Lessons of the Desert

The desert in bloom

A woman I know told me a few months ago I had not spent enough time alone, since Jim’s death. She is someone I respect. She has experienced the loss of her partner as well.

I wasn’t sure what she meant so I let it sit until I could figure it out. Then I went to the desert. I left at the end of January and returned to San Diego today, Sunday.

I know a little more now about spending time alone. The desert is not for everyone. For me it is a place of healing and beauty and more. If you ever want to be alone, not just physically but in all dimensions,  there is no better place to go than the desert southwest.

Every time I travel to the deserted places, I know a little more about myself when I return to civilization. What do I know? I am not sure. I do know that there is a stronger presence of peace within me. At the same time confusion is also present.

I believe that people go through periods of identity crisis in their life. The first major one for many, appears around our 27th year. This is often times of big change, a move, a career change, people get married, others get divorced and whatever else can be imagined. I know that when I turned 28 my life changed a lot. I was off and on the move, exploring myself spiritually, emotionally, physically and more.

Another year of great change for me was when I turned 50. I think 60 might have been a marker year for me. I did not expect it to be because of Jim’s death. It is amazing how strong one can be when one has to be. When I didn’t feel strong, my friends and family were there to support me and hold me steady. They still are. I never did celebrate my 60th birthday until my 62nd year.

With the sale of our home, last July, I finally gave myself permission to wander and be lost if I needed to be. Elsie and I moved into the Roadtrek (the little house on wheels) and began to wander. The first few months were with purpose. I was the sag wagon for my friend Cat, as she bicycled the Pacific Coast.

In November when I returned to San Diego, Pat, a friend,  kindly took Miss Elsie and myself in. Little did I know it would be for almost three months. Teeth are tricky and I became close friends with the dentist while I was there. I finally asked for some time off and with some sound advice from my dentist, I left for the desert.

After the first few weeks, I have spent most of the time alone. And, I have been wandering. My feet have definitely been wandering. Hiking and walking every day has been a good adventure. I feel as if I have gotten back to my younger roots, and have begun to wander the desert freely and without reserve. I do use my hiking poles. As a good friend, Mary would say, NBA. No Broken Ankles.

I have pondered death and what it must have been like for my parents to see their friends and acquaintances die. I am reaching an age now where I too am beginning to know of loss of health and life. I always thought that someone would miss me when I was gone but the reality of it is, is that life goes on. We may carry the memories of those who have left, yet all of our lives continue to move forward. This is hard to acknowledge when it comes to Jim. There is so much I have learned from our time together. He was a gift in my life. I know he cannot be here physically yet I can carry the memories with me as I continue to grow in my own life.

it is hard to explore some of the more fragile parts of my existence. Life is not always positive. Yet even when things are looking dim I believe I can make my life positive by acknowledging the hard things of life. We all experience those hard moments. For some moments last for years. Not for me.

One of the questions I have asked myself out in the desert is “what do I have to live for?”. Existentially, I believe we all ask this question at some point in our existence. This is a hard question to ask and expect to receive a total answer. Some days I am not sure what the answer is. Other days I have a better grasp on it. When I get low I have amazing friends who know just when to call. This happened with me a few nights ago. Thank you Mary for calling. It was just what I needed.

Here are a few ideas of what I have to live for.

  • Friends-near and far, known and unknown.
  • Miss Elsie the Cat.

    Miss Elsie the Cat

  • The basic fact is that I am not ready to leave yet. I have given this some thought since Jim’s death. There is no easy way out.
  • Friends
  • My family. I have two sisters that care about me and nieces as well. I now have a great niece and great nephew. I don’t see my family  often yet I know they are out there for me.
  • Jim’s family.
  • I still have a lot of books to read and things to understand. I am not done growing yet.
  • Photography and painting.
  • Friends
  • I am still working on how to help others. I did this for most of my work life. I feel like I needed a break. With everything happening in the world it is time for me to address this again.

I believe the list is much longer and changes from day to day, moment to moment. It is not always defined. Little “ah-ha” moments are sometimes all we have.

I made my way to the outskirts of San Diego. I am staying at a beautiful county park. My view is incredible. I have one day off tomorrow and then I become busy.

A view from my home for the next two weeks

My tax and dental appointment loom on the horizon. Yes, the realities of life.