Desert Rains

For days now it has been raining here in the Sonoran Desert. There have been moments of downpour, but it has mostly been a quiet, insistent rain, steady and soft and unceasing. Flowing Wells Wash runs next to our little RV park, under the railroad tracks and down towards the road and I’ve watched as it transformed from dusty ditch to tumbling stream. Water has pooled in every dip, every dimple, reluctant to sink into the hard and unyielding earth. The mighty winds that proceeded the storm seems to have pushed back the unseasonably warm temperatures and it is cool and damp and raw on this February morning, even as the rain recedes and the sun tries to push some watery light through the mist and overcast skies.

The desert has sprung to life. The creosote has filled the air with the very essence of the smell of rain, earthy and fresh and sharp. The ocotillo has sprouted tiny leaves overnight and the palo verde has deepened its green into a rich, Dr. Suess inspired color. The birds are ecstatic and their songs drown the distant rumble of traffic and trains. They are deafening as they sing in celebration, the cactus wrens and mourning doves and white-throated swifts, the golden plovers and vermilion flycatchers and even the flighty Gila woodpeckers as they race in and out of their homes in the stalwart saguaros. The small creatures scurry, jackrabbits dart behind the jojoba and bursage and pocket mice horde the short-lived windfall in their nests beneath the prickly pear. Even the coyotes could be heard in the wee hours, yipping their gratitude for the wealth of water.

This desert landscape is a relative to the dust-bowl survivor, to the grandmother who tells stories of the Great Depression as she eyes her stock of canned goods protectively. There is no room for waste, for ingratitude here. Every drop of water is earmarked for survival. The lazy or slothful don’t last long and the desert is short on second chances.

This is the lesson, and the desert teaches it well. Opportunity doesn’t wait, doesn’t hang around hoping we will eventually recognize its proffered gifts and take advantage of them. Opportunity often arrives in the midst of high wind and a bit of chaos, blowing around the order in our lives, and presents a small door to the observant, a fleeting invitation to do the work that can mean our deepest sort of survival. It is to be celebrated with song and scurry, and allowed to bring richness to the colors in our lives. Because work doesn’t have to be drudgery- it can be a gathering, a washing clean, an elixir that nourishes our parched hearts. 

It won’t take long for the last dewy remnants of this rain to soak into the soil, for the ocotillo to drop its newly sprouted leaves and the palo verde to fade back to its usual shade. We can batten down the hatches and simply hunker down through the storms of our lives- wait, protected, until the status quo returns. Or we can take the lesson the desert offers and step into the rain, listen for the quiet and insistent invitations to grow, to thrive, that are hidden in the discomfort and thrown about by the winds.

 

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On the road west...we craned our necks for days across the prairie center, on the lookout for the first sign that mountains had returned. Hours after crossing into Colorado, we saw them peeking up along the horizon... 

A Fresh Start

We arrived in Tucson late last week and have spent the last few days simply getting our bearings as we introduce ourselves to this brand new place we’ll call home for the next twelve weeks. Justin began his new job yesterday and I spent the day reacquainting myself with how to fit the entirety of our life into 83 square feet. This morning has been cup after cup of coffee as I pour over my planner, review my goals for the year, and organize my thoughts around what I want to prioritize for this three-month period.

It’s been an unexpected gift, this break up of my year into three month chunks. Every new place offers me a fresh start, a defined space to course correct and begin again. Three months is enough time to dig into a project and make big strides, but not enough to allow for procrastination or too much hemming and hawing. One of my biggest takeaways from 2017 was just how quickly three months goes by and how easy it is to overestimate the amount of time available for things…we have to hit the ground running on every level to take full advantage of each location. Each time we land in a new place, I find myself coming to it with a miniature version of the same mindset I have at the start of a new year- a closing out and releasing of what did or didn’t get done in the last timeframe and a fresh resolve and re-prioritization as I turn toward the next one.

I think there is value in this and I deeply appreciate it. But it can be misleading, too. Upon realizing that something isn’t working or I haven’t made the progress hoped for, it can be easy to allow myself to fall into the trap of thinking I have to wait for the next chunk of time to begin again. Which, of course, isn’t true at all.

We can ALWAYS begin again. Always. Always. ALWAYS.

If there is a single truth I have come to believe in more fervently than any other, it is our inherent ability to begin again as many times as we need to. Over and over and over again. Every new moment is an opportunity to make different choices, to tell different stories, to find the fresh start that we are looking for to make the changes we want to make. It is never too late and “now" is always better than “someday.”

Sometimes there is a handy starting point that screams “clean slate!” at the top of its lungs and we know that this is an ideal moment to implement change. But let’s not forget that those moments aren’t the only ones that offer us the chance to begin anew, that there are less glamorous but equally qualified moments in the in-betweens that are patiently waiting for us to notice them, to take advantage of the space that they offer as well. 

We don’t have to wait for a new year or a new month or a new week or a new place. Our fresh start is always right here, always ready, whenever we are.

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In case you missed this month's newsletter (go sign up if you haven't yet...there are lots of fun tidbits and freebies that don't show up here on the blog or over on Instagram!), from now on, the print shop will be changing on a monthly basis and its theme will be tied to a charitable cause to which I will donate 10% of my gross sales from that month. If you have a cause near and dear to your heart that you would like included, I would love to hear from you!

In honor of Valentine's Day and celebrating love, this month’s print shop theme is “Feel The Love- My Love of Our Public Land” and 10% of all gross sales this month will go to The Access Fund. If you aren’t familiar with The Access Fund, they work tirelessly to protect our public lands and their website is a fantastic resource to turn to when you feel impotent in the face of the many ways our public lands are threatened. I cannot encourage you strongly enough to go spend some time on their site and support them in any way that you can.

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We had a fantastic (if too short!) trip back across country and I can't wait to share some images with you over the next few weeks! 

The Real Work

I've been a little obsessed with this poem by Wendell Berry lately...it never ceases to amaze me how often exactly the words I need to hear show up at exactly the moment I need them most.

 

The Real Work

by Wendell Berry

It may be that when we no longer know what to do

We have come to our real work,

 

and that when we no longer know which way to go

we have come to our real journey.

 

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

 

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

 

 

Isn't that just perfect? Stay curious, y'all...

The Grandeur We Behold

Labor Day was Monday and it seemed that all the world was basking in the sunshine and cool breezes, out and about and determined to suck the marrow from the last hoorah of summer.

I found myself wondering about the roots of this holiday, where this weekend that so universally, though unofficially, marks the end of summer came from. So, in the way of super cool kids everywhere, I looked it up on the Department of Labor’s website. This is what I found:

"Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country."

Later, the article quotes one of the contested founders as suggesting a day to honor those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.” While I take exception to the 19th century idea that the manipulation of nature for the sole purpose of benefitting and profiting mankind was to be celebrated, I do think that a re-interpretation of his words contain a deep truth: that our own labors and hard work can transform our own own “rude natures” into real grandeur to behold. 

We all know that this is true in the “doing your work” sense of addressing our personal and emotional baggage through everything from therapy to stress-management, etc. But I mean this in the more literal sense of labor and work…in the work of our chosen professions and the work of goal-setting, literally getting shit done.

I think it should be obvious if you’ve ever talked with me for more than five minutes or read anything I’ve written that I am quite firmly in the camp of believers that life is meant to be utterly lived and enjoyed. But I no longer believe that the path of enjoyment or fulfillment or real, lasting happiness is a life of unlimited leisure. On the contrary, I think too much empty leisure is often a good recipe for discontent, listlessness, and dissatisfaction. 

Whether it’s the labor of pursuing excellence in a field or profession that fascinates and excites you, or training for a marathon, or learning to play the viola, or simply the work involved in actually noticing your life and being present with it, there is real joy in work well and truly done. In his book, The Happiness of Pursuit, Chris Guillebeau explores the idea that it’s the pursuit of a challenging quest that brings real and lasting happiness to our lives (by the way, if you haven’t checked out his work, do it- he’s awesome). Alistair Humphreys brings this idea to life over and over in his work, and I am constantly inspired by his investment in small, close to home adventures as well as big, life-altering ones (check out his most recent quest where he taught himself the violin and then busked his way across Spain, singing for his supper). 

So I've come to think of Labor Day as more than just a day to take a well-earned break and bbq with friends, but a celebration of the growth and satisfaction of pursuing our labors, of pushing ourselves to learn and excel, of exploration and discovery that can only come with peeling back the layers of what we’re capable of, of transforming our own rude natures into grandeur.

What grandeurs are you laboring to build in your life? 

Rocky Mountain High

We returned to Maine last night after an adventure-filled week in Colorado! My little sister's wedding, the summit of Mt. Harvard, paddling on the Arkansas River, and a chance to catch up with some old friends we haven't seen in some time…it was a packed 10 days full of wonder and laughter and dreaming. 

There is so much to share with you, once I find the words. In the meantime, a glimpse at the landscape that has imprinted itself on my heart this week...

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