Over the last few days I’ve driven over some of the most desolate areas on the planet. There are areas of this earth that have less human activity but the word desolate even though it means uninhabited it also means forsaken or forgotten, barren or even wild; the Mojave Desert fits those descriptions to a T, (a phrase by the way that has some ambiguity to its origins but generally means a perfect fit or an exact spot).
With over 2500 square miles, the Mojave is considered the 22nd desert in size but with its proximity to major population areas the desolation is astounding; even on the interstate you pass thousands of acres of unused land, at 640 acres in a square mile the entire desert encompasses over a million acres, teeming with life, mostly unseen and unnoticed.
No buildings, no roads, and only an occasional trail made by some lonely animal forever searching for that morsel of food, crisscrossing the cactus filled landscape hoping for something edible or perhaps a drip or drop of moisture, this land is unforgiving. But for the thousands of drivers that traverse this desert the heat and isolation is often never noticed as they drive 80 mph in the comfort of their cars, or in my case nearly 90 in my little Honda civic, my air conditioner blasting its coolness, the cd’s blaring some obscure artist and my mind is numbed to the passing of time, hour after hour of road deadening senses as I stare in front with an occasional view to my rear, never paying any attention to the swarming masses of miniscule life struggling minute by minute to survive.
On this trip however I did take some time. I pulled off on a road I’d passed a thousand times, wondering at its name but never stopping to discover or consider what was beyond the sign. Zzyzx Rd, the made-up name was given to the area in 1944 by Curtis Howe Springer, who originally established a mineral springs and spa after filing for mining rights of the surrounding 12,000 acres.
I have literally passed this road my entire life, driving back and forth to Utah from California and never took the time to simply stop and look. Our world is filled with beauty unseen and wonders never noticed simply because we are in too much of a hurry to get to where were going. We often forget that “it’s not the destination but the journey that matters most”.
As I pulled my car off the road taking a right turn onto Zzyzx I drove for about two minutes and found a small patch to stop the car with the intention of closing my eyes for a few minutes but as I looked around I saw no one, no buildings, no civilization except for the road and for miles in almost every direction I could see nothing but nature, harsh, extreme but beautiful and imposing and I lost all desire to close my eyes, instead looking and wondering about the bugs, the lizards, the snakes, coyotes and the more than 1500 species and 2000 plants that call this desert home. Getting out of my car I walked a few paces and sat on an overheated rock and just waited.
Not much at first, still too close to the road I supposed but then a small black bug with a red head darted from one shadowed covering to another and disappeared. There were clumps of solitary brown grass green and healthy a few weeks before were now stiff and lifeless but good enough for a lizard to stop to check it out. I was only there for 45 min or so but I could imagine the other life waiting for me to leave, weary of my presence prior to exiting their shadowing conclave in search for their dinner or to be eaten by another. The solitude was astounding, the quite overwhelming and except for the massive trucks coming up the grade, no sounds but the wispy winds as the few blooming flowers blossomed in all their glory swaying back and forth, dancing to the cadence off the wind.
Regardless of where you live the microcosm of life surrounds us all, affects us all and brings us all the opportunity to witness the beauty of creation in all its wondrous forms. The weeds that struggle between the cracks of a sidewalk or the flower that sprouts next to cement median on a busy freeway, life is everywhere, escaping from the confines of human attempts to control.
Man is part of that life but for so many we are oblivious to our connections to all around us and ignore our responsibilities to act as a steward over all that is. We instead, thoughtlessly, ravage the world for its resources, extract is essence and abuse the gifts of plenty given abundantly to all. The world has plenty for everyone but for the greed and corruption we could feed the world, cloth each and every person and have plenty left over that the riches of the world could be freely distributed creating a wealth so great that no one would want for anything.
We are a hallowed people with a rich spiritual connection to all other creations but for the most part have become blinded to the blessing that surround us all. Open our eyes, open our minds to the possibilities that if a flower can bloom in the middle of a freeway we can bloom amidst the plenty of our lives.
Next time you’re on the road or just walking, stop and look around and be amazed at the wonders that surround us and perhaps you’ll start to realize the importance of that little black bug with the red head and how it gives our lives meaning.