A month and a half after my mom’s passing I really needed some alone time, so I borrowed my friend’s car (I only had a scooter at the time) and headed East to Joshua Tree National Park. Since moving to San Diego in 2006, Joshua Tree had provided an annual respite of grounding and reconnection. It was the first place that came to mind for a solo-trip.
My slow and contemplative drive to the desert started with a few songs on repeat as I watched the trance-inducing wind-turbines out my window. It transitioned into a stretch of driving with no soundtrack but that of my own crying. After some time with my tears, I rolled down the windows to feel the breeze against my skin. The wind dried my cheeks and the fresh air penetrated my nostrils. I felt so alive.
My journey of finding peace in the desert had begun.
I had never been to Joshua Tree during wildflower season and this April, I was just in time. My mom loved flowers, and I was taking this trip to honor her and bring her essence with me – I was excited to share this experience with her.
As I drove into the park, I was awestruck by the bounty of beauty. Snapping photos and stopping constantly along the way, I settled into my campsite rather late so I planned for a wildflower hike the next morning.
The amazing thing about the desert during wildflower season is that it is still the desert. To the untrained eye, it can still appear to be a vast landscape of brown, dry tumbleweeds, seemingly lifeless.
But the truth is, to see the treasures of spring in the desert, we just have to work a little bit harder. We just have to slow down a little bit more. We just have to LOOK a little bit DEEPER into our surroundings. Suddenly we will find that LIFE is everywhere.
At the summit of an hour hike, I sat and wrote a letter to my mother. I thanked her for all she had taught me and my sister. I wrote in that letter:
Joshua tree makes me realize that the littlest things make life extraordinary. All the tiny flowers that you can't see from afar, but when you get close you see how special each flower is.
I wrote how things would be different if she were there with me. But at the same time I realized she was there with me. I just had to slow down a little bit more. I just had to LOOK a little bit DEEPER at my surroundings. I think this is the way with grief. To the untrained eye, it looks like grief. But once we slow down and look a little bit deeper, with more determination, we see beautiful flowers, we see life.
On that trip, I saw her favorite flower, I touched her favorite tree, I looked at the same cloud that she saw, I breathed the same breath.
She was, indeed, with me.
With that letter and that trip to the desert, I touched upon peace. I was treasuring the moments there with my mom. The desert was healing me in a most beautiful way.
I hope that if you are reading this and have suffered a loss, that you can find some peace in nature. Whether you are in the desert, or in the forest, nature is beckoning us to look closer at the ultimate reality that connects us all and reminds us that our loved ones are with us, always.