The Gift of the Desert

“Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.”  Mark 6:31

JTNP 755It’s nice to be back home in southeast Kentucky but I have to admit I find myself missing the desert.  I’m not really sure how to explain that.  I have no desire whatsoever to live in a desert; I prefer the lushness of the mountains around me here.  Still, there is something about the desert that beckons me. 

Over the centuries many have been drawn to the desert, often for spiritual purposes.  It has been noted that “The Jews traveled in the desert and became a community; Jesus went there to pray and to prepare for his ministry; and Muhammad received his commission in a desert cave.”  I can understand this; over the years I have spent a fair amount of time in the desert and it does something spiritually to me as well.  I just can’t seem to explain why.

MNP salt flats 472In her wonderful book, Refuge, Terry Tempest Williams offers insight that gives me a clue or two.  She writes, “It’s strange how deserts turn us into believers.  I believe in walking in a landscape of mirages, because you learn humility.  I believe in living in a land of little water because life is drawn together.  If the desert is holy, it is because it is a forgotten place that allows us to remember the sacred.  Perhaps that is why every pilgrimage to the desert is a pilgrimage to the self.  There is no place to hide, and so we are found.”

Earlier in my life I saw deserts as literal “waste lands.”  I hardly view them that way today.  In ways that many people don’t understand, they are full of life.  They are full of life biologically and full of life spiritually.  For that reason we need to do everything we can to preserve them.  In some ways, the health of our souls may depend upon it.


(The top image was taken at Joshua Tree National Park.  The bottom image is a salt bed captured at Mojave National Preserve.)