Contributed by Wes Brittenham
We human beings sometimes struggle with our daily lives. We attempt to contemplate our experiences which we perceive as reality, or perhaps we do not think deeply at all. Many of us can be consumed by life’s experiences. New love, love lost, no love within grasp. Birth, death, a million precious gifts, a million insurmountable sorrows. Joy and pain.
Contemplation does not always bring understanding, or resolve issues, or give us peace of mind. Moods can be like drugs, like drug addiction. Anxiety and depression can build and become cycles, habit that is hard to break. Some of us count our failures or losses again and again, forgetting that we could do the same with our successes, gains and nurturing experiences.
Here in a desert, surrounded by sacred mountains, in a land peopled for centuries by those who were here before us, there are gifts waiting to be discovered, but these gifts are everywhere. They are where you are. Ancient people lived more closely in tune with nature. The seasons, the environment, the life forms and the landscape dictated how you might survive, thrive, or die.
As a child of six or seven years of age, I would walk out into the middle of the mesa. Finding a flat gravelly or sandy place, I would lie flat on my back. The brilliant turquoise sky spread above and beyond me. It filled every bit of the range of my sight. As I stared straight up, I was aware of the sky stretching to the edges of my peripheral vision. An amazing dome of beauty. Clouds might float by, in shapes and textures ever-changing.
I might wonder about the existence of heaven or God, or outer space. How far did it go and what was beyond? I understood how small I was, and that my time was limited. I knew people died. I knew that things went on that I would never know, and that all I was or did or thought was what I had, but was unknown to another child like me, maybe in Africa, lying on their back in the dirt staring at the same sky.
And I found that comforting. The beetle and the snake continued on with whatever it was they did, if I did not interfere. The hawk soared above, and the ground squirrel trilled. The horny toad squinted and the quail moved in the shadows of chamisa and saltbush. Life went on before me, within me, beyond me.
As I grew older, the angst of teenage years did not spare me. Now more aware of the realities of life and the imperfection of human beings, including myself, I had by now honed my observational skills considerably. Adults had taught me well that what was said and done should be seriously questioned and analyzed. Truth was not always forthcoming, and should be sought. And self-preservation physically, mentally and emotionally could be a full time job.
Again, nature called to me. At the top of the mountain, at the edge of a granite cliff, I took my place to look out over my city and contemplate civilization. I imagined the Pueblos that once lined the river valley. I thought about who those people might have been, how they had lived, and what they might have dreamed. Had one of those children laid on the ground and stared at the sky and lost themselves in wonder and daydream?
I felt the wind rise and push against me. I observed the gnarled old trees at cliff’s edge demonstrating the wind’s tenacity. As I was buffeted by gusts and bursts, I began to imagine myself sitting there forever. I looked around at the massive granite faces and wondered what original form they had taken at the time of their birth.
I imagined the wind whipping over, around and through me as I sat in my own eternity. Grains of sand, or granite blasted against my skin and I considered being eroded by the abrasion of wind and sand and time. I saw myself sitting still, calm, facing the wind and slowly being dissolved and erased, disappearing into time as all things must.
I found that somehow reassuring. I let go of thinking how important my life was. I gave in to the understanding that I could not, should not and would not believe that I had power over anything except how I conducted my life, my attitudes, and my behaviors. I was free, as free as the raptors in the updrafts, the flowers dancing in the cracks between stones, the Aspen leaves fluttering in the breeze. Here now, like me, gone when the time came.
Be kind, live in peace. Let nature fill you with care and wonder. Understand that with patience and time and careful thought, you can create beauty in your life, your reality. You are the author of your own story. If you are not happy with the story you are in, turn the page. Think about what isn’t working, what you would like to experience, and write yourself a new story.