Day 6: Finding solitude in the wilderness

Canyonlands in Southern Utah

Canyonlands in Southern Utah

Today’s teaching comes from one of my favorite non-denominational spiritual, feminist, deep ecologist, philosopher, revolutionary writers: Terry Tempest Williams. Her spirituality is based on the inspiration she finds in the wide open wilderness of Southern Utah. Alien rock formations, endless horizon of plateaus, desolation, isolation…and yet there is a hidden beauty in the wild, unkempt landscapes that fight wind and drought and neglect. There is life under a rock, under the sand, tiny prickly cactus insisting that we pay attention, that we slow down…

“I want my life to be a celebration of slowness.

Walking through the sage from our front door, I am gradually drawn into the well-worn paths of deer. They lead me to Round Mountain and the bloodred side canyons below Castle Rock. Sometimes I see them, but often I don’t. Deer are quiet creatures, who, when left to their own nature, move slowly. Their large black eyes absorb all shadows, especially the flash of predators. And their ears catch each word spoken. But today they walk ahead with their halting prance, one leg raised, then another, and allow me to follow them. I am learning how to not provoke fear and flight among deer. We move into a pink, sandy wash, their black-tipped tails like eagle feathers. I lose sight of them as they disappear around the bend.

On the top of the ridge I can see for miles…. Inside this erosional landscape where all colors eventually bleed into the river, it is hard to desire anything but time and space.

Time and space. In the desert there is space. Space is the twin sister of time. If we have open space then we have open time to breath, to dream, to dare, to play, to pray to move freely, so freely, in a world our minds have forgotten but our bodies remember. Time and space. This partnership is holy. In these redrock canyons, time creates space–an arch, an eye, this blue eye of sky. We remember why we love the desert; it is our tactile response to light, to silence, and to stillness.

Hand on stone — patience.

Hand on water — music.”
Terry Tempest Williams, Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert

Our practice is to find a way into the wilderness, our own inner wilderness reflected somehow in the outer world. Is there an unkempt corner of your back yard? Is there an overgrown alley a few blocks away? Go to that place, in your body and your mind. Embrace the unknown, maybe some fear or apprehension, ride the waves of thoughts and emotions as you gaze on the waves of hills, snow covered or red rocks or sand dunes or mud. Where is your wilderness?

Terry Tempest Williams

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