I discovered the desert many years ago. I was on a business trip and strictly nose down, focused on the corporate tasks at hand. But the drive from one commitment to another landed me squarely in the Arizona desert. I wasn’t there to photograph. Or to hike. But it took me in just the same.
Through the years, I went back there, noticed just how diverse and varied the terrain was. And I discovered the beauty – the stunning but often subtle beauty.
Along the way, I became acquainted with the spiritual lure of such wide open spaces. It was not lost on me that Jesus traversed from a life of relative obscurity toward his mission, his very purpose, by crossing a great desert. Authors such as Jacques Philippe, Cardinal Robert Sarah and Carlo Carretto drew me into notions of silence, awakening, discovery and personal confrontation by taking me into their real or metaphorical deserts.
So now, as I find myself on one of life’s bigger watersheds, it’s to the desert I go. I have my reasons. These include the normal photography and hiking goals I’ve written about on this blog before, but this time, this time, there’s a bit more to it.
First, I am going to the desert to unplug. On my packing list, I include an iPhone, which is a genuinely useful device. An iPad, which is also genuinely useful. A Kindle for reading books. Genuinely useful device. My Apple Watch. Genuinely useful. My MacBook Pro. Yes, genuinely useful. Then there are all the various cables and cords they require. It fills half of my backpack. And I’m not ashamed to say that I’m addicted to all of it. To the notifications that buzz and ding me to attention, to the multitasking that allows me to do something while I’m doing something else, and to the immediacy and access of perpetual connectivity. I’m going to unplug. And to try to lessen my reliance on all these things. I’m leaving most of them behind. If this works, some will be up on eBay within a few days of my return.
Second, I’m going there to think. To ponder. To reflect. And to make decisions. The relative quiet and openness will, I hope, suit this task. As I head out on a hike, instead of focusing on the images I can bring back, I’m going to focus on being there, in the moment. And experiencing the stunning national parks and monuments of the area. Sure, I’ll have my camera but instead of taking 800 mediocre images, I’m going try to come back with five above average ones. I hope to come back with more than that too.
Third, I’m going to pray. In the spirit of Philippe, Sarah and Carretto, I am going to allow the silence to tug on me, to speak to me.
Fourth, I’m going there to be.
To just be.