I never tire of the diversity here in the desert southwest. Just last week we had summer and winter with a hint of fall mixed with just a touch of spring.
On Monday, April 9, my dearest friend and I struck out in search of the Johnson Canyon railroad tunnel. As there was an early spring chill in the air just before sunrise, and as the tunnel is located at an elevation of about 6,000 feet, I wore the long johns. Well, as it turned out summer swept into the area about an hour after we left. The end result was a a bit of sunburn for my friend, a dramatic improvement in my farmers tan, an encounter with a snake, and the consumption of a great deal of water.On Thursday, Dale Butel and his merry band from down under stopped by for lunch and were able to enjoy the brisk spring desert winds with a chilling dose of fall. Saturday, as the Fates would have it, I had to work on trucks and trailers most of the morning. To keep the howling wind, the sleet, and the snow mixed with downpours of freezing rain at bay, I donned my long johns, insulated coveralls, and heavy, water proof jacket.Yesterday, the temperature was hovering around eighty degrees by mid afternoon. Today it is even warmer, the ice cream truck just drove past the office, and by the end of the week, if the weatherman is correct, we should be pushing ninety. None of this causes worries about a lengthy and hot summer. We are still about three weeks away from the Route 66 Fun Run and I have witnessed snow flurries on that first weekend in May.
It is the diversity of the desert southwest, its lands as well as the weather and people who call it home, that captivates me here in this almost magical land. My dearest friend and I often talk of moving, of new adventures, and on occasion, have even given serious consideration to Alaska with its vast wilderness. Still, in all honesty, I find it almost inconceivable to imagine life without the desert, without weathered spires of stone stretching into a cloudless sky of deep blue and vast plains that stretch to the distant horizon where forested mountains tinged red by a setting sun dominate the horizon. It would be almost unnatural for me if it were not possible to climb over vast jumbles of bleached stone under a blazing desert sun as I made my way toward the shade of towering trees that whispered gently on pine scented breezes heavily laden with the chill of snow. In the manifestations of folly by those who feel they can conquer this harsh land with dams, metropolises, and technology, I see the reflection of the Hohokam cities and the adobe dreams of the Spanish conquistador. When I sit high above a desert valley in a silence only broken by the sound of a hawk on high, with a hint of creosote in the wind, I can feel the past and future swirl about me in a comforting embrace. I can sense the presence of God among the giant redwoods and in the forests of the Ozarks, on a quite Oregon beach with waves crashing on the rocks or high in the Colorado Rockies where it seems the mountains reach to heaven. But only in the desert do I feel He is close enough to touch.
The next time you find yourself flying across a vast desert plain headed for anywhere else but there, find a quiet place and take the time to listen, to feel. Take the time to savor the silence and let the warm winds caress you. You may just discover that what appears to be a stark land where the bones of the earth are bleached under an unrelenting sun and the emptiness of the tomb, and the specter of death, seem to have free reign, is actually a magical land where the soul is nurtured and restored.